From a line-out on halfway, a well-timed pass from Meakes sent Hook clean through a gap in the visitors’ defence before the Welshman gave Sharples a clear run-in. Within minutes, Connacht were back in front when a neat off-load from Fionn Carr created a try for Carty, which the outside half converted. The referee was having problems with repeated infringements at the scrum area and after 34 minutes issued yellow cards to rival props John Afoa and Denis Buckley. Connacht led 17-15 at the interval but following the restart, skilful play from Jonny May and Hook secured the hosts a platform in the opposition 22. The Irish were penalised for Laidlaw to kick his second penalty. Laidlaw surprisingly missed another penalty and Connacht made him pay by breaking out to score their third try. A well judged crossfield kick was easily collected by Healy to score as Sharples had left his man unattended. Sharples left the field with an injury, forcing scrum-half Dan Robson to play on the wing, before Connacht looked to have made the game safe when Carty kicked a penalty in the 78th minute. However, Gloucester took the contest beyond regulation when Meakes eluded three defenders for the try which Laidlaw converted. The first period of extra time saw neither side threaten until Hook fired over a magnificent 60-metre penalty with the last kick of the half. After two minutes of the final period, Healy raced over for his second try, which Carty converted – but G loucester regrouped and when Connacht replacement Dave Heffernan was yellow carded, they took advantage with matchwinning tries from Dawidiuk and a superb length-of-the-field effort from May. Two tries from Darren Dawidiuk and Jonny May in the last five minutes of extra time gave Gloucester a 40-32 win over Connacht and a place in next week’s Champions Cup play-off final. Press Association Charlie Sharples, Bill Meakes and Ross Moriarty, Dawiduik and May scored tries for Gloucester with Greig Laidlaw adding two penalties and three conversions. James Hook also kicked a penalty Matt Healy (two), John Cooney and Jack Carty were the Connacht tryscorers, with Carty kicking two penalties and three conversions. Gloucester made wholesale changes from their defeat at Bath. All their leading players were recalled with only Henry Purdy, Nick Wood and Dan Thomas remaining from last week’s starting line-up. Bill Meakes and Moriarty also returned after serving their suspensions. Connacht were without the injured Kieran Marmion, with Cooney replacing him at scrum half in one of two changes from last week’s home defeat to Ospreys. The other saw George Naoupu coming in for Andrew Browne in the second row. Gloucester started strongly, winning a line-out in the opposition 22 and had little trouble in driving over the Irish line with Moriarty scoring the second minute try which Laidlaw converted. Connacht soon had their first chance for points and were on the scoreboard when Carty made no mistake with his penalty attempt, before they shocked the home side with their first try. A poor pass from Meakes put Sharples under pressure and when the full-back was tackled the ball ran loose, Cooney picking it up before outpacing the Gloucester cover on a 50-metre run to the line. Gloucester deservedly drew level with a Laidlaw penalty to make it 10-10 at the end of the first quarter, then regained the lead with an excellent try. In a thrilling game, Gloucester trailed going into the last minute of normal time before a converted try by Bill Meakes saved the game and sent the match into extra time. The Aviva Premiership side now face Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways in Worcester next Sunday, with the winners securing the last Champions Cup spot.
Dominique Thompson is one of the shortest middle blockers in the conference, standing just 5-foot-11. So while sheer size doesn’t bring all the excitement of blocking spikes at the net, her passion and enthusiasm shine the second she steps on the court.Thompson came to Wisconsin as a 2010 AAU Junior National All-American, named the best blocker in the 18-Open Division at the 2001 National Junior classic. Her success carried over to Wisconsin as she played 57 matches through her first two seasons, starting 42 of them before redshirting 2012 with a foot injury.Thompson bounced back this year, starting all 20 matches and recording double figure kills in 10 of those matches.“She is a tremendous athlete,” head coach Kelly Sheffield said. “This is the hardest sport to be out a year, she’s still dealing with her injury. But that positive spirit in her, coming in ready to go every day has been her biggest quality.”Thompson’s athletic abilities come as no surprise. She comes from a family of athletes and volleyball runs in her blood. Her mother played at Iowa from 1986-1989 while her aunt Jenifer Thompson also played there from 1987-1991. Uncle George Thompson played volleyball at Pepperdine from 1987-1991. Her father Darrell Thompson also played football for the Green Bay Packers for five years in the 1990s.As an upperclassman, she is transitioning into a leadership role with the team, especially given that Wisconsin has only two seniors this season.“Her leadership is her enthusiasm and passion for the game of volleyball, her teammates and life,” Sheffield said.As a leader, Thompson feeds off the Wisconsin fans. She said the enthusiasm brings a whole new energy to the game and pushes her to perform at her absolute best.Freshman Haleigh Nelson, who also plays middle blocker, loves the energy Thompson brings.“She is always ready to play, she’s a go-getter,” Thompson said. “She is never satisfied; always looking to do better, try new things and work on new skills.”Nelson sees Thompson as an inspiration and someone who is always pushing the freshman as well as other teammates to achieve her best. Thompson is learning to accept this role as leader, but looks at it in a nontraditional way.“I’m the behind-the-scenes motivator to some people,” Thompson said. “But hey, I’m a goofball just joking around and lightening the mood.”Sheffield admires her work ethic and said it was obvious she enjoys what she does. Although she’s on the shorter side, Thompson shocks the volleyball world with her booming presence on the court. She still towers above most, but falls inches below the 6-foot-3 girls that dominate the spiking game.“She has less room for error than anybody else. She has really got to make the right lads and the right moves and she’s gotta win with speed rather than size. I think she is a handful for people,” Sheffield said with a smile.