WHILE London Irish may have had the satisfaction of scoring first and last in its final home match of this season's Guinness A League competition last night at Sunbury, it was what happened in between that determined the result.
The scoring action between the 14th and 71st minutes was dominated by Gloucester and one man in particular, Lucovic Mercier as the Kingsholm men eased to a 37-15 victory.
The former French A international scored 22 of his team's 37 points in a display that had all the hallmarks of an experienced, top class out-half. When he was not scoring points Mercier showed his skill with a flawless display of tactical kicking that repeatedly forced the Exiles to retreat and his running game continually gave his speedy backs valuable forward momentum.
Irish competed well in a hectic first half and scored first through Gary Johnson, the powerful lock forward drove over for his try in the right corner. Ed Lewis-Pratt missed the difficult conversion.
Gloucester responded from the re-start by driving into the Irish half and flanker Jamie Vervon broke clear to score just left of the posts. Mercier added the extras to give his team a lead they were to build on for the next 42 minutes.
Mercier stretched the lead with two penalties in the 28th and 34th minutes as sustained pressure by the visitors' forced Irish to defend deep.
The outcome of the game was decided in a three minute spell either side of half-time when Gloucester scored two tries. The first touch down came in the 40th minute through left wing Dan Norton. The second came two minutes after the re-start when Mercier intercepted a pass thirty metres from his own try line and ran straight downfield to score under the Irish posts. He added both conversions to make the score 5-27 to Gloucester.
Five minutes later the Frenchman kicked his third penalty of the game to stretch the lead to 25 points. Justin Bishop was tireless in encouraging his young backs to attack and while he had good support from a hard-working pack, the home team struggled to breakthrough a well organised defence.
Gloucester secured a try bonus point with their fourth try in the 58th minute when Norton touched down for his second of the evening. Mercier added the conversion.
Irish's never say die attitude was rewarded by two tries in the final quarter through replacement flanker Bradley Mockford in the 64th minute and prop Tom Warren in the 71st minute. Both touchdowns were in the right corner leaving Lewis-Pratt with two difficult touchline conversion attempts which drifted wide.
The Exiles continued to take the game to Gloucester through the final minutes but failed to add to their score.
London Irish A: J Bishop (captain), D Howells (rep: L Southey, 62), C Gower, M Humphries, N Canty, E Lewis-Pratt (rep: B Willis, 71), T Parker (rep: R Rees, 40), D Murphy (rep: K Davis, 66), S Mackie (rep: T Standfield, 61), T Warren, G Johnson, L Cudmore (rep: S Gaynor, 71), D Danaher, H Rowlands (sin-bin: 28-38)(rep: B Mockford, 40), R Thorpe.
Gloucester A: J Goodridge (rep: J Copsey, 69), M Foster, R Keil, B Davies (captain), D Norton (rep: J O'Brien, 74), L Mercier, H Thomas (rep: J Williams, 40), J Brookes (rep: C Derrick, 75), R McMillan (rep: R Elloway, 62), J Forster (rep: B Lynch, 73), D Miller (sin-bin: 13-23)(rep: D Wright, 73), D Tuohy, J Vevron (sin-bin: 62-72), J Hooper (rep: B Foden, 62), E Uzonigwe.
Speaking to GRTV after the 40-29 Aviva A League win over Wasps Rugby, Academy Coach Rich Whiffin explained his pride in the squad to overcome a strong opponent and book their spot in next week's Aviva A League final.
Willi Heinz returned from injury to skipper Gloucester to a famous 16-14 win over Stade Rochelais on Saturday evening. Speaking after the game in France, Heinz admitted the win wasn't pretty but was full of courage and a great result for the club.
Billy Burns contributed all Gloucester's points in the 16-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening, but dedicated the victory to the whole squad whilst also praising the travelling support.
Speaking after Gloucester's brave 16-14 win against Stade Rochelais which clinches a European Rugby Challenge Cup final spot, Director of Rugby David Humphreys paid tribute to the way the team had executed the game plan in a hostile environment against quality opposition.
Greig Laidlaw returns to the Gloucester Rugby squad this week, and his inclusion is an important one after a serious ankle injury. The Scottish scrum half is determined to drive the team forward in their European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final in La Rochelle this Saturday.
Gloucester take on La Rochelle in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final in France on Saturday evening, with the Top 14 side the favourites in the eyes of the bookmakers. However, David Humphreys is looking for his side to rise to the occasion against a familiar opponent.
Speaking to GRTV after Saturday's 39-30 Aviva Premiership win over Sale, Mark Atkinson admitted that the performance wasn't perfect but that the team's character shone through in a game that could easily have slipped away.