Cherry and Whites bonus-point win
Gloucester's team performance
Gloucester 35 La Rochelle 14
Thursday, 8 November, 2016. 1745 hrs

A much changed Cherry and Whites side which before the match was described as 'pathetic' by some Shedheads, responded by recording a 35-14 Bonus-point win over unbeaten visitors La Rochelle with a genuine team performance to confirm leadership of Pool 1 in the European Rugby Challenge Cup.
The massive French side who are enjoying a season near the top of their TOP 14 league signalled their intent by winning the early physical exchanges over their lightweight counterparts with a series of powerful forward drives to claim the first try with a converted try from International flanker Kevin Gourdon. Australian Fly half Zack Holmes added the extras but that was as good as it got for them in the first-half.
It took Gloucester ten minutes to get their first score following a period of pressure which brought a try for centre Mark Atkinson. Greig Laidlaw slotted the conversion but it soon got even better as Laidlaw added a successful penalty before winger Henry Purdy made a try in the corner for prop Josh Hohneck to power over. 15-7.
Purdy made another break to split the French defence and Billy Burns, whose kicking out of hand was top class, found winger Ollie Thorley with a chip into the open space and he crossed with ease for the third Gloucester try. Laidlaw nailed the touchline conversion. 22-7 at half-time.
La Rochelle desperately needed a strong response in the second period and their giant pack showed just why they have been such a surprise outfit in the TOP 14 and pressurised the home line before wing David Raikuna dived over as Holmes again converted to narrow the gap. 22-14.
However the Gloucester defence was up to the task and the pack established an edge which they did not relax and although La Rochelle brought on fresh forwards they were unable to assert sufficient authority to turn the game as Laidlaw kept the hosts score ticking over with two more penalties as the match entered the final quarter but still seeking the bonus-point try. 28-14.
Gloucester had done enough to secure a deserved victory but frustratingly were unable to make key line-outs pay, however eventually with just three minutes left, Newcomer Tom Denton did win key ball which allowed replacement scrum half Callum Braley just enough space to put top try scorer centre Matt Scott through to run a superb line and score the vital fourth try. Laidlaw again converted. 35-14.
Job done. so far so good.

Although the Cherry and Whites are happy to be top of their group there is much still to be done with the reverse fixture in France next week which will be a daunting task and we can expect a hard close encounter.
Their Head Coach, ex Gloucester prop Patrice Collazo, will be sure to demand an improved showing at home where they have a particularly strong record.

Pricey's Postscript

Gloucester’s performance last night far exceeded my expectations and were worthy bonus-point winners. Admittedly the French XV looked anything but a top three side in their league but Gloucester played with a very high degree of accuracy and Billy Burns’ game management was almost faultless. The French had a strong scrum with a veritable monster front row that made Gloucester’s tight head, Ma’afu looked positively anorexic but they failed to capitalise on that advantage. I was impressed with David Halaifonua at fullback and Joe Latta had his best game so far in the second row.
J.G.P. 9/12/2016

More from Mike

If you had said before the game that a much changed Glos side would have won with a bonus point you would have been in the minority.
However, despite falling behind to a La Rochelle try early on, Glos rallied to lead 22-7 at half-time and be 3 tries to one up. A really strong first half performance, however the cynical of us had seen this before this season and wondered what the second half would bring. It started with the visitors playing Glos at their own game piling on the pressure and they were soon rewarded with a second converted try, but that was to be the last time that they bothered the scoreboard. 
It was Glos who responded with a second half performance of quality, both  in defence and attack. Two more penalties and what looked liking being an elusive 4th and bonus point try from Matt Scott saw Glos safely home 35-14. This was Scott's 9th try of the season in a total of 994 minutes on the pitch, a try every 110 minutes.
Although this will have done the confidence the world of good, there is still a lot of hard work to be done against a strong and experienced La Rochelle side nest Saturday.

15.David Halaiifonua;
14.Ollie Thorley ,13. Matt Scott, 12. Mark Atkinson,11. Henry Purdy;
10. Billy Burns, 9. Greig Laidlaw. Capt;
1.Josh Hohneck, 2. Motu Matu'u, 3.Salesi Ma'afu ;
4. Tom Savage, 5. Joe Latta ;
6. Ross Moriarty, 7. Matt Kvesic, 8. Gareth Evans.

16. Richard Hibbard,17. Yann Thomas, 18. Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Tom Denton,
20. Freddie Clarke, 21. Callum Braley, 22. Charlie Sharples, 23. Lewis Ludlow.

Tries: Atkinson, Hohneck, Thorley, Scott
Pen: Laidlaw (3)
Con: Laidlaw (3)

Half-Time: 21-7

Referee: Andrew Brace - Ireland

Att: 9,378

GLOUCESTER Matches - Match Reports - 2001-2016

GLOUCESTER Matches - Euro Attendances -1997-2016

GLOUCESTER Matches - Euro Challenge Cup Results - 2005-2016