A BRIGHT yet blustery day welcomed Crypt and St Peter's to Kingsholm for this years final of the HSBC Bank Cup that St Peter's won 13-12 in a classic final.
Immediately Crypt showed their determination to play running rugby by stringing together a flowing move straight from the kick-off to give winger Luke Johnson the chance to show off his pace before being bundled into touch.
St Peter's seemed to settle their nerves the better and with good technique in the set pieces they started to exert some pressure with inside centre Lee Taylor making a couple of neat breaks.
However one or two small errors allowed Crypt to regather the ball and scrum-half Connor Gwilliam again showed their intention to put width on the game with some intelligent running. Good scavenging on the floor by St Peter's' loose forwards meant though that they remained in the ascendancy and after 10 minutes opened the scoring after flanker Alex Hoyle picked up from the base of a scrum and kicked the ball towards the 22, where Taylor hacked on and beat the covering defenders to touch down.
This actually seemed to settle Crypt as they then started to impose themselves more on the game. Their ability to keep the ball alive was tremendous and in outside centre, Michael Spencer-Tonks they had a silky runner who began to cut through the St Peter's.
After 18 minutes they set up a series of drives following a scrum, before fly-half Liam Ward dummied to both his centres which drew the defence and allowed him to stroll through the gap he'd created to level the scores. His conversion gave them the lead.
(Man of the Match - Michael Spencer-Tonks)
Following the restart Spencer-Tonks made another great break before being dumped by Alex Hoyle forcing another turnover and as the half drew to a close, St Peter's began to find the ascendancy again and following some good driving play by the forwards, replacement Joe Badham barged over in the corner. Again Hoyle made a good attempt at the conversion but pushed it wide giving them a half time lead of 10 - 7.
The second half started in the vein as the first had ended with St Peter's controlling some tight phases of play to drive close to the Crypt line looking for the all important first score of the half, but some sterling defence kept them at bay and again they cleared their lines playing carefree, heads up rugby.
This didn't always lead to them relieving the pressure for long as St Peter's were technically very strong at the rucks and mauls and were able to turn over possession on several occasions.
The Crypt back row, in particular, Craig McGrigor and Joe Smithard were beginning to have an influence on the game making good yards around the fringes before releasing their backs who all showed good hands and the elusive ability to offload out of the tackle. However it was the eventual man of the match, Spencer-Tonks, who made another classy break which set up the territory for Crypt to launch themselves at the St. Peter's line.
A knock on ended the move, although the bigger pack of the attacking side were beginning to turn the screw on the tiring St Peter's eight and they managed to nick one against the head, smart handling on the blindside allowed Luke Johnson to regain the lead with less than ten minutes remaining.
The holders were not going to give up their crown without a fight though and they came back at Crypt strongly and as the game entered the last few minutes forced an infringement in front of the posts and Hoyle calmly slotted the ensuing penalty to give them the smallest of margins.
This pulsating match now had a vociferous crowd on the edge of their seats as Spencer-Tonks again made a break that pushed St Peter's back into their own 22. From a line-out, Crypt inched their way forward and forced a scrum 5 metres out.
They drove forward and over the line but a St Peters player managed to get his hand under the ball and the try was not forthcoming and time had run out. St Peter's had retained their cup but Crypt had every right to be proud of their efforts producing a classic final.
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.
Speaking after Saturday's win, James Hudson was happy to record a bonus-point win against a hugely physical Oyonnax side as Gloucester secured their passage into the European Rugby Challenge Cup Quarter Finals
Billy Burns was a try scorer on his first European start for Gloucester and, speaking after the game, admitted that it was good to get the five points although there are still things to work on before the trip to Brive.
Gloucester Rugby have added to their front row strength in depth for next season with the signings of Paul Doran-Jones, Paddy McAllister and Nicky Thomas from Harlequins, Aurillac and the Ospreys respectively.
Connacht's 30-20 win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening means that they are the third best placed runners up and will come to Kingsholm for the quarter-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup in early April.