MARK FOSTER'S dazzling try set Gloucester up for a hard-earned west country derby victory over Bristol last night.
The winger cut a devastating line off his wing from a line-out to combine with scrum-half Jimmy Williams and stand-off Ludovic Mercier to burst past Lee Robinson and use his pace to get round the cover to establish a commanding Gloucester lead they just managed to maintain in the 20-19 win.
Foster was instrumental in Gloucester's first try too. Foster burst through the defence to find Rudi Keil, who did brilliantly under heavy pressure to find Jon Goodridge and the full-back beat James Lumby to the posts.
Thereafter, Bristol used their superior tight forward game to unload wave after wave of pressure. Throught Craig Sharort and Mariano Sambucetti, they had two stand-out performers and when they kept the pressure on for long enough after 31 minutes, Sambucetti scored from close range.
Both teams made mistakes and turned the ball over but there was plenty of good work from Adam Eustace, Dan Tuohy and James Vernon against a heavier set of forwards.
However, Bristol reduced the deficit immediately after the interval when Sambucetti crossed from close range and this time Jason Strange converted to leave Gloucester 14-12 ahead.
The tide was with Bristol now and they penned Gloucester back for long periods. Only excellent Gloucester defence close to the line prevented even further damage but after 55 minutes Sambucetti completed his hat-trick to edge Bristol ahead.
Strange converted but in truth he had a horrid night. Soon after he slammed the post with a kickable penalty and the game changed. Mercier banged over three points for Gloucester and with some hard midfield running from Keil, Gloucester began to force mistakes.
They grafted hard around the fringes and when Short was sinbinned towards the end at a ruck, Mercier landed the winning penalty three minutes from time.
Gloucester will field a reshuffled side against the Ospreys in the LV= Cup this weekend, but Backs & Attack Coach Nick Walshe stressed that it's a great opportunity for everyone on duty on Saturday and that maintaining the recent winning run is very important.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees told GRTV after the win in Brive that the game could have been a tough one to get up for, but that his Gloucester team mates did themselves proud on the night and got a big result.
Reflecting on the 31-20 victory in Brive on Thursday evening, Director of Rugby David Humphreys said that clinching a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final was the overall aim and duly achieved.
Gloucester may have already clinched a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys wants his side to finish the pool stages on a winning note in Brive on Thursday evening.
Gloucester Rugby and the Ospreys shared seven tries and 57 points in the LV= Cup at Kingsholm on Saturday. The Cherry and Whites came out on top and the club photographer captured the best of the action.