Gloucester 33-12 Newcastle: Cherry & Whites into another European final

Rugby Union
Gloucester score their second try
Gloucester score their second try

Gloucester reached their third European Challenge Cup final in four seasons after beating Newcastle 33-12 at Kingsholm.

They will face Cardiff Blues or Pau in the final at Bilbao's San Mames Stadium on May 11, aiming to reclaim a crown last won in 2015.

Beaten Challenge Cup finalists last season, Gloucester established a 10-point half time lead through tries by wing Tom Marshall and hooker Motu Matu'u following an early Scott Lawson touchdown for Newcastle.

Fly-half Billy Burns added Gloucester's third try early in the second half, and although Lawson claimed a second score, the home side had done enough as substitute scrum-half Ben Vellacott sealed victory through a late touchdown.

Centre Billy Twelvetrees kicked three penalties and two conversions, with Joel Hodgson booting one Newcastlle conversion.

It meant more European heartache for Newcastle, who have now lost on all five of their Challenge Cup semi-final appearances, although a potential Aviva Premiership play-off place and Champions Cup qualification has always been prioritised.

They face Leicester next Friday in a game critical to their hopes of securing a top-four finish, while Gloucester host Bath less than 24 hours later, still harbouring an outside play-off chance.

And Gloucester can now also look forward to another European final in their South African head coach Johan Ackermann's first season at the helm.

Newcastle made a strong start and went ahead after nine minutes following impressive work by their forwards.

Gloucester successfully managed to thwart the Falcons' first close-range lineout drive, yet they could not halt it a second time as Lawson powered over, giving Newcastle a deserved lead as their opponents struggled for fluency.

When things finally clicked, though, Gloucester cut open Newcastle's defence as full-back Jason Woodward left would-be tacklers floundering before his adventure gained its just reward as Marshall finished off for a slick 21st-minute touchdown.

Twelvetrees sent the wide-angled conversion attempt wide before landing a penalty shortly afterwards as Gloucester enjoyed an impressive spell only interrupted by prop Fraser Balmain going off due to a hand injury.

Gloucester ended the first half camped inside Newcastle's 22, but the Falcons defence held firm until the closing seconds as they were given a taste of their own medicine through a driving maul that ended with Motu'u scoring and Twelvetrees converting for a 15-5 interval advantage.

And Gloucester required just seven minutes of the second period to extend their lead, with Marshall skillfully delivering an off-load from the floor and Burns bursting through a gap to sprint 30 metres unopposed and put his team 15 points clear.

It was a body-blow to hopes of a Newcastle revival, but they absorbed it well as Lawson claimed his second try, this time converted by Hodgson, to remind Gloucester it was not quite game over.

Gloucester needed to tighten things up, and with Ackermann making sensible use of his substitutes, they reasserted themselves through two Twelvetrees penalties in 10 minutes that left Newcastle with too much to do before Vellacott's breakaway effort after he was sent clear by Woodward took his team past 30 points.

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