Toulouse and La Rochelle perpetuated the Champions Cup dream by winning the Round of 16
The Champions Cup continues to provide high-level entertainment, and in the Round of 16, three of the top 14 teams were at the heart of the action.
La Rochelle managed to avert an upset defeat with a last-minute win, keeping his hopes of retaining the title alive.
After a tough first half, Toulouse closed the windows and unleashed the Bulls, setting up another South African challenger in the quarter-finals.
But perhaps the match of the round was the confrontation between Montpellier and Exeter Chiefs, which saw the French team eliminated from the tournament in the final match, after the match was pushed into extra time.
That means two French teams remain in the tournament, both fighting for another piece of European silverware.
La Rochelle came out too late not to shock Gloucester
For a moment it seemed that La Rochelle was watching a sudden exit from the Champions Cup at the hands of Gloucester. L’équipe d’Angleterre s’est rendue at Stade Marcel Deflandre en tant que defenseur fidèle, mais s’est frayee a chemin à une distance from Victoria’s frappe, seulement for être refusée by an essai de Teddy Thomas at the 78e minute in the corner.
Few had given Gloucester hope of an upset but despite the naysayers they brought the steel to the power play in La Rochelle and narrowly lost 29-26.
Gloucester took an early lead, scoring the opening goal of the game when Chris Harris sliced a fine line through the La Rochelle defence.
The hosts did not appreciate the form of their opponents and quickly responded with two of their goals, the first goal being scored by hooker Pierre Bourguet. The second was a fine individual effort from Thomas, who collected his own kick to put La Rochelle ahead.
The moment was quickly surpassed by Gloucester’s Freddie Clarke, who flew over the tackle to stun the corner flag in spectacular fashion.
The competition continued to fluctuate in the second half and La Rochelle first took advantage of a small player advantage, scoring through Tawera Kerr-Barlow’s net.
But Gloucester responded even though their captain Louis Ludlow was still in the bin, with half Billy Twelvetrees stealing a fine cross from Louis Reece Zammit that bounced off the whitewash.
Tensions began to rise as two Georges-Henri Colomb and a second La Rochelle still in yellow with an underprivileged man.
And just when the odds seemed to be stacked against them, the defending champions turned tide and snatched the decisive winner, keeping their European dream alive against Saracens in the quarter-finals.
14 Montpellier players lose in the last minute of extra time against Exeter Chiefs
Montpellier put in a massive performance and clashed with Exeter Chiefs, forcing them into extra time despite being a man down for much of the second half, but ultimately fell short in a thrilling game.
The French side arrived in the south-west of England with clear intentions and were relentless in the first ten minutes, claiming two consecutive tries. The first goal was scored by hooker substitute Curtis Langdon, followed by a corner shot by Vincent Rattiz.
It took a while for Exeter to snap out of their stupor, but they finally came back when Scott Sioux went down from close range. Soon after, Sam Symonds crossed the line to score against the side he would have joined in the summer, putting Exeter ahead for the first time, only for Paolo Garbissi to score another penalty, giving Montpellier a point at the end of the first half.
Montpellier looked like they were about to roll as they walked out of the dressing room, only to have the carpet removed from under their feet as Zack Mercer saw a try disallowed and minutes later he was shown a red card for an improper tackle.
Exeter made the most of the fortune, adding two tries to their tally as a silky solo effort from Tom White was backed up by a touch from Josh Yosefa-Scott.
Montpellier refused to back down and got the ball back on a try by Lenny Nucci and then tied the game in the final when Garbissi kicked home a 45-yard penalty, making it 26-26 after regular time.
After a spirited first half of extra time, the visitors took a surprising lead when Lewis Carbonell danced wide, only for Exeter to break French hearts as club captain Jack Yandel scored on a red hour. Joe Symonds converted the try, making it 33-33, and Exeter came back to win as they scored more tries.
Toulouse blows up the bulls with a scintillating performance in the second half
Toulouse set the mark with a brilliant second-half performance against the Bulls that saw them cruise to a 33-9 win at Stade Toulouse.
The top 14 leaders took time to warm up as they entered halftime with a narrow 12-6 lead, with all points coming from Thomas Ramos from the tee.
However, the gears began to line up in the second half and in the 50th minute Emmanuel Mevu took control, handing Toulouse the first try of the game.
Since then, Toulouse has been subject to cruise control. The second score came three minutes later, following the blow that pierced the goalkeeper’s small side. Quick hands unleashed Matthis Lebel on the wing and the winger managed maneuvers and gravity to enter the corner and score into the corner.
The equalizer was completed a few minutes later when Thibaud Flamint recovered a fish piece from Antoine Dupont to crush the sticks. It came several paces after the second line smashed the Bulls defense with a stellar timeline, bringing Toulouse within 22 of their opponent.
After the victory, Toulouse will host the Sharks in the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup.
Written by Stephen Frost