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.
Fly-half Billy Burns was named Man of the Match after the 35-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup victory over Stade Rochelais on Thursday evening, and was full of praise for all his team mates for the win after a short turnaround.
Gloucester have been in good form in recent weeks, but Backs Coach Tim Taylor knows that the Cherry and Whites will have to be at their best on Thursday evening (kick off 7:45pm) against a Stade Rochelais side flying high this season.
Speaking to GRTV after the bonus point win over Bristol, back row Lewis Ludlow revealed that despite a tricky first half, Gloucester backed their skills to come through, a faith that was evident in a strong second half showing.
Willi Heinz scored Gloucester's second try as the Cherry and Whites overturned a disappointing first 40 minutes and 0-6 half time deficit, to earn a 26-18 Aviva Premiership victory over Bristol Rugby on Saturday.
Gloucester's much changed side had to overcome conceding an early try on Thursday evening, but responded in style to down Stade Rochelais by 35 points to 14 in the European Rugby Challenge Cup and set up a mouthwatering return fixture next weekend.
After taking 11 points from their last three games in the Aviva Premiership, including bonus point wins against Wasps and Bristol, Gloucester will be looking to continue their good form when they welcome La Rochelle to Kingsholm.