Tristan Roberts on the attack for Gloucester's A side.
Bruce Seabrook/GPA Images
GLOUCESTER were stretched all the way last night by a young but wholly committed Sale Jets side in the Guinness A League.
Mark Cornwell's side won the match 32-31 to stretch their winning run to four matches but this was undoubtedly their toughest examination yet.
Without a regular supply of quality set-piece possession from either scrum or line-out, Gloucester's gifted back-line was forced to live off scraps. It meant the likes of Tristan Roberts and Freddie Burns were only seen in glimpses but both showed enough quality to suggest they will flourish beyond this level.
Roberts always looked to be a threat, either breaking himself or sending Burns and Henry Trinder up the middle but Sale were dogged and determined in defence and always prepared to mix it with their scrummage and line-out.
Had they not kicked away so much possession, they may have got in a position to spring a surprise result but Gloucester's sporadic potency eventually proved too strong.
They were already 3-0 down to a Mark Atkinson penalty when Burns burst up the centre from scrum and when possession came right scrum-half Dave Lewis sent Roberts in for the opening score.
He couldn't add the conversion but when Dan Norton was yellow carded after Nick Royle had got away down the flank, Sale launched a series of attacks close to the sticks. Although Gloucester repelled the danger, Sale retained possession long enough for Atkinson to kick across field to former Gloucester winger Pete Swatkins, who took advantage of the man missing in the back three to score.
It took Gloucester until eight minutes before the break to score again and this time it was Roberts' break and brilliant off-load that created a try for Burns to establish a 12-10 Gloucester lead.
Roberts immediately made it 15-10 with a 42nd minute penalty before Gloucester grabbed their third try. Both teams traded possession cheaply through some poor kicking but when Trinder ran it back, he did so to crucial affect, slicing through the defence on an outside break. Norton took over and prop Jake Meadows scored
But it was not all one way traffic. With Sale's scrum operating well thanks to loose-head Rob O'Donnell and lock Tom Holmes, the Jets were always capable of springing another score and when Atkinson made a clean break from a scrum, the stand-off went in for Sale's third try to cut the gap to 20-17.
However, Gloucester grabbed bonus point when replacement Ollie Winterbottom ran across the face of the Sale defence and off-loaded brilliantly to replacement Mike Stubbs, who reached the line and suddenly Gloucester were 27-17 ahead.
There was still time for Sale hit back, this time through O'Donnell, who ploughed over from short range to leave Gloucester sweating.
With time ebbing away, there was still time for two more tries - one for each side. First, replacement Charlie Simpson-Daniel weaved his way down the short side following a line-out for Gloucester's fifth try and then with the last play of the contest flanker James Jones crossed for the Jets grab a try bonus point for the visitors.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees led Gloucester Rugby to European glory on Friday evening, scoring the crucial try on a memorable night for the Cherry and Whites. After the game, he paid tribute to his team's performance under pressure in the latter stages as they withstood a ferocious late Edinburgh fightback.
Speaking to GRTV, James Hook admitted that, after a superb opening, Gloucester really had to pass a test of character to hold off Edinburgh and lift the European Rugby Challenge Cup. He paid tribute to his team mates for all their hard work on what was a great day for the club.
Speaking to the assembled media this week, Gloucester Rugby club captain Billy Twelvetrees explains that the squad are ready for the final and that it will be an honour to lead the Cherry and Whites out in the Challenge Cup final.
Gloucester Rugby scrum half Greig Laidlaw will line up against former team mates Edinburgh Rugby on Friday evening, but the focus is firmly on his own roles as the Cherry and Whites gear up for the EPCR Challenge Cup final at The Stoop.
Speaking to the media ahead of Friday evening's European Rugby Challenge Cup Final against Edinburgh, Director of Rugby David Humphreys stressed that his improving Gloucester team will need to perform at their best to prevail against a tough Edinburgh side.
Dan Robson, a second half try scorer in the 42-40 win over Newcastle on Saturday, admitted that Gloucester had started slowly but that the second half comeback showed real character and maintains momentum going into Friday's European final.
Gareth Evans was a first half replacement for the Cherry and Whites on Saturday afternoon, but the back rower's impressive carrying kept the hosts on the front foot when they needed it most to snatch a dramatic comeback win.
After his last ditch try clinched the 42-40 Aviva Premiership victory over Newcastle at Kingsholm on Saturday, Billy Burns told GRTV that all the Gloucester team deserve credit for hanging in there against a Falcons team who really made life tough for the Cherry and Whites.
Speaking after the European Rugby Challenge Cup triumph on Friday evening, Director of Rugby David Humphreys was thrilled with how the Cherry and Whites managed the game and secured the first major European silverware for nine years.
Friday night saw the Cherry and Whites lift the European Rugby Challenge Cup following the 19-13 victory over Edinburgh Rugby. The club photographer caught the best of the action and celebrations from The Stoop.
Once again for Gloucester, it went right to the very last whistle, the 14 men in Cherry and White hanging on heroically to win the European Rugby Challenge Cup by 19 points to 13 over Edinburgh at the Stoop on Friday evening.
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