Parra ends Exiles’ European dream

London Irish 30 Bourgoin 32
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The Independent Online

Bourgoin, inspired by their brilliant scrum-half Morgan Parra, created a little bit of European Challenge Cup history last night by becoming the first French side to record victory in the knock-out stages of the second tier European competition.

But London Irish almost forced extra time in the European Challenge Cup quarter-final when Steffon Armitage squeezed over on the left and was awarded a try after a TV replay. Unfortunately, his brother, Delon, missed the tricky touchline conversion.

The French side went ahead with an early penalty through scrum-half Parra, but Bourgoin's propensity to stray off-side allowed Delon Armitage two successful shots at goal. The Exiles showed more flair with the ball in hand and scrum-half Peter Richards made one superlative break, taking the ball on a looping run.

The Bourgoin captain Benjamin Boyet hauled his team level on the half hour with a coolly-taken drop goal, but Exiles hit back almost immediately with a long-range penalty from Armitage.

Bourgoin grew in confidence as the interval approached, with Parra knocking over a penalty to square the match.

A stunning cross kick from fly-half Peter Hewat just bounced out of reach of centre Seilala Mapusua when an Exiles' try looked certain, but they had the consolation of a fourth successful penalty kick by Armitage on the stroke of half-time.

Bourgoin scored the first try with the second half just 35 seconds old when the full-back Anthony Forest was sent over. Parra converted. The Exiles scored a try of their own when Seilala followed Hewat over to the righthand side, picked up and plunged over. Armitage converted.

Back came Bourgoin, and when the Exiles front row stood up in a scrum Parra knocked over the penalty. The home side then sent on replacement blindside Chris Hala'ufia and 90 seconds later he was off, shown a yellow for a high tackle. Parra landed the penalty.

Armitage levelled with his fifth penalty goal, but 50 seconds later Boyet landed his second drop goal. Replacement Matthieu Nicolas then intercepted Mapusua's pass and crossed for Bourgoin's second try, converted by Parra. Lock Nick Kennedy then dropped a goal for Exiles before Steffon Armitage prolonged French agony.

London Irish: D Armitage; T Ojo, S Mapusua, C Gower, S Tagicakibau; P Hewat, P Richards; D Murphy, D Coetzee, T Lea'aetoa, N Kennedy (capt), J Hudson, K Roche, S Armitage, R Thorpe.

Bourgoin: A Forest; R Coetzee, D Janin, Y David, J Coux; B Boyet, M Parra; A Tchougong, J Genevois, K Wihongi, C Basson, C Levast, J Frier, W Jooste (capt), Y Labrit.

Referee: P Allan (SRU).