A spirited second-half performance from Gloucester Rugby against Connacht saw them secure a vital bonus-point win to keep their Heineken Champions Cup hopes alive. It finished Gloucester 26-17 over Connacht, at Kingsholm.
Tries from Louis Rees-Zammit, Jake Polledri and a brace from man of the match Tom Marshall helped the Cherry and Whites move up to second place, in Pool five.
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Gloucester Rugby defeat Connacht 26-17
Connacht Rugby put up a competent performance in the first half, frustrating the west country outfit scoring through John Porch to even up the scores. However, the second half was a different story as Gloucester were dominant, scoring three tries to add to Marshall’s early effort.
It was a lively crowd at Kingsholm as referee Pascale Gauzere was at the centre of the action with a number of dubious calls that upset the Shed.
There was plenty going on in the 80 minutes so here are Charlie Hynes’ main talking points from Kingsholm:
Champions Cup battle at 10
Today’s match offered a great matchup at 10 with Ireland international Jack Carty going up against Danny Cipriani.
Both Fly-Halves started brightly with Cipriani displaying his great vision and Carty leading his team around the field with his game management and put Gloucester under pressure early on.
The Irish fly-half displayed the first moment of magic as he assisted Connacht’s first try. He attacked the defensive line and with some footwork and punching his hands through, managed to get the offload away to Porch.
Cipriani has been famous for the elaborate passes he has thrown in the past few years but it was his tactical kicking that was most prominent today. A number of kicks with the perfect amount of spin, changing the angle of the attack and turning the defenders to gain territory were extremely effective. The highlight of his kicking display came, when inside his own 22, he attempted to kick cross-field but looked to miscue. However, in true Cipriani style it looked deliberate as it rolled flat into the arms of Marshall.
What do you think…
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The second half performance established that Cipriani had ‘won the battle’ as Carty was quiet and the Englishmen contributed to the second try with the intercept.
After the game Gloucester’s head coach Johann Ackermann was pleased about the performance of his 10 and praised his mentality, saying:
“Danny and the team knew we were all not performing for 80 minutes. Danny has obviously wanted to perform at this level, he is driven, he is a quality player.
“He trained well, put in the hard work and luckily today we used the conditions well and he was a big part of that and a big part the intercept that swung the momentum.” Said Ackermann.
Ill discipline or bad refereeing?
Frenchman Gauzere was the least loved man at Kingsholm as many infringements went under his nose and some controversial calls were made when he did see something.
The crowd were aggrieved in the first half as Connacht looked to be repeatedly offside from the ruck and through a number of passes that looked forward.
The Gloucester rugby team didn’t help the cause as they conceded seven penalties in the first half from their ill-discipline. Clumsy penalties such as making contact in the air with the opposing man at the line-out and not rolling away at the ruck allowed Connacht to get on top in the first half. Gloucester were just fortunate that the Irish side were not able to convert their opportunities when they got them.
In the second half, the Cherry & Whites improved their discipline which allowed them to manage the game better and play in the right areas. This subsequently allowed them to get the three scores needed for the bonus point.
Gloucester No.8 Ben Morgan spoke about the performance of the french referee post match, saying: “I think there can always be different interpretations. I think the referee refereed pretty fairly. We can always be a bit aggrieved on some decisions but I think he tried to keep the game flowing the best he could.
“There are opportunities there that we’ll look at as a group and nullify some of those decisions ourselves. We’ll always look at ourselves before we criticize.” Morgan said.
Gloucester’s defensive resilience
Gloucester’s second half performance was a half of three parts. The first was early on when Connacht came out lively from the sheds and put Gloucester under pressure. The second when the Cipriani intercept started the charge to the bonus point and the third when they had to hold out late on.
The early and late parts of the half saw a steely defensive effort from the hosts in which they managed to hold out Connacht on their own line. It was only at the death when replacement Billy Twelvetrees had received a yellow card that Connacht broke through.
They stood up to everything that the visitors threw at them in the second half as Connacht ran out of ides and were forced into making mistakes. It got to the point at which the Irish just couldn’t hold the hosts out with Polledri powering through the defensive line as if it were merely a speed bump.
Vital bonus point
It was important Gloucester righted the wrongs of past weeks in which they have performed well but struggled to get a result. Sat on two points from the first two rounds, a bonus-point win was crucial to get back in contention for the knockout stages. If they had lost then the chances of qualification would have been extremely slim.
Gloucester’s patience was their greatest asset after a frustrating first half. They regrouped and came out better disciplined and got their rewards for this. Due to Cipriani’s game management, Gloucester played in the right areas and pushed for the tries needed after the fly-half’s intercept.
A lovely training ground move saw Morgan pick off the back of a scrum ten metres from the Connacht line which allowed Joe Simpson to put in Marshall. The solo effort from Polledri secured the crucial five points to the delight of the Gloucester Rugby Kingsholm faithful.
Ackermann spoke of how it was the teams attitude that got them there. “We had a great week, one thing that made me the proudest was the effort of the team and how they’ve conducted themselves over the last five weeks though things didn’t go our way.” Said the South African.
Full time: Gloucester 26-17 Connacht
The Gloucester Rugby team will now travel to The Sports Ground for the reverse fixture next week as they look to build on their first Champions Cup victory of the season.
Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images