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Gloucester Rugby secured a third European Rugby Challenge Cup final in four seasons as they claimed a fiercely-contested 33-12 triumph over Aviva Premiership rivals Newcastle Falcons at Kingsholm Stadium on a stunning April evening.
- With the sun shining down on the West Country, Johan Ackermann’s side booked their place in the Bilbao final on May 11, courtesy of tries from Tom Marshall, Motu Matu’u, Billy Burns and Ben Vellacott, while Billy Twelvetress added 13 points from the kicking tee.
- Dean Richards’ Falcons, chasing a historic first European final, made a typically audacious start and reaped their rewards in the ninth minute as hooker Scott Lawson touched down after a driving maul.
- But Gloucester Rugby soon settled into their rhythm and wrestled control through the power of the pack, yet it was a purring backline who levelled the scores.
- Full-back Jason Woodward’s scorching pace torn the Newcastle Falcons defence apart before wing Marshall was released to slide home in the left-hand corner.
- After missing the conversion, Billy Twelvetrees put the hosts in front for the first time when he slotted a penalty kick, but it was a flurry of activity on the cusp of half-time which enabled Ackermann’s side to extend their hex on the clash.
- With the clock already red, the Cherry and Whites eschewed the opportunity to kick for goal, constructing a potent maul instead as hooker Matu’u successfully grounded over the whitewash and a Twelvetrees conversion gave Gloucester Rugby a healthy 10-point advantage at the break, much to the delight of a partisan home crowd.
- Continuing where they left off, Gloucester raced through the gears in the second half and a wonderful wrap-around play expose a gaping hole in the Newcastle defence, which Burns duly seized upon and stormed over for a third try as the hosts prepared to book their flights to Spain.
- Newcastle’s bid received an injection of hope as former Gloucester hooker Lawson doubled his tally for the evening after another driving maul, before exiting to a hearty applause from the Kingsholm faithful, but it was hope short lived.
- Gloucester continue to assert pressure on the Newcastle defence, which choked up penalties and Twelvetrees accepted the opportunity to nudge over two more three-pointers as the hosts moved two converted tries clear and replacement scrum-half Vellacott added a fine gloss to proceedings with a fourth score as the West Country party commenced.
- Spirited to the end, Newcastle Falcons – unbeaten in Europe before making the 252-mile trip south – were unable to repeat their Premiership victory at Kingsholm as two-time champions Gloucester closed the door and packed their bags for a tour to the Basque Country, where they will face either Cardiff Blues or Pau.