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Zach Mercer earns Gloucester victory in tight affair in Edinburgh

By PA
Zach Mercer of Gloucester scores his side's second try during the EPCR Challenge Cup match between Edinburgh Rugby and Gloucester Rugby at DAM Health Stadium on January 13, 2024 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Gloucester clinched their place in the last 16 of the EPCR Challenge Cup as they held on for a narrow 21-20 win at Edinburgh on Saturday.

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The English side were outscored by three tries to two, but Zach Mercer’s 73rd-minute touchdown, converted by Adam Hastings, proved decisive in the Pool Three clash.

Their victory was their third in succession in the competition, while defeat left Edinburgh needing to beat Scarlets next time out to be sure of joining them in the next round.

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Red Roses Head Coach: John Mitchell excited for RWC 2025

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A Glen Young try gave Edinburgh the lead after Gloucester lost Seb Atkinson to the sin-bin, but Louis Rees-Zammit scored a superb reply and Hastings landed three penalties.

Edinburgh hit back to regain the lead with tries from Ewan Ashman and Ben Vellacott after the hour, but the hosts were unable to hang on.

Welsh side Dragons fell just short as they were beaten 20-17 at Zebre Parma in Pool One.

Dragons led 12-8 at half-time after four Cai Evans penalties, but the Italians had crossed through Simone Gesi and another try from Jacopo Bianchi after the break put them ahead.

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Gesi’s second try extended Zebre’s lead and the hosts held firm after Jared Rosser touched down to set up a tight finish.

Scarlets also suffered defeat as they went down 38-17 in their Pool Three clash at Clermont Auvergne.

The 26th-minute sending off of Johnny Williams proved costly for Scarlets as the hosts scored all six of their tries after his dismissal.

Alivereti Raka and Anthony Belleau claimed two apiece with Giorgi Beria and Joris Jurand also cashing in. Belleau added four conversions to his haul, while Scarlets mustered replies through Steff Evans and Kieran Hardy.

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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