Cherry and Whites earn Final spot
Gloucester do enough
Gloucester 40 Connacht 32
Sunday April 24, 2015 - 1430hrs
A poor game but a truly great win for Gloucester which kept the dream of Champions Cup rugby next season alive as the Cherry and Whites trailed going into the final minute of normal time before a converted try by Billy Meakes sent the game into extra-time.
Twice Connacht had taken the lead but each time the hosts fought back with two tries at the end of extra time to snatch the verdict from the intrepid Irish side in an error strewn struggle.
Leading French referee Romain Poite won few friend and did neither side any favours, particularly with the seemingly endless resets of the scrum and his interpretation of the breakdown.
Although Gloucester welcomed back all those leading players who were available, the performance was below par with too many mistakes and they will need to raise their game to overcome Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways next week.
Gloucester had started strongly driving over from a lineout and scoring through Ross Moriarty converted by Greig Laidlaw in the second minute.
The Irish team hit back with a penalty kick from Jack Carty and promptly stunned the hosts when a poor pass from Meakes put Charlie Sharples under pressure allowing John Cooney to snap the ball and steal way to score a converted try.
A penalty from Laidlaw leveled the scores before James Hook made the break to set Charlie Sharples clear to score. However that was almost immediately cancelled out by Connacht’s second converted try through Carty again.
The referee was having continual problems with the scrum and yellow carded rival props John Afoa and Denis Buckley as the fri st half concluded with Connacht leading 17-15.
Laidlaw kicked an early second-half penalty but was strangely off-target with others and Gloucester were made to pay when a well judged cross kick from was spot on for unmarked winger Matt Healey to touch down. 18-22.
Connacht looked to have decided the game when Carly kicked another penalty with just a minute remaining however play went straight back to the other end before Meakes stepped inside the visitor’s defence to cross as Laidlaw’s conversion set up the extra periods.
The first period of extra time saw neither side threaten to score before James Hook kicked a monster penalty from inside the Gloucester half but once again Connacht looked to have got the vital score when winger Healey got his second converted try to put them back in front. 28-32 as the Irish side appeared to have the game won.
Gloucester hit back to take play downfield and when Connacht had David Heffernan sin-binned they took full advantage replacement hooker Darren Dawiduk was driven over from a line out. 33-32.
Gong into the final minute the Kingsholm crowd were in full voice as winger Jonny May collected the ball deep in the home side’s half promptly set off and sidestepped a succession of would be tacklers to link up with Hook and Billy Twelvetrees who provided the killer pass for May to finish off a truly breath taking move to seal the match.
The Cherry and Whites now have a short turn round before the match at Worcester and it is to be hoped that the tired aching bodies will be revived and their ‘Never say Die’ spirit will be able to carry them through to win qualification for next season’s European Champions Cup!
T.H. 25/4/2015