GLOUCESTER geared up for their opening Guinness Premiership fixture against Bath next Saturday with a thoroughly absorbing 29-22 victory over Llanelli at Kingsholm.
There is a lot to be said for doing things the hard way and Gloucester's pre-season campaign has been examining, tough and not without its casualties.
But that will ensure they meet Bath next week knowing the laws of the jungle and their final pre-season run-out was played at full pitch with an intensity level not far off the real thing they can expect in the next nine months.
Gloucester showed they are capable of creating a serious number of chances and if they can reign in that ambition slightly and combine it with a touch more composure, they will surely begin to motor.
There were some excellent performances, from James Forrester's unpredictable brilliance on the loose, to Peter Buxton's monstrous work rate and the destructive tackling of Andy Hazell - they all played their part.
Rudi Keil ran hard in the centre, Willie Walker has a dextrous touch with ball in hand, Jack Adams gets better with each game and Iain Balshaw got valuable miles in his legs.
Gloucester were 6-0 up thanks to two Walker penalties after two and six minutes and then 7-6 down after shipping a try to Gavin Evans, who slipped his midfield markers to ghost unattended beneath the sticks after 12 minutes following good work from Dwayne Peel.
There was plenty going on in and around the contact area, while the line-out and scrums were also fiercely contested. Llanelli got themselves between the ball and the man sufficiently to prevent two certain Gloucester scores in the opening quarter and it was so blatant that Inoke Afeaki was red carded in the second half following his second illegal intervention.
However, the home side regrouped and scored their first try after 18 minutes. Walker's penalty was driven to touch and skipper Marco Bortolami dragged in the line-out catch to set up the drive. After Llanelli held the initial surge, Richards combined with Walker beautifully and Keil sent James Bailey, in off his wing, to the line.
Walker converted for a 13-7 lead. Gloucester dominated territory but Stephen Jones cut the gap by three points again with another penalty before Forrester almost created a second try for Bailey with a brilliant break but his over-head pass was ruled forward.
Neither set of forwards traded an inch but in the second half, Gloucester gradually took control. Olivier Azam, adding his own kind of very special physicality, sent Buxton on a thudding break and from the penalty, Walker made it 16-10 after 42 minutes.
Gloucester could hve broken the back of the match at this stage. The piled pressure on the Llanelli line but the Scarlets defended brilliantly and then turned over possession and scored themselves.
After Gloucester had committed numbers, Evans led the break-out to streak home and hand Llanelli a one-point lead.
But they soon lost Afeaki to the red card and a man down, Gloucester turned the screw. Walker made it 19-17 and then 22-17 with two more penalties before Forrester's moment of class sealed the game.
Azam took a strike against the head and the number eight picked up, beat the cover and stepped past Clive Stuart-Smith for his 71st minute score.
Not even a try for Stuart-Smith - against his old club - could salvage anything for the Scarlets as Gloucester claimed a hard-earned and crucial pre-season victory.
Jonny May's superb late score capped a thrilling 40-32 European play-off win over Connacht on Sunday. The winger spoke afterwards of his team's character and spirit as he looked ahead to one more week of rugby.
Speaking to GRTV this afternoon, Director of Rugby David Humphreys hailed the 'never say die' attitude of the team, after despite not being at their best, fighting back to take a 40-32 win after extra time over Connacht.
Jonny May continues on the wing on Sunday as Connacht come to town, and the England wing explains to the local media this week that he is delighted with his form and is looking forward to taking on Pat Lam's men.
Speaking to the local media this week, front rower John Afoa is familiar with the challenge of Connacht from his time in Belfast, and the World Cup winner is fully aware of the challenge they pose ahead of Sunday's meeting in the Champions Cup play off
Speaking ahead of Gloucester's European Rugby Champions play-off against Connacht on Sunday (Kingsholm, 3:30pm), Director of Rugby David Humphreys admitted that he's glad to have more players available than in recent weeks ahead of a tough fixture.
Nick Wood captained the Cherry and Whites on Saturday afternoon, and the experienced front rower expressed his pride in the young squad in defeat to Bath on the final day of the Aviva Premiership season.
Lewis Ludlow scored Gloucester's opening try in the 30-50 defeat at Bath on Saturday, part of an impressive performance by the young back row forward. Speaking after the game, he paid tribute to the young Gloucester side who went toe to toe with the Aviva Premiership semi-finalists.
Speaking to the local media after the game, Director of Rugby David Humphreys gave an honest assessment of the game, and expressed his pride in the way his young charges had performed against the title-chasing hosts.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester Rugby scrum half Callum Braley is excited by the challenge of the West Country Derby, and the ex-Bristol man reveals the squad will be giving their all.
It was a thriller at Kingsholm on Sunday afternoon, as Gloucester snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, leveling the scores in the final minute before triumphing in extra time over a spirited Connacht side.
Having defeated Connacht Rugby in dramatic fashion in the first play-off for the final spot in the 2015-16 European Rugby Champions Cup, Gloucester Rugby can confirm ticketing details for next Sunday's game against Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways.
Gloucester snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and move on to next weekend's European Champions Cup final play-off against Bordeaux-Begles after a dramatic extra time win over a valiant Connacht side.