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#ThursdayTales | Gloucester Rugby's Greatest Match?

#ThursdayTales | Gloucester Rugby's Greatest Match?
In the European Champions Cup in 2011, Gloucester had the toughest of assignments in their first match, away to four-times Champions, Toulouse. Gloucester went at it from the start, and silenced the crowd when Jonny May put Charlie Sharples into the corner. They started the second half into the wind only two points ahead, but Glawster Dawg kept them in it, until a late try saw Toulouse squeeze home 21-17.

The return at Kingsholm on 20th January 2012 was the final game in the group, and by then Gloucester had no hope of progressing to the knock-out stages. Toulouse muscled in on Gloucester’s run in front of the Shed at the end of their warm-up, which fired up Gloucester players and supporters. By kick-off, Kingsholm looked and felt wonderful, a grand stage under the lights, packed out and seething with excitement.

And then it all went wrong in the first minute, when Nick Wood was dispatched to the sin bin. But a couple of minutes later Freddie Burns launched a steepling up-and-under into the night sky. Toulouse had trouble dealing with it and Matanavou’s clearing kick from behind his own line whacked Jonny May on the nose, but he pounced on the ball to score.

Toulouse were soon level when their captain, Dusautoir, coasted through the middle for a classy try. Another came from Matanavou down the right flank. Beauxis converted both and added a penalty. But before the break May set Charlie Sharples clear, Alasdair Strokosch carried into the 22, the ball was fired wide, and Akapusi Qera strolled over to leave Gloucester 14-17 behind at half-time.

Mike Tindall set up the first attack of the second half with a delightful grubber kick, launching May and Sharples, who were too fast for a mesmerised Toulouse defence. May won the race to the ball and sent Sharples over for a try which sent the Gloucester faithful into raptures. Burns converted and kicked a penalty to extend the lead to 24-17.  But this Toulouse team had not become the toast of Europe for nothing. Back they came with a second try by Matanavou and conversion by Beauxis to tie it up at 24-24. Burns landed a penalty and then came THE try.

James Simpson-Daniel left Matanavou for dead on the left flank, drew the cover and fed the ball to May just over the halfway line. There seemed to be sufficient cover, but he produced a burst of speed which left terrified defenders clutching in despair. As he went over the line the roar must have woken up children across half of Gloucestershire. Gloucester were home 34-24.

“Can we play you every week” chanted a delirious Shed at the shell-shocked Frenchmen. “I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life” said May afterwards. And Peter Ford judged this to be the finest performance he had ever seen by a Gloucester Rugby team.

 

Kindly written by Malc King, Gloucester Rugby Heritage Team.
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