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 after the 37-8 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Benetton Treviso, James Hook admitted that the Italian side made things tough for Gloucester at times but that the Cherry and Whites are happy to take the bonus point win and turn their focus to Northampton next week.
Speaking to GRTV after the game, Backs Coach Tim Taylor was happy with the squad as they cruised to victory over Treviso. The result wasn't in doubt, but the Cherry and Whites laboured to secure a crucial try bonus point.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester Rugby centre Matt Scott is excited to take the field again as the Cherry and Whites look to build on the win in Bayonne when Treviso come to Kingsholm this Saturday.
Defence Coach Jonny Bell admitted this week that the European Rugby Challenge Cup victory in Bayonne was a welcome one, stressed that Benetton Treviso will pose a tough test on Saturday at Kingsholm but that Gloucester are determined to deliver in front of their own fans.
Motu Matu'u is looking to make up for lost time this week as the Cherry and Whites head to Basque Country to take on Bayonne in the European Rugby Challenge Cup opener. The Samoan hooker made his first appearance in the jersey last weekend, and is hoping to contribute to the team this weekend.
Gloucester's attentions turn to Europe this weekend as they travel to Bayonne for their opening fixture of this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup. Forwards Coach Trevor Woodman told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will be aiming to top their pool as they've done for the past two seasons, but is well aware of how tough it is to win in France.
Although understandably disappointed at seeing victory slip away at the last minute, Ben Morgan said after the game at Exeter that there were plenty of positives that Gloucester could take from the game.
A number of Gloucester Rugby's promising young players are currently playing their competitive rugby on loan at other clubs, and six of them featured in Saturday's game between London Welsh and Rotherham Titans.
Gloucester made it two wins from two outings in this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup as they outplayed Benetton Treviso at Kingsholm to win by 37 points to 8, the bonus point try coming with the final play of the game.