Heineken Cup Pool 6: Gloucester beat Perpignan to qualify for Amlin
Gloucester secured a place in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals with an impressive 36-18 win in Perpignan.
Last Updated: 19/01/14 3:07pm
Gloucester looked down and out in Pool 6 after back-to-back home defeats to Edinburgh and Munster but they will now be playing knockout rugby in April after they bagged a bonus point inside 54 minutes in southern France.
Shane Monahan scored twice for the visitors, with England trio Jonny May, Charlie Sharples and Ben Morgan also touching down and Freddie Burns kicking 11 points through four conversions and a drop-goal as he missed just once from the tee.
May set Gloucester on their way when he sliced through from fully 80 metres with 13 minutes gone, giving England coach Stuart Lancaster another timely reminder of his talents with ball in hand as the Six Nations looms ever closer.
The 23-year-old left four defenders in his wake after picking up Sione Piukala's dropped pass just inside the Gloucester 22, with the Perpignan cover grasping at thin air thanks to May's pace and balance.
Burns pushed the conversion attempt across the face of the posts and Gloucester's lead was just two when Tom Ecochard's fourth-minute penalty opened the scoring for the hosts.
Perpignan were celebrating a try of their own after 18 minutes, though, when Piukala powered through after David Marty's well-timed pop left May flat-footed.
Ecohord's conversion left Gloucester with a 10-5 deficit at the end of the first quarter but they were back in front by the half-hour.
The pack went close with a series of carries wide on the right before Rob Cook put Monahan over on the opposite touchline with 28 minutes gone. Burns sent over a superb conversion to push Gloucester 12-10 ahead and things got even better for Nigel Davies and co when Sharples finished off a brilliant breakaway four minutes after Monahan had touched down for his first.
Gloucester pounced when former Wasps forward Dan Leo lost possession in the visitors' 22, with Burns and Billy Twelvetrees giving number eight Gareth Evans a hint of a gap 15 metres from his own line. Evans showed a surprising turn of pace and great awareness to cut in between two defenders before galloping towards the Perpignan line.
He could have stretched for glory himself but instead offloaded to Sharples, who dotted down despite pressure from Joffrey Michel.
Burns again succeeded with the conversion from wide on the right in between a brace of penalty misses from Ecochard and Gloucester took a 19-10 lead into the interval.
Ecochard narrowed the gap to six points a minute after the restart but Gloucester grabbed the bonus-point try when Monahan dived over on the left after Dan Robson's quick-fire pass from a close-range ruck on 53 minutes.
Burns added the extras and Gloucester were 26-13 up and with the hard work seemingly done.
A Karl Chateau try after good work from Ecochard gave Perpignan hope of a comeback two minutes past the hour but Gloucester never looked like letting things slip in the final quarter.
Instead, Burns slotted a drop-goal with six minutes left and Morgan stretched over from a five-metre scrum for a try converted by Burns at the death after Perpignan prop George Jgenti saw yellow.