European Challenge Cup: David Humphreys delighted to reach semis

Gloucester director of rugby praises his players after they survived a second-half barrage to defeat Connacht 14-7 at Kingsholm

David Humphreys hailed Gloucester’s resilience after they held on to reach the European Challenge Cup semi-final with a 14-7 win over Connacht at Kingsholm.

The Cherry and Whites director of rugby saw his side become the first club to reach the semi-finals, where they will face Exeter Chiefs or Newcastle Falcons later this month.

It was very nervy at the end and it was a massive relief to win, but that’s what knock-out rugby is all about.

David Humphreys on Gloucester’s win over Connacht

Two moments of magic from Wales outside-half James Hook unlocked the Connacht defence with winger Charlie Sharples and Australian centre Bill Meakes crossing the line in the opening 40 minutes with both tries converted by scrum-half Greig Laidlaw.

But the Irish province dominated territory and possession as they threw everything at Gloucester in the second half, with Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw denied a score when referee Mathieu Raynal awarded a penalty try, which was converted by Jack Carty.

“Ultimately our defence won us the game,” Humphreys said.

“After a five-day turnaround, we were very good in the first half, but we tightened up in the second half and made a few errors.

“It was very nervy at the end and it was a massive relief to win, but that’s what knock-out rugby is all about.

“It’s a reward for the amount of hard work we’ve put in this season.”

The Ulsterman praised the endeavours of playmaker Hook, and man of the match Matt Kvesic, who had a typically barnstorming match at openside flanker, topping several stats tables on the night, including the tackle count.

And the Gloucester boss admitted he’d like to see both players be given a chance to return to the international fold, with Hook overlooked for the RBS 6 Nations earlier this year, while 22-year-old Kvesic has not played for England since their 2013 tour of Argentina.

“When James plays well, we play well,” he added.

“We see them every week, and both are quality international players, and therefore we’d love to see them represent their country again.”

Humphreys, who joined the club from Ulster last summer, quickly set out his stall by declaring Gloucester’s intent to win the Challenge Cup – a refreshing approach to Europe’s second-tier competition given the perennial lack of interest from French clubs.

We are moving in the right direction, and our results at Kingsholm have been improving since the New Year.

David Humphreys on reaching the Challenge Cup semi-finals

Installed as favourites for the title early in the pool stages, the West Country club are just 160 minutes from landing their second European title, which brings a bonus of the chance to qualify for next season’s European Champions Cup, something they can’t achieve through league position this season.

While high-flying Exeter are favourites to win through their quarter-final on Saturday night, Humphreys refused to be drawn on who Gloucester’s semi-final opponents will be.

But he believes that his squad will be ready and prepared to welcome any team to fortress Kingsholm in two weeks’ time.

“We are delighted to get another big game for Kingsholm,” he said.

“We are moving in the right direction, and our results at Kingsholm have been improving since the New Year.

“We don’t mind who we play as we should always be concerned about our own game.”

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