European Challenge Cup: La Rochelle 14-16 Gloucester

Billy Burns
Billy Burns' conversion for his own try ultimately proved decisive
European Challenge Cup semi-final
La Rochelle (6) 14
Try: Lagrange Pens: James 3
Gloucester (6) 16
Try: Burns Con: Burns Pens: Burns 3

Gloucester reached their second European Challenge Cup final in three seasons as they held on to win an absorbing semi-final at La Rochelle.

Fly-half Billy Burns was the Premiership side's hero, scoring all 16 of their points before they resisted a battling comeback from the French team.

Burns intercepted and ran the length of the field for the opening try after an even first half had finished 6-6.

The hosts hit back through Damien Lagrange but his try was unconverted.

The Cherry and Whites will face either Stade Francais or local rivals Bath - who meet in Paris on Sunday - in the final in Edinburgh on Friday, 12 May.

Defeat for La Rochelle was the French Top 14 leaders' first at home this season.

Gloucester, the 2014-15 winners, were never behind in the match, taking a six-point lead early on through Burns' boot before the hosts hit back to level before the break, and then defended resolutely in the closing stages.

Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw made his return from injury from the replacements bench for the Cherry and Whites, having not featured since picking up an ankle injury during the Six Nations.

Gloucester director of rugby David Humphreys:

"The effort the players put in out there was unbelievable. We showed character and spirit against an unbelievably good team.

"I'm delighted for everyone at the club. So much of what we planned to do came off, particularly in the first 30 minutes, and we hung in there as the game went on.

"To defend the way we did against an unbelievably physical team was really pleasing and I'm thrilled to get back to another European final."

La Rochelle: Murimurivalu; Lacroix, Jordaan, Aguillon, Rattez; James, Januarie; Pelo, Maurouard, Atonio (capt), Nailiko, Tanguy, Sazy, Veivuke, Gourdon.

Replacements: Seneca, Corbel, Boughanmi, Cedaro, Lagrange, Retiere, Bales, Rawaca.

Gloucester: Marshall; May, Trinder, Atkinson, Halaifonua; Burns, Heinz (capt); Hohneck, Hibbard, Afoa, Savage, Thrush, Moriarty, Rowan, Morgan.

Replacements: Matu'u, McAllister, Thomas, Galarza, Ludlow, Laidlaw, Twelvetrees, Sharples.

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