Gloucester were knocked out of the Heineken Champions Cup after holders La Rochelle snatched a dramatic 29-26 victory with a late try at Stade Marcel Deflandre.
Despite leading for a large chunk of the second half, Gloucester were undone after a surge of pressure from the hosts saw Teddy Thomas cross in the final minutes to send the French powerhouses into the quarter-finals.
The reigning champions and 2021 finalists put the first points on the board through Antoine Hastoy’s sixth-minute penalty, but Gloucester took the lead when a quick string of passes from a lineout allowed Chris Harris to cut through the defence and ground.
Billy Twelvetrees’ conversion and subsequent penalty made it 10-3 to the visitors but La Rochelle quickly responded with two tries in two minutes from France internationals Pierre Bourgarit and Thomas, who chased his own kick before scooping the ball up and charging over.
Their lead was short-lived though, as Ollie Thorley’s pace sparked a superb move from Gloucester that Freddie Clarke finished with an acrobatic effort to score in the right-hand corner, leaving the teams level at 15-15 at the break.
La Rochelle went back in front six minutes into the second half when Tawera Kerr-Barlow sneaked over the line but Gloucester responded once more when Twelvetrees’ cross-field kick was collected by Louis Rees-Zammit who scored in the corner.
Two Twelvetrees penalties then saw the visitors move 26-22 ahead, a lead they enjoyed for a lengthy period, but despite a fantastic defensive effort in the final stages, Thomas found the winning score to break Cherry and White hearts and send La Rochelle into the final eight.
Harlequins crashed out of the Heineken European Champions Cup despite an attempted late fightback against the Stormers in Cape Town.
The South African side looked to be cruising to victory as they established a 32-7 lead heading into the final eight minutes at DHL Stadium, but Quins gave them something to think about with three converted tries.
England number eight Alex Dombrandt, with his second score of the match, began the late push and Andre Esterhuizen and Joe Marchant then crossed to make it 32-28 as fly-half Marcus Smith belatedly stamped his authority on the game, but that was as close as Quins would get.
The Stormers showed their colours in the first minute, shaping to box kick from inside their 22 but instead launching an attack which went wide left, then wide right before flanker Deon Fourie ran a supporting line inside to finish off for the try. Manie Libbok started the move and added the conversion.
Harlequins hit straight back, turning down a kickable penalty and going for the corner before Dombrandt peeled round the front to cross over.
Defending URC champions the Stormers showed they have their own variation in lineout drives, also kicking a penalty to the corner and then throwing long to set up a drive which prop Steven Kitshoff finished off.
Another kick to the corner and this time the Stormers threw short, but the result was just the same as Fourie spun off the back of the maul for his second try.
Harlequins had a chance to get back into the game before half-time, but when they spread the ball wide the final pass to wing Cadan Murley was loose when a try was on if it had gone to hand.
Quins also had a stream of kickable penalties as the clock ticked towards and past 40 minutes, but a knock-on meant they ended the half without further points when a penalty would have brought them back within a score – Stormers going into the interval 17-7 ahead.
The first score in the second half was always going to be important and home full-back Damian Willemse did brilliantly to secure it, dabbing the ball down in the corner while his entire body was in the air the other side of the touch line.
The Stormers went over for a fifth try through replacement Willie Engelbrecht from another lineout drive before Quins suddenly came alive as Smith started pulling the strings for Dombrandt, Esterhuizen and Marchant – with the final move of the game – to score.