Stade Français won the European Challenge Cup with a 25-17 victory over Gloucester at Murrayfield on Friday night.
With both Gloucester and Stade Français finishing poor domestic campaigns last weekend, the allure of silverware to cap off the season was a brilliant opportunity.
A win would mean a play-off fixture against either Connacht or Northampton Saints with a place in the Champions Cup on the line, so there was plenty to play for.
The game started off at a rapid pace, with both Jules Plisson and Billy Burns kicking for territory early on.
Gloucester’s defence was tested early on with a period of Stade Français pressure, but it would be the Cherry and Whites who opened the scoring.
A loose pass in the Stade back line was intercepted by Jonny May, and the West Country speedster showed a clean pair of heels to dot down under the posts.
Burns added to his conversion with a 41-metre penalty on 20 minutes to open up a ten-point lead.
The French side finally opened their account for the evening, Plisson knocking over a huge penalty in testing conditions. The Parisians continued to press and grabbed their first try just after the half hour mark.
Veteran Sergio Parisse pounced on a loose ball after a smart kick from Will Genia, the Italian captain looking to sign off on a high after 12 seasons at Stade.
David Humphrey’s side were reduced to ten men for the remainder of the first half when scrum half and skipper Willi Heinz was shown yellow for a late challenge on Plisson.
Stade weren’t able to take advantage of the extra man, meaning the sides went into the break level at ten points a piece.
After a potential try for Gloucester’s Tom Marshall was chalked off, Stade responded with a score of their own. Camara stole possession in midfield, the ball made its way through the hands of Bonneval to Danty and the centre had a free run in to the line.
The Parisians continued to pile on the pressure heading into the final ten minutes and were rewarded with their third try. A wonderful individual break from Geoffrey Doumarou saw him power past the Gloucester defence to finish under the posts, Morne Steyn’s conversion took his side 12 points clear with nine minutes to play.
Gonzalo Quesada’s men closed out the game with a penalty from the boot of Steyn to seal the win in front of the near 25,000 strong crowd at Murrayfield.
Gloucester managed to salvage a consolation try through Ross Moriarty, looking to finish in style before he jets off to New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions.
But the Cherry and Whites were unable to overcome the deficit in the final minutes. The win is huge for a Stade team that have been shrouded in uncertainty all season, for Gloucester, they must go back to the drawing board as they look ahead to another season of Challenge Cup rugby.
Tries: May, Moriarty
Cons: Burns 2
Yellow Card: Heinz
For Stade Français:
Tries: Parisse, Danty, Dumayrou
Cons: Plisson, Steyn
Pens: Plisson, Steyn
Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Jonny May, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Josh Hohneck
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paddy McAllister, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Freddie Clarke, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 23 Henry Trinder
Stade Français: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Waisea Vuidarvuwalu, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Djibril Camara, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Jonathan Ross, 6 Antoine Burban, 5 Paul Gabrillagues, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Remi Bonfils, 1 Heinke van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Laurent Panis, 17 Zurabi Zhvania, 18 Paul Alo Emile, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Raphael Lakafia, 21 Julien Dupuy, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 Jérémy Sinzelle
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)