|Cherry and Whites gain shock win|
| Gloucester 34 Toulouse 24
Kingsholm. Friday 20 January 2012
Who would have thought it?
A couple of weeks after stumbling to a sad and sorry defeat at Worcester, virtually the same Gloucester side turned up to record a stunning surprise win and beat, probably the strongest club side in Europe, French champions Toulouse.
Although the Cherry and Whites had no serious interest in the Heineken Cup they rose to the occasion with an outstanding blend of pace and passion that enabled them to come from behind with a strong second-half performance to claim the spoils in what will probably be the game of the season at Kingsholm.
To date this has been a disappointing, hit and miss, sort of an inconsistent season with little to enthuse over but this particular Gloucester performance was a triumph for the whole side — a real team effort from 1-23. All the players gave their best in an enthralling game of genuine top-class rugby between two sides who were equally prepared to play a style of rugby that was a credit to all concerned and a marked contrast to much of the stodgy stuff served up in the Premiership. Champagne compared to Vin Ordinaire.
The game got off to a sensational start with the hosts losing prop Nick Wood to the sin-bin for careless use of the boot within the first minute but against all the odds Toulouse were made to pay when their wing Timoci Matanavou got into all sorts of trouble in-goal trying to deal with a towering kick from Freddie Burns before his eventual attempted clearance kick was charged down allowing Jonny May to score. Burns conversion made it 7-0 for a surprise Gloucester lead.
However as far as the visitors were concerned it was back to business and within minutes Toulouse broke through when French R.W.C. Captain Thierry Dusautoir exploited a gap to cross with ease. The conversion was added by Lionel Beauxis who also slotted a penalty to put the visitors in the lead.
It was compelling exciting rugby played at high tempo as the visitors appeared to be getting into a commanding position when sharp passing worked Matanavou over in the corner for a try converted well by Beauxis to increase the Toulouse lead.
Gloucester to their credit were not to be out-done and some Herculean work back-row work by Strokosch, Narraway and Qera put them back in the game with an equally good try completed by Akapusi Qera. Burns added the extras to narrow the gap to a mere three points at the interval.
The breathless pace continued after the interval with the hosts intent on taking the opposition on with positive back play and Burns was quick to exploit a hesitant Toulouse defence allowing Mike Tindall to open up the line with a well judged kick which found space for May to gather and pass allowing Charlie Sharples' pace to do the rest. Burns’ conversion went over off the upright and cross-bar for the T.M.O to make the decision as the poor officials were unable to. He added a further penalty to take the score to 24-17 and there was a growing sense of Gloucester creating a Cup upset.
Toulouse did not let-up and when fly-half Beauxis launched a mid-field break a brilliant flowing attack finished with a second try for Matanavou converted from wide out by Beauxis to level the scores at 24 all.
The worry was that Gloucester would crack in the final quarter but their resolve and spirit was just as great with the introduction of the replacements as young prop Shaun Knight forced a penalty at the scrum which Burns kicked. 27-24.
The French side began to look vulnerable and when James Simpson-Daniel brilliantly picked a pass up off his ankles to break through and found Jonny May at his elbow there was no one going to catch the flying full back who crossed near the corner flag. The excellent Freddie Burns’ imperious conversion kick was the icing on the Gloucester cake.
Stirring stuff. Almost certainly the best game we shall see at Kingsholm this season but can Gloucester reproduce their performance again is another question?
The roller-coaster ride of this season will probably continue but all credit is due to both sides for an outstanding display of rugby. No one need think that because Toulouse were virtually assured of a last-eight Heineken Cup place they were not concerned about the result - this was real competitive rugby at its best.
Absolutely brilliant. A night to remember!
Pricey's Postscript -
Why do Gloucester play like complete and utter plonkers; Sale, Newcastle and Quins in the league spring to mind, when with hardly any discernible changes to the line up they can produce rugby like last night, Leicester away, Toulouse away and the LV Cup final to name but a few. A few years ago Gloucester were a very poor team and only very special performances against Bath & Leicester at home stopped the faithful from committing Hari-Kari.
We know that they can play like champions; we know they can play breathtaking rugby. What we don’t know is why they can’t do it every week or, at least, get close to it. Every player in the squad played to their potential. Freddie Burns controlled the game with aplomb. Luke Narraway led by example. Charlie Sharples must have been drinking high octane fuel from his water bottle and Mike Tindall continually punched holes in the opposition defence. We know that they have the weapons in their arsenal; why oh why are they so inconsistent?
Let’s hope that they see the light to secure a place in next year’s Heineken Cup so that fantastic games such as the last one remain on the menu.
Charlie Sharples, Mike Tindall, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, James Simpson-Daniel;
Freddie Burns, Rory Lawson;
Nick Wood, Scott Lawson, Rupert Harden;
Jim Hamilton, Alex Brown;
Alasdair Stroskoch, Akapusi Qera, Luke Narraway (capt)
Darren Dawidiuk, Dan Murphy, Shaun Knight, Will James, Matt Cox,
Dave Lewis, Ryan Mills, Henry Trinder
Try: May (2), Qera, Sharples
Con: Burns (4)
Pen: Burns (2 )
Referee - G.Clancy. Ireland
Attendance - 13,077