This was a game that certainly lived up to its billing. In front of 70,000 plus fans these two sides put on a Christmas feast of ten tries that will leave both sets of supporters wondering how their team did not win. It is a credit to Gloucester’s spirit and commitment today that taking three points from Big Game 8 could be seen as disappointing. But with a ten point lead going into the final ten minutes the Cherry and Whites could see this as two points lost.
Gloucester Rugby Earn Three Points from Big Game 8
Harlequins 39 – 39 Gloucester
Following a bright start from the visitors, All Black lock Jeremy Thrush kicked through after a scruffy breakdown and touched down between Jack Clifford’s hands over the line. This was fine reward for the confident start displayed by a team that had an almost full complement of big name internationals such as Thrush, Mariano Galarza and Greig Laidlaw who seemed at home on the international turf of Twickenham. Maybe Gloucester had finally found their best Gloucester starting 15? Unfortunately it wasn’t together for long as John Afoa hobbled off after 25 minutes, to be followed later in the game by Johnny May and Henry Trinder, the latter pulling a hamstring whilst scoring his second try to continue his dreadful luck with injuries. It was credit to the strength of the squad that replacements such as Nicky Thomas and Henry Purdy played their part despite being late inclusions themselves following withdrawals through injury and illness before the match.
Gloucester’s second try, preceded by a Marland Yarde score for Quins, saw Matt Kvesic demonstrate his abilities by forcing a ruck turnover that sent James Hook 50m down the touchline unopposed and into the corner. The flanker earned three turnovers, claimed the man of the match award and made his biggest claim yet to be back at Twickenham come Six Nations time, although Chris Robshaw for Harlequins also showed that he should not be ruled out completely from the next squad.
By half time Quins had fought back again and only two points separated the sides, with the scoreline 17-15 in the visitors’ favour. This was only an appetiser of what was to come, as Trinder scooped up the first of his intercepts and opened up a nine point lead and Gloucester with over half an hour to aim for the try bonus point. That appeared to be the spark that ignited the game into full mayhem. The Cherry and Whites, to whom large winning margins are more of a rarity these days, decided to push the self-destruct button and allowed the hosts to notch the bonus point first, with two quick-fire efforts that saw them go into the lead for the first time.
The game then went into overdrive and the following 15 minutes or so encapsulated perfectly the frustrations of being a Gloucester supporter. The Cherry and Whites were able to come from behind and build a ten point lead through a superb solo effort from Rob Cook, showing the sort of running rugby that is loved down at Kingsholm. But by the end of the game the away side were lucky to come away with the draw after Nick Evans missed a very kickable drop goal. If Gloucester are to remain in the top half the ability to close out games in tight situations will be vital.
If you had offered most Gloucester fans three points before the game most would probably have shook your hand immediately, and the performance showed that key names like Billy Twelvetrees and James Hook can function together in high pressure environment. Director of Rugby David Humphreys’ main priority should be building self-belief and today is a great foundation from which to start. This result leaves the Cherry and Whites where they want to be, in the top six, and is a great riposte to pundits who write them off, as the broadcasters and commentators seemed to do today. This game was a potential defining moment in the season, and it gives real optimism for 2016 if, and it is a big if, this performance can be replicated week in week out.