Gloucestershire Echo

Trio of fine tries see off French side


» GLOUCESTER took a step closer to the Challenge Cup final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with a 30-25 victory over French side Castres Olympique in the last 16 knockout round on Friday night.

The Cherry and Whites were far from the finished article, but in the end had too much quality for their visitors, who arrived in England having lost their last four games on the bounce in the Top 14 and with a torrid away record in Europe.

Zach Mercer, Jonny May and Max Llewellyn crossed the whitewash in the first half for the hosts after Castres full-back Julien Dumora had opened the scoring.

Director of rugby George Skivington said: “We are really pleased to get through. Ultimately winning is what is really important at this stage.

“We are really happy to get through. I didn’t think it was our best performanc­e. I thought when we were on it, which we were for a couple of phases in the first half, we looked really good.

“Castres are really good in transition, they fling the ball around and create some good momentum and we probably got caught up in that and threw a few offloads that we didn’t need to throw and created a bit of pressure on ourselves.

“There are lots of bits we can get sharper on which is good, but ultimately I thought the work rate and physicalit­y was on a whole different level to what it was last week which is what we set out to do at the start of the week.”

Gloucester’s trio of tries were all top-quality with Mercer finishing a free-flowing attacking move that twice involved the impressive Seb Atkinson.

Midfield partner Llewellyn enjoyed his best display in Cherry and White and blasted his way through four attempted tacklers to score a superb solo try, launched from a lineout.

May’s score was all about pace as a flat pass from Charlie Atkinson allowed him to escape on the outside on a diagonal run that finished in the corner.

The final score flattered Castres with fly-half Pierre Popeline kicking 10 points from a pair of penalties and two of three conversion­s after the French side made it a nervy finish with two late maul tries, finished by replacemen­t prop Wayan de Benedittis and winger Josaia Raisuqe.

In the end, the 15 points scored from the boot of Santi Carreras helped get the job done. Gloucester: Carreras; May, Llewellyn, S Atkinson, Thorley; C Atkinson, Englefield; Rapava Ruskin, Socino, Gotovtsev, Clarke, Thomas, Ackermann, Ludlow, Mercer. Replacemen­ts: Mcburney, Vivas, Ford-robinson, Jordan, Tuisue, Clement, Varney, Harris.

Castres: Dumora; Raisuqe, Dupont, Goodhue, Nakosi; Popelin Doubrere; Walcker, Barlot, Azar, Pieterse, Vanverberg­he, Delaporte, Maravat, Peysson. Replacemen­ts: Zarantonel­lo, De Benedittis, Chilachava, Nakarawa, Babillot, Fernandez, Seguret, Chabouni.

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