Gloucester Rugby returned to Gallagher Premiership Rugby action in some style on Friday evening, as they ran in five tries to defeat the Leicester Tigers by 36 points to 13 at Kingsholm.
It was one of the most impressive performances from a Gloucester Rugby side in several seasons. The first half in particular saw them deliver a performance of such pace and precision that Leicester could barely live with them.
Predictably, the momentum dipped a little in the second half once the try scoring bonus point was in the bag but, perhaps most telling was the way that the Cherry and Whites responded as the Tigers launched their comeback.
The visitors scored one try from a catch and drive, and really started to pile on the pressure as the thoughts of some may have started to drift back to that amazing comeback here a couple of seasons ago.
But Gloucester Rugby dug deep in defence, repelled the threat and then finished the match off with a simply sensational score from Ollie Thorley. Kingsholm was buzzing.
Enjoy your wins, the saying goes. And everyone connected with the club will certainly do that this evening. However, focus quickly turned to the next few weeks with three games in four weeks against the Exeter Chiefs lying on the horizon.
It’s a good night for the Cherry and Whites, but it’s the season is a work in progress and the hard work continues.
It was a positive start for the Cherry and Whites who worked their way into the Tigers half, counter-attacking from a long kick. The visitors were penalised for playing the ball on the deck and Danny Cipriani stroked over the penalty for a 3-0 lead after three minutes.
However, this was quickly cancelled out as Gloucester Rugby were adjudged to have collapsed the first scrum of the game and Joe Ford had no problem with a straightforward penalty. The Tigers fly-half was off target, however, with a more challenging effort on 14 minutes.
The Tigers were duly punished for the error. Quality possession saw the ball moved left where slick hands from Danny Cipriani gave Mark Atkinson the space to throw a dummy to break clear and put Jason Woodward away for a fine score. Cipriani added an excellent conversion for 10-3 after 17 minutes.
It was a blow for the visitors, but they were promptly gifted three points as Gloucester Rugby knocked on near their own 22 before conceding a ruck penalty. Ford had a simple penalty for 10-6.
The Cherry and Whites responded immediately as a penalty award allowed them to move into the Leicester 22. Forwards and backs combined well as they softened up the Tigers defence, before creating an overlap on the right for Matt Banahan to dive over for his team’s’ second try.
The home team, roared on by an expectant crowd, piled on the pressure and Ollie Thorley was tackled into touch right by the corner flag and Ed Slater held up over the line as Gloucester Rugby looked to turn the screw.
The Cherry and Whites stayed patient, and finally the third try came, Fraser Balmain powering his way over from close range on his birthday against his former club. Cipriani added an excellent conversion for 22-6.
There was still time for the Tigers to threaten as half time approached, but Cipriani then showed a different side to his game as his well-timed tap tackle halted the flying Jordan Olowofela in his tracks.
So, 22-6 the advantage for Gloucester Rugby and they were good value for it. They had oozed menace when attacking and the Tigers had been at full stretch throughout. Could they now kick on and finish off the job in style?
Both teams had their moments in the opening minutes of the second half, but the Cherry and Whites then extended their lead with a superb score. A sweet backs move opened up a gap for Ollie Thorley and the winger scorched through to round the last man and score. Cipriani converted for 29-6.
It could have been even better as, just a minute later, Woodward was denied a second try for a forward pass after superb interplay between himself, Matt Banahan and Willi Heinz but Ollie Thorley had to show great pace to deny Adam Thompstone after an interception moments later.
The Tigers then benefitted from a questionable penalty call against Ciaran Knight. It set up a five metre lineout position, and Mike Williams was awarded the score from the catch and drive even though it seemed the ball was held up. Ford converted for 29-13.
As the game edged into its final quarter, the visitors now had some self-belief and their tails up and it took some terrific defence to keep the Tigers at bay and a couple of penalties helped to move play downfield.
Cipriani missed a long range 65 minute penalty, the ball dipping agonisingly under the bar, and Gloucester Rugby laid siege to the Tigers line but came away empty handed as the visitors hung tough.
But the best was yet to come as time expired. A turnover in the home 22 saw Ben Morgan burst out of his own 22. The number eight shipped the ball on to the flying Thorley and the winger weaved and swerved his way to the line, leaving several defenders in his wake.
Twelvetrees converted, the job was done and Kingsholm celebrated.