After a nervy, close fought first 40 minutes which saw Gloucester Rugby take a 10-9 lead into half-time, the Cherry and Whites ran riot in the second half on their way to a 36-16 Gallagher Premiership victory over the Worcester Warriors at Kingsholm on Saturday afternoon.
Sometimes the scoreline doesn’t truly reflect the way a match pans out, and this was certainly one of those occasions. At half-time, it genuinely felt as though either team could win this game. But then the Cherry and Whites hit a purple patch.
Four tries in the space of 14 second-half minutes saw the visitors blown away, as Gloucester Rugby unleashed one of those patches of form which very few teams can live with.
Based primarily on the hard work of the pack up front, the driving maul being used to particularly potent effect, Gloucester Rugby put the game to bed to the delight of a loud home crowd.
The Warriors were left shaking their heads in disbelief. They’d been well and truly in the mix up until that point and missed a kickable penalty which would have seen them take an early second half lead.
But the pace and power of the Cherry and Whites during that second half spell was simply too much for them, and Gloucester Rugby were able even to switch off somewhat in the final few minutes and allow the Warriors to snatch a consolation score and threaten at least one another.
But it’s five important Gallagher Premiership points in the bag and a morale-boosting way to sign off this phase of matches. As always, the goal is to produce that 80 minute performance as there is still plenty to build on.
Next up are two hugely challenging Heineken Champions Cup matches against the Exeter Chiefs. Those games will be as tough as any this season, but the Cherry and Whites are moving in the right direction.
The first few minutes were a flurry of one out ball carries and box kicks. Both teams were feeling their way into the game, and the respective defences ruled the roost with Owen Williams impressively winning a breakdown penalty.
Gloucester Rugby had the first chance of points on eight minutes when Worcester were offside at a ruck, but Danny Cipriani’s penalty faded wide of the left hand upright. The fly-half promptly redeemed himself with a wonderful open field tackle on Chris Pennell.
The Cherry and Whites then applied the pressure as the visitors conceded a string of penalties. One five metre lineout was held out illegally, but the second resulted in a well-worked lineout at the front and James Hanson forced his way over for a 5-0 lead after 13 minutes.
The second try wasn’t long in coming. Once again, the forwards drove the ball into the Worcester before releasing it. Cipriani’s long pass found Jason Woodward in space, and the full-back cut a lovely diagonal angle before drawing the last man and putting Charlie Sharples over.
It had been a tough opening quarter for the visitors, but they opened their account on 22 minutes when Gloucester Rugby were caught offside, chasers within 10 metres of a box kick, and Duncan Weir stroked home the resulting penalty.
And Weir nudged his team closer still on 29 minutes, as the Cherry and Whites failed to deal with a box kick and then came in at the side of a maul. And the fly-half followed that up with his third penalty on 34 minutes to narrow the gap to 10-9.
So, very little to choose between the two sides at half-time with the visitors having battled their way back into it having taken something of a pummelling in the opening quarter. They’d done so largely by winning the battle of the breakdown, something Gloucester Rugby would have to address.
It was shaping up to be a tense affair in the second half and, on the evidence of the first 40 minutes, either team could prevail.
Worcester had first chance to draw blood after the resumption, Ben Morgan penalised for a deliberate knock-on, but Chris Pennell, taking on the long-range kicking duties, dragged his penalty attempt wide.
And the Cherry and Whites duly made Worcester pay for the miss. Once again, the forwards trucked the ball up before releasing the backs, and Owen Williams neat inside pass released Ollie Thorley to sidestep a defender and power over. Twelvetrees’ conversion drifted wide but the lead was now 15-9.
The Cherry and Whites now sensed an opportunity and the power of the pack once again saw them maul their way into the Worcester 22. Owen Williams took the ball on the crash and almost made it to the line, but quickly recycled ball saw Freddie Clarke crash over. Twelvetrees converted for 22-9 after 53 minutes.
Worcester then escaped with just a yellow card for foul play against Chris Pennell, as the full-back tackled the leaping Charlie Sharples with the winger several metres in the air. The crowd was baying for a red card and howled its indignation.
But justice was seemingly done immediately. The penalty was kicked to the corner, the catch and drive was perfectly executed and Jaco Visagie touched down for his first try for the club. Twelvetrees added the extras.
The Cherry and Whites were now on fire, and another flowing move saw an attack down the left give Ollie Thorley room to spring clear before swerving inside the last man to score his second of the day. Twelvetrees converted again for 36-9.
Gloucester Rugby seemed to lose their focus a little at this stage with the points safely in the bag. Bryce Heem scored for the visitors, Weir converting, but it ended up being little more than a consolation.
The Cherry and Whites introduced Franco Mostert for a late debut, the Springbok receiving a warm welcome from the Kingsholm crowd, before closing out an impressive win.