Gloucester scored twice in extra time to beat Connacht 40-32 in a thrilling European Champions Cup playoff match. The Irish side led with a minute left to play, but Gloucester took the game to extra time, then Jonny May settled it with a brilliant 75-meter try.
With 40 seconds left in the match Connacht led 25-18. The Man of the Match was chosen, and the commentary team spoke in jest about going to extra time. Referee Romain Poite then made a huge call, penalising Connacht when it looked like Gloucester were infringing.
A try followed, as Billy Meakes danced his way through despite calls of obstruction, leaving Connacht coach Pat Lam scratching his head. “That try [by Meakes] looked like a block to us but the TMO ruled against and you’ve got to live with those tough calls.”
Greg Laidlaw converted the try and the sides were taken to Extra Time at 25-25.
Connacht scored a try in the 92nd minute through Matt Healy, before Gloucester drove over the line to take a 33-32 lead with five minutes left.
From the kickoff the wise thing to do would have been to hang on to the ball, or pump it downfield, but it landed in the arms of Jonny May, and he felt like having a bit of a run.
May’s dazzling footwork allowed him to beat no less than four players, before linking with Billy Twelvetrees who fed Meakes and then got the return ball back, then fed May on the inside for an outstanding try and the killer blow that drove the nail in the coffin for Connacht.
“I don’t know where that came from,” said May post match. “I’m seeing stars. I’m so exhausted, but you just find the energy. It’s just a case of getting the ball and running into space and trying not to think.”
Gloucester’s director of rugby, David Humphreys, said that May should have kicked it out, but his natural instinct took over and that’s what makes him such a valuable player.
“The instruction was to kick the ball out but Jonny just does what he does. A fantastic try. Every great team needs X-factor players and Jonny gives us and England that X-factor.
“It was a moment of individual brilliance for a remarkable try. I have run out of superlatives for him, he’s an X factor player and if England want to win a World Cup, I think it would be very hard for them to leave him out.”
The victory sets up a Champions Cup play-off final against Bordeaux-Begles in Worcester on May 31st. The winners of that game will secure the final Champions Cup spot.