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.
Billy Burns and Man of the Match Richard Hibbard spoke to GRTV after the 41-0 win in Treviso, on a day when preparations weren't ideal. They felt the team's attitude was key and also praised the travelling support.
Matt Scott was again in impressive try scoring form for the Cherry and Whites on Saturday, and the Scotsman laid praise on his fellow backs for their attacking skills in a big 55-19 win over Worcester Warriors
Jonny May spilled blood for the cause on Saturday, before going on to score the first try in the 55-19 Aviva Premiership victory over Worcester. He told GRTV that the win was a reward for the hard work the squad have been putting in.
Gloucester Rugby face their second tough Aviva Premiership fixture in six days when they take on Worcester Warriors at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 3pm). Head Coach Laurie Fisher is expecting a massive challenge from one of Gloucester's local rivals.
It was a frustrated and bitterly disappointed Willi Heinz who spoke to GRTV following the 12-13 reverse to Northampton Saints on New Year's Day. The skipper thanked the fans for their incredible support on a day when Gloucester couldn't quite get the job done.
A postponement, a rescheduling and a 3-hour wait on the tarmac threatened to disrupt Gloucester's trip to Treviso, but a short relocation and delay did nothing to prevent a six-try thumping over Treviso on Saturday afternoon.
It was a case of triumph over adversity for Gloucester in Italy this weekend, their pre-match preparations ruined by a relocation of the game. However, it was a job well done for the Cherry and Whites who defeated Benetton Treviso 41-0 in freezing conditions in Italy to top pool one.