ROB THIRLBY'S second half try sealed a Gloucester's victory in the Guinness A League against Bristol last night.
Gloucester won 18-14 on a typically cold night at Clifton RFC. A strong wind swept across the pitch, line-out work was difficult and turnovers frequent in a fractious game which threatened to spill over at times in the second half.
Gloucester outside half Ryan Lamb opened the scoring with a penalty after 10 minutes but Bristol hit back with a try six minutes later.
Geraint Lewis broke from the base of a scrum and offloaded to Ulia Ulia who was tackled. The ball was recycled to Danny Gray who took advantage of the long in goal areas to Clifton and weighted a grubber kick nicely for Sean Marsden to touch down. Gray converted for a 7-3 lead.
Lamb then missed a penalty after 28 minutes and then scrum-half James Donovan almost scored after a nice break and chip and chase. However, Greg Nicholls beat him to the touchline.
However, Gloucester were back in front two minutes later. Bristol lost control of a line-out five metres from their own line and skipper Mark Cornwell scored from close range. Lamb converted to make the score 7-10.
Former Bristol flanker Ben Gerry was yellow carded after 38 minutes for persistent infringement but Bristol couldn't take advantage and Gloucester maintained their lead.
Bristol made changes at half-time with Neil Clark replacing Saul Nelson and Andy Reay coming on for Manu Contepomi.
But Gloucester were quickest off the mark and Lamb missed a penalty after 45 minutes but was on target after 49 minutes to stretch their lead to 7-13.
When tempers started to fray, Jon Pritchard was yellow carded for a high tackle and Neil Clark escaped with a warning.
As the game went entered the final 10 minutes, Bristol re-took the lead and threatened to win the match. From a set scrum, Gray made a nice break and offloaded to Mark Denney, who took a nice angle to score. Gray converted for a 14-13 lead.
However, Gloucester hit back when Brad Davies made a break from a tap penalty and threw out a long pass for Rob Thirlby to score wide out. Lamb's conversion was off target but Gloucester had the lead at 14-18.
Bristol's final roll of the dice was to introduce Tom Fidler and Sam Brown and Brown almost inspired a long breakaway but was caught as he waited for support and Gloucester could celebrate a priceless victory.
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
On a tough evening at Kingsholm, Gloucester could escape neither a suffocating Bath defence, nor the whistle of referee Greg Garner as six penalties and a penalty try paved the way to a 39-16 win for the visitors.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).