Bath and Gloucester reached the Challenge Cup semi-finals following respective victories over Brive and Cardiff Blues on Saturday.
Bath 34-20 Brive
In a thrilling first 40, it was Bath who had the lead by half-time after tries from Taulupe Faletau, Tom Homer and Semesa Rokoduguni put Bath 20-6 up at the break.
Faletau's second threatened to open the floodgates but two tries from Fabien Sanconnie made it a much tighter scoreline than it looked like it could be at half-time.
A breathtaking late Rokoduguni try ensured the hosts secured the 34-20 win and booked their spot in the final four of the Challenge Cup.
With a semi-final spot on the line, Rhys Priestland kicked Bath to an early lead inside the opening 10 minutes with a penalty, making the most of the hosts strong start at The Rec. Gaetan Germain levelled soon after though, with Brive getting themselves back into the game after a strong rebuild from the restart.
Germain gave the visitors their first and only lead of the afternoon with a second penalty, his kick cannoning off the right side of the posts to make it a 6-3 advantage. That didn't last for long though.
Priestland had the Brive back line running in circles before offloading to Kahn Fotuali'i, whose quick hands fed Faletau and allowed the number eight to go sailing over the line for the opening try. Priestland's extras took Bath to double figures and more was to come in the remaining 15 minutes of the half.
An attacking line-out on 22 for the hosts saw Bath combine superbly as they bore down on the line, with Rokoduguni instrumental in the build up. Possession was given to Jonathan Joseph and his flick helped to get Homer over the line, a nice birthday present for the now 27-year-old. The conversion was wide but try number three followed barely a minute after the restart.
Zach Mercer's quick break again saw the ball move into the arms of Joseph, and he was again provider to set Rokoduguni up for his 50th try in Bath colours, making it a 20-6 lead at the break.
Try four came just three minutes into the second half and Faletau was at the double to increase the advantage. He found the space to break in between the middle of the defence who seemed to part open for him, and Priestland added the two.
But things weren't rosy for the hosts after that, with the expected victory put very much in doubt due to a resurgent Brive side.
A pick and go from Sanconnie caught Bath napping, and he crossed the line to get the French side back into it. And a second Brive try really made the home crowd pay attention. They used the maul perfectly to cause panic in the Bath defence and Sarconnie got his second in 10 minutes as the conversion took Brive back to within seven points as the score stood at 27-20.
The game threatened to go either way from then on with neither side dominant at one end or the other, but the longer the half wore on, the more it looked like Bath would be able to see the victory out.
And when in doubt, there's always that man Rokoduguni to call upon. He had the sleekness to evade seven challenges on the way through, handing defenders away and grounding to remove any doubts and finish the scoring, booking Bath's semi-final spot in the process.
Tries: Faletau 2, Homer, Rokoduguni 2
Pens: Priestland 3
Tries: Sanconnie 2
Cons: Germain 2
Pens: Germain 2
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Tom Homer, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Tom Ellis, 6 Zach Mercer, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Kane Palma Newport, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Joe Graham, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Paul Grant, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Ben Tapuai
Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Taku Ngwenya, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Seremaia Burotu, 11 Benito Masilevu, 10 Matthieu Ugalde, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Fabien Sanconnie 7 Poutasi Luafutu, 6 Said Hireche, 5 Arnaud Mela, 4 Johan Snyman, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Francois Da Ros, 1 Vivien Devisme
Replacements: 16 Thomas Acquier, 17 Karlen Asieshvili, 18 Soso Bekoshvili, 19 Julien Le Devedec, 20 Dominiko Waqaniborutu, 21 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 22 Thomas Laranjeira, 23 Sevanaia Galala
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini (Italy), Simone Boaretto (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Pennè (Italy)
Gloucester 46-26 Cardiff Blues
In the third of four semi-finals, the Kingsholm faithful were treated to an exhilarating first 40 as the sides went into the break with Cardiff Blues 23-20 up.
Alex Cuthbert opened the scoring for the visitors before Ross Moriarty levelled. Tom Marshall and another from Cuthbert sent the sides level, with a Gareth Anscombe drop goal putting Cardiff slightly in front.
Jonny May gave Gloucester a one point lead after the break and tries from Marshall and Mark Atkinson wrote the hosts into the final four. Henry Purdy went over at the end to finish it at 46-26.
The visitors started well on top and after running close three minutes in, they didn't have much longer to wait for the opening try. Coming just five minutes into the evening, Tau Filise carried the ball through the centre before it eventually found Cuthbert, who batted Billy Burns away to go over for the opener. It didn't last long though as Moriarty levelled from the next attack. Richard Hibbard spilled possession seconds before but a one handed pick up and go saw him slam down.
Cardiff Blues' lead was restored from a penalty via Steven Shingler, but Burns kicked level again from in front of the posts to make it 10 apiece. Neither side were able to take a firm grip of the tie though, with three pointers following for each within a couple of minutes of each other. And by the time half-time came around, two tries ensured they were still inseparable.
Shingler was caught napping at the back and failed to hold off Billy Twelvetrees' run through the middle, which provided the opportunity to feed it through to Marshall who ran over to put Gloucester in charge. But a yellow card changed things again, as Gloucester lost Josh Hohneck for failing to roll away five minutes before half-time. And the man advantage saw Anscombe use the dummy run of Shingler to feed Cuthbert who grabbed his second. A drop goal on the brink of half-time gave the visitors a slender lead as Anscombe kicked through from 40 metres.
A perfectly set second 40 didn't start with the same tempo and free flowing points scoring as the first, but it was a perfect situation for Cardiff Blues as they stretched their lead to six points. Shingler kicked through after Blues had the better of the second half, and the loss of Hohneck gave Cardiff a perfect platform with half an hour to go.
Gloucester burst back into the game though and went ahead courtesy of May. He had plenty of space to move into after Twelvetrees' intelligent kick found him on the other side, and a step inside bamboozled Matthew Morgan. Twelvetrees two made it 27-26 to the hosts and that lead increased.
Cardiff Blues' well set lead was dismantled with a fourth Gloucester try with less than 20 to play. A gap at the back of the line-out gave Willi Heinz an age to decide what to do with it, and it was eventually presented to Marshall who span inside a challenge to extend the advantage, with Twelvetrees making it an eight point lead.
And the dream quickly turned into a nightmare as try five arrived for the rejuvenated hosts. With the ball taken up to the five yard line, replacement Atkinson threw a big dummy Rey Lee-Lo's way to just wander over and kill off the contest with 10 to play. And right at the death, a sixth try put the icing on the cake for the Cherry and Whites. A floated ball from Henry Trinder fell into the arms of Purdy and he finished the evening off in style as Gloucester sealed a spot in the final four with a 46-26 win.
Tries: Moriarty, Marshall 2, May, Atkinson, Purdy
Cons: Burns, Twelvetrees 4
Pens: Burns, Twelvetrees
Yellow Card: Hohneck
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Cuthbert 2
Cons: Shingler 2
Pens: Shingler 3
Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Ben Morgan 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 John Afoa, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Henry Purdy
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan , 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Steven Shingler, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 George Earle, 3 Tau Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins,
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Kieron Assiratti, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Sion Bennett, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Willis Halaholo, 23 Aled Summerhill
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant Referees: Alexandre Ruiz (France), Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)