Gloucester lowered the curtain on this season’s Kingsholm Premiership programme with an emphatic ten try rout over a weak Sale side.
The win took the Cherry and Whites to third place in the Aviva Premiership and earned them a play-off place against Saracens at Watford at the end of a season which has provided more success than the majority of supporters can have dreamed of back last September.
A curate’s egg of a season with winning the LV = Cup an unexpected bonus to add to an undefeated Premiership record at Kingsholm contrasting with the inconsistency of defeats away from home to the league's lower sides and the Amlin Cup.
That is all history now, stored away in the memory bank but for the present Gloucester rattled up their biggest victory since thumping Bath 68-12 in 2002.
The home side made a sluggish start as Sale missed out on a couple of scoring chances before Gloucester began to get their act together as Tom Voyce and James Simpson-Daniel launched a counter-attack for Rory Lawson to score wide out.
Sale did get on the scoreboard with a Charlie Hodgson penalty before hooker Scott Lawson crossed from close range and Nicky Robinson’s conversion gave Gloucester a 12-3 lead approaching the half hour.
Gloucester continued to improve with an impressive try from Henry Trinder which Robinson converted to make it 19-3 at the interval.
It only took Gloucester five minutes after the restart to get their bonus-point try when some sharp handling set up Charlie Sharples to outpace the defence for the first of three tries in under fifteen minutes. Within minutes Sharples was over again as the Sale defence was unable to cope with his lightning pace. Robinson’s conversions took the score to 33-3 and the match was virtually all over as a contest and developed into pure one-sided entertainment.
Sale did get a try from an intercepted pass but normal service was resumed when Trinder got his second score and Sharples his third as Robinson added the extras. 47-10.
Nicky Robinson claimed a popular score which he converted before being replaced on his final game for Gloucester at Kingsholm, departing to a great round of applause.
It is disappointing that key players are leaving, they will be missed, some more than others, however the tight Kingsholm budget is very much a sign of the changing times. Let's hope Gloucester do not have regrets over the decisions they have made.
Sale won the Premiership 2005-06, thanks to the playing budget available to Philippe St Andre for recruitment but look how their fortunes have now declined, as have Newcastle. Money talks and poses the question as to how professional rugby would exist without revenue from television?
Sale got a consolation try but the home side were not finished as Sinbad and Dave Lewis added tries both converted by Tim Taylor.
The semi-final play-off clash at Watford, with Saracens unbeaten in the Premiership since January, will be a much sterner test. They may have the lowest total of bonus-points in the league but they have won the most and lost the least matches with their clinical brand of no-nonsense rugby, based on a strong pack which eliminates errors and ensures possession that has proved to be a successful recipe for success.
I guess it depends which Gloucester team turns up on the day.
Pricey's Postscript -
Ten tries to two speaks for itself and indeed had Gloucester shown a little bit more precision in the first half there could have been another twenty one points to add to the final score. What was pleasing for me, was that Gloucester having had the game won by half-time went for the jugular and kept piling on the points to match the score against Bath a few seasons ago.
So it’s a play-off semi-final match against Saracens at Vicarage Road which will be a tough game to win but fingers crossed and no more injuries Gloucester could make a decent fist of it. To finish third is commendable but when it is remembered that Gloucester have lost away to the bottom four clubs a home semi-final should have been the order of the day.
Back to today’s game, it was good to see Big Les back in action and looking to hurt people. Henry Trinder sparkled with some great tackle busting running and EFS gave us another display of showboating. I was pleased that Nicky Robinson scored in his last game at Kingsholm. I think Gloucester have made a big, big mistake in not extending his contract.
A great way to end the season, 10 tries and 100% undefeated home record in the premiership. Yet again the Cherry & Whites proved what good running rugby they can produce and what they can do to an opposition when they play that way.
Well, if you had predicted a top-four finish before Christmas, a trophy in the cabinet, and Heineken Cup qualification secured, you would have been laughed out of Kingsholm.
The second half of the season brought so much more positive rugby and solid team performances, what a pity Glos only won three games on the road, albeit Wasps, Northampton and Bath. Wins away to Sale, Newcastle and Leeds would have seen Glos finish top of the pile and a home semi-final, but instead we travel again to Vicarage Road.
A performance like today would be great, but I somehow thing it will be blood and guts, we can live in hope and perhaps take some of our home form and support to Watford.
Charlie Sharples, Henry Trinder, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, James Simpson-Daniel;
Nicky Robinson, Rory Lawson;
Nick Wood, Scott Lawson, Paul Doran-Jones;
Dave Attwood, Alex Brown;
Alasdair Strokosch, Akapusi Qera, Luke Narraway (capt)
Darren Dawidiuk, Alasdair Dickinson, Rupert Harden, Jim Hamilton, Brett Deacon,
Dave Lewis, Tim Taylor, Lesley Vainikolo
Try: Sharpes (3), Trinder (2), R.Lawson, S.Lawson, Robinson, Lewis, Simpson-Daniel
Con: Robinson (7), Taylor (2)
Referee - D.Rose
Attendance - 14,151
GLOUCESTER Matches - Glossary