Cherry and Whites forced to hang on
Gloucester book Semi-final place
Gloucester 14 Connacht 7
Friday, April 3, 2015 - 1745hrs

Not too much to get excited about but after the abysmal showing at Salford at least the Cherry and Whites did secure a welcome win to set up a home European Challenge Cup semi-final clash at Kingsholm.
Despite a nucleus of strong skilful players, Gloucester have been frustratingly inconsistent in Premiership matches and have failed to punch their weight as a team. However as ever, Matt Kvesic and James Hook continue to produce good performances week in, week out and once again were stand out players .
Spirited Connacht were much improved from previous seasons but for all their commitment and honest endeavour are still short of top-level skills with the notable exception of Irish international centre Robbie Henshaw who will surely end up at Dublin or Limerick in the future.
Despite the rain and poor conditions the first half saw the hosts establish ample possession and territory but were only able to conjure up a 14 point lead when in fact it should have been greater.
Although out of favour with the Wales' selection establishment Hook had a big hand in the creation of the two Gloucester tries. Firstly he returned a Connacht clearance kick with interest to split the visitor’s defensive line before Charlie Sharples applied the finishing touch under the posts.
Secondly a shrewdly judged kick was just right for centre Billy Meakes to gather and cross for the second Gloucester try again converted by Greig Laidlaw for a 14-0 half-time lead.
However after the break it was a role reversal as the Irishmen performed with much more purpose to put the hosts under something more like pressure and for long periods Gloucester’s defence was up against it but held firm thanks to considerable physical efforts of the likes of hooker Richard Hibbard who was outstanding as was Matt Kvesic. Surely another England cap is justified on his exceptional consistent form throughout this season?
Gloucester held out against the second half Irish storm and when awarded a penalty it seemed a formality for Laidlaw but his kick went wide and a golden opportunity was missed.
This seemed to give Connacht more self belief and when awarded a penalty they elected to kick to the corner and the inevitable attacking driving maul from the line out won them a penalty try.
The match then became a tense affair in the final minutes with Gloucester obliged to put a in some big defensive hits with Hibbard to the fore but they just held out to deny the visitors.
Not a totally convincing showing from the Cherry and Whites but a win is a win and the manner will be largely forgotten before the semi-final comes around — thankfully at Kingsholm.
T.H. 4/4/2015

Pricey's Postscript - -

I thought that was a very unconvincing victory against a hardworking but limited Connacht side. Gloucester's very predictable style of play lacks a cutting edge and it seems it only works when pace and intensity is injected. Last night I saw very little of either. The two Gloucester tries were it appears "off script" but on other occasions when invention occurred there was a distinct lack of players available to cement the advantage. Gloucester's possession of the ball appeared to dry up in the second half but when the ball did get into Gloucester's hands in their opponents half it was all too often coughed up as a result of simple errors and indiscipline.
A home semi-final beckons against Exeter or Newcastle, neither of whom will be push overs. If they win that one there are still two more games to win to gain a Champions Cup place. Perhaps better play at home in the league would have been a less ambitious task?
I was delighted that Gloucester won but from last nights performance the reason why they lie ninth in the league is crystal clear.
J.G.P. 4/4/2015

More from Mike
Certainly a game of two halves.
Gloucester dominated most of the game and certainly all of the first half but only had a slender 14-0 lead to show for their spirited efforts of the first half. Once again James Hook posted a message for Warren Gatland with a performance that must put him with a chance of Player of The Season. His kicking, running and defensive play,along side that of Matt Kvesic kept Glos in a game that they nearly threw away.
Two superb tries in the first half where followed by a dogged defensive display in the second, a third try would have surely of killed off Connacht and seen Glos run away with the game. This was not to happen though and it was a relieved Kingsholm crowd that left savouring a win and a home semi-final clash against either Chiefs or Falcons. 
Gloucester won and were the better team on the night, but they must learn to kill off the game when they have so much control, they have the players in Hook, Laidlaw, Hibbard and Kvesic to do this. A much better performance will be required in the semi-final whoever the opposition.

Mike 04/4/2015

Steve McColl;
Charlie Sharples, Bill Meakes, Billy Twelvetrees (capt), Jonny May;
James Hook, Greig Laidlaw;
Dan Murphy, Richard Hibbard, John Afoa; Tom Savage, Tom Palmer; Sione Kalamafoni, Matt Kvesic, Gareth Evans

Replacements - Darren Dawidiuk,Nick Wood,Sila Puafisi,James Hudson,Ross Moriarty,
Dan Robson, Billy Burns, Henry Purdy

Half-Time: 14-0

Tries: Sharples, Meakes
Con: Laidlaw (2)

Referee - Mathieu Rayna (France)

Attendance - 12,857

Heineken Cup - Connacht - 17 Dec 2011- Match Report

Kingsholm Attendances - European Cup

Euro. Challenge Cup Record

Heineken Cup Record