Gloucester and Edinburgh secure European Champions Cup quarter-final spots

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Gloucester and Edinburgh became the first teams to secure their spots in the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals after contrasting wins over French sides on Friday night.

In the early kick-off, Gloucester ran in six tries as they recorded a bonus-point 45-24 victory over Agen to move ahead of Pau to the head of Pool Three.

Pau will reclaim first place if, as expected, they beat rock-bottom Zebre on Saturday and then it will be a showdown between them and Gloucester for top spot at Kingsholm next Friday.

However, Gloucester will now go into that match with a knock-out berth already assured, thanks to Edinburgh’s thrilling 34-33 win over Stade Francais at BT Murrayfield in the evening’s late game.

That result not only saw Edinburgh secure a home quarter-final, thanks to their 100 per cent record after five matches in Group Four, but also meant Gloucester are sure to finish as a best runner-up at least.

Edinburgh only led 12-6 at half-time – four Sam Hidalgo-Clyne penalties cancelling out two from Jules Plisson – but the game exploded into life in the second period with the two teams scoring six tries between them.

Stade Francais looked to have clinched victory when Giorgi Melikidze’s try saw them leading 33-27 heading into the final three minutes, but Junior Rasolea latched on to Damien Hoyland’s kick to touch down and give Edinburgh a lifeline and Blair Kinghorn’s subsequent conversion earned the hosts a dramatic one-point win.

Hamish Watson and Jaco van der Walt had earlier crossed for Richard Cockerill’s men with Sekou Macalou and Waisea Vuidarvuwalu notching for Stade.

Gloucester earlier boosted their hopes of pipping Pau to top spot with a convincing win over Agen – although a quarter-final was not yet guaranteed when the final whistle went at Stade Armandie .

Henry Purdy crossed twice in the opening 10 minutes to put t he Cherry and Whites 1 4-0 up and f urther converted tries from Callum Braley and Jason Woodward saw Gloucester extend their lead to 28-5 by half-time, while wrapping up a bonus point in the process.

Mark Atkinson’s try immediately after the restart further emphasised Gloucester’s dominance and, although Agen rallied through scores from Johann Sadie and Akapusi Qera to add to Marco Kotze’s first-half effort, the English side never looked in serious danger of letting the match slip away.

And they finished off Agen’s slim hopes with a 68th-minute try from captain Ed Slater – influential Wales fly-half Owen Williams again adding the extras with his sixth conversion – before Jessy Jegerlhener earned Agen a bonus point of their own with his side’s fourth try.