Gloucester come up short against Parisse’s Parisians
STADE Francais have been Europe’s nearly men for so long they must have thought they were jinxed.
However, the players who went on strike a few weeks ago to foil a merger with arch Parisian rivals Racing, finally carried them over the threshold with a final quarter surge in the Edinburgh drizzle which swept gritty Gloucester aside.
A 56th minute try by Jonathan Danty – one of the leaders of the strike – was the spark that carried them to their first European silverware in five attempts, having lost two European Cup and two Challenge Cup finals previously.
The decisive try stemmed from a loose Mike Scott pass which was snared by Djibril Camara and slick interplay with Hugo Bonneval saw the muscular Danty blast home to finish a 70 metre move for a 15-10 lead.
With Stade’s superior setpiece throttling a Gloucester side who were chronically indisciplined – losing the penalty count 12-2 – there was no way back. The French club’s monopoly of pressure, possession and territory was rewarded ten minutes from time when outside-centre Geoffrey Doumayrou wrong-footed Mark Atkinson and Billy Twelvetrees before bursting past Greig Laidlaw for a spectacular try.
With Morne Steyn converting and adding a penalty to make it 25-10 the pink cohort of Stade fans that had made the journey were ecstatic, and although Gloucester rallied to score a late try by Ross Moriarty it was never going to derail the Parisian celebrations.
The conditions did not dampen the resolve of either side as they went full tilt from the start. However, it was Stade who made the bigger inroads, threatening when Sergio Parisse’s behind-the-back pass to Jules Plisson saw Danty carry to the edge of the Premiership outfit’s 22.
Danty kept the speculative stuff going with a floated pass to the outside, but had not spotted May loitering with intent. The Gloucester wing picked off the pass, setting off like a supercharged lurcher to score from 75m out, Billy Burns converting for 7-0.
Gloucester did not let them come up for air, with Jeremy Thrush charging up the middle, and Burns kicking a penalty to make it 10-0 midway through the firsthalf.
Stade’s fightback started with a Plisson penalty, and their depth of experience and class then told when a clever angled chip to the posts by Will Genia saw Hugh Pyle’s tap-back col- lected on the bounce by the formidable Parisse for the touch down.
Plisson’s conversion levelled it at 10-10, and eight minutes before the interval a rash challenge by Willie Heinz – where he shoved Plisson in the face after a clearance – saw Gloucester reduced to 14 men.
The sin-binning was a pivotal moment, because although Gloucester held out until half-time they lost shape, rhythm and energy as a consequence – and were lucky not to lose Lewis Ludlow to the bin as a fiercely competitive half ended with an all-in wrestle on the touchline.
The arrival of Laidlaw for Heinz early in the secondhalf saw Gloucester threaten briefly, notably when a Plisson penalty miss was followed by a Laidlaw chip and Tom Marshall chase. It was a close call but the TMO ruled rightly that the full-back touched down just after the ball crossed the dead-ball line.
After that Gloucester were given a lesson in not just how to take your chances, but also how to take control by a passionate Stade side that finally – and deservedly – broke their European hoodoo.
Different class: Stade captain Sergio Parisse leads the trophy celebrations
Fast start: Jonny May grabs early try for Gloucester