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.
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.
Speaking after a last-gasp try from Exeter earned the Chiefs a 27-27 draw at Sandy Park on Saturday, Charlie Sharples admitted to mixed feelings. The game saw him score a try on his 200th competitive appearance for the club, but the frustration from not closing out the win was clear.
David Humphreys was minutes away from a winning interview on Saturday afternoon, but a late try from Exeter Chiefs meant the points were shared at Sandy Park. Humphreys spoke with the local media after the 27-27 draw.
Speaking to the media ahead of Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture away at Exeter Chiefs, Director of Rugby David Humphreys reiterated that there are elements of Gloucester's game that are in good shape at present, that the performance against Bath was a step forward from Newcastle but that individual errors are costing the Cherry and Whites dear.
Centre Matt Scott, a try-scorer in Bayonne last weekend, insists that Gloucester are taking nothing for granted when they welcome Benetton Treviso to Kingsholm on Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup (kick off 3pm).