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David Humphreys' Gloucester survive red card to clinch inaugural Challenge Cup

Bill Meakes saw red for a high, off the ball tackle but the Premiership side hung on.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Gloucester 19

Edinburgh 13

GLOUCESTER OVERCAME THE sending off of centre Bill Meakes to beat Edinburgh 19-13 in the European Challenge Cup final at The Stoop on Friday.

The Cherry and Whites were in command at 19-6 up in the 64th minute when French referee Jerome Garces, acting on the advice of his television match official, dismissed Meakes after replays showed he had caught Sam Beard with a high, off the ball, tackle.

Gloucester were briefly down to 13 men, with Ross Moriarty already in the sin-bin, and Edinburgh, laying siege to the English club’s line, saw Scotland hooker Ross Ford plunge under the posts for a converted try.

But Gloucester, with Scotland scrum-half and former Edinburgh favourite Greig Laidlaw kicking 14 points, in addition to skipper Billy Twelvetrees’ try, held on.

Gloucester’s victory gave them their first trophy since the 2011 Anglo-Welsh Cup and was their second Challenge Cup success after they beat London Irish in another Stoop final eight years ago.

Their win ended Edinburgh’s bid to become the first Scottish club to win a European trophy.

Gloucester are now set to go into a play-off with a Celtic League side next month, possibly against Edinburgh, with the winners of that game facing the seventh-placed French Top 14 club for a spot in next season’s elite European Champions Cup.

Jerome Garces red cards Bill Meakes Bill Meakes was shown red but the Premiership side hung on to lift their first silverware in seven years Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Edinburgh, who thrashed Newport Gwent Dragons 45-16 in the semi-final, took an early lead when scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, vying to take the Scotland No 9 shirt off Laidlaw, kicked a penalty after an infringement by New Zealand prop John Afoa.

But Laidlaw responded in kind when Edinburgh were caught offside.

The only try of the first half came in the 11th minute.

Former England lock Tom Palmer won a line-out on half-way and a well-timed pass from fly-half James Hook saw the Wales exile release England’s Jonny May, the man-of-the-match, on the runaround.

The wing burst through some weak defence before delivering an excellent pass to Twelvetrees that allowed the England centre to run in under the posts from 20 yards out.

Laidlaw added the simple conversion and Gloucester led 10-3.

Gloucester, who beat west country rivals Exeter 30-19 in the semi-finals, almost had a second try when another scything run by May ended with him being tap-tackled just short of the line by Edinburgh No 8 Cornell du Preez.

May’s attempted pass didn’t go to hand and Gloucester lock Anton Bresler was sent to the sin-bin by Garces for killing the ball on his own line.

Gloucester took several scrum penalties from five metres out yet Edinburgh, despite being down to 14 men, held out.

Rugby Union - European Rugby Challenge Cup Final - Edinburgh v Gloucester - Twickenham Stoop There was a capacity crowd at the Twickenham Stoop to watch an entertaining final Source: David Davies

Indeed in the 10 minutes Bresler was off the field, Edinburgh ‘won’ 3-0, with Hidalgo-Clyne kicking another penalty in the 34th minute, only for Laidlaw to hit back almost immediately from the re-start.

On the stroke of half-time, Hidalgo-Clyne had a chance to narrow the gap but his third penalty, from way out on the left, was off target and Gloucester led 13-6 at the interval.

By contrast Laidlaw’s third successful penalty gave Gloucester a 10-point advantage early in the second half.

And in the 52nd minute, Laidlaw landed a penalty from half-way to leave Gloucester on top at 19-6.

Gloucester, however, were down to 14 men in the 56th minute when Moriarty was sent to the sin-bin for appearing to knee Edinburgh replacement Fraser McKenzie.

But they finished the stronger and by the time Laidlaw was off target, when he missed a penalty with the last kick of the game, Gloucester’s job was done.

 - © AFP, 2015

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