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Gloucester get back on track at sunny Kingsholm

02 Apr 2011
Gloucester get back on track at sunny Kingsholm

Gloucester recovered from a Harlequins horror show seven days ago to put their Aviva Premiership Rugby play-off bid back on track at Kingsholm.

But Newcastle, 29 points and eight places below Gloucester in the league table before kick-off, gave them a fright until subsiding during the final quarter. The Falcons last won on Gloucester soil during their Aviva Premiership Rugby title-winning campaign 13 years ago, yet three Jimmy Gopperth penalties kept them in contention for much of a low-quality contest.

Full-back Freddie Burns, wing Jonny May, scrum-half Rory Lawson and substitute Henry Trinder scored tries for Gloucester, while Burns slotted two conversions and two penalties for a 15-point haul before Tim Taylor added the final two conversions.

Gloucester, smashed 53-15 by Quins last Saturday, stay third in the table and on course for a title play-off spot with a bonus-point triumph that owed everything to them scoring three converted tries in 12 second-half minutes. The victory followed their 34-7 LV= Cup final win against Newcastle just two weeks ago, although this latest performance fell well short of that display in terms of quality.

For their part, Newcastle remain just six points above bottom club and relegation favourites Leeds Carnegie ahead of the Yorkshire club hosting Exeter on Sunday, and they will head home licking their wounds after they pushed Gloucester for an hour.

Head coach Bryan Redpath made five changes following the Quins debacle, although one of those was enforced as May replaced injured wing Charlie Sharples, while Newcastle also showed a handful of switches, including a start for Scotland prop Euan Murray.

Gopperth missed an early penalty chance for Newcastle, and Gloucester's hopes of settling early into the contest were dented when fly-half Nicky Robinson limped off nursing a hamstring injury after just seven minutes. Regular goalkicker Robinson's absence was immediately felt as Burns failed with two penalty attempts in two minutes, and Newcastle shaded a scoreless opening quarter in terms of territory.

A sharp Gopperth break almost produced a try, but Gloucester then stirred into action after tempers boiled over and referee Dean Richards issued a general warning to home skipper Luke Narraway and his opposite number James Hudson.

May skipped over Newcastle's line in the corner, only to see the try disallowed for a foot in touch, yet it only delayed a Gloucester points flurry. Burns slotted a penalty before bursting through Newcastle's midfield defence for a try by the posts that he also converted, leaving the Falcons 10-0 behind

There was still a degree of hesitancy about Gloucester's play, though, before indiscipline surfaced before the break and Gopperth punished them. The New Zealander slotted three penalties during a damaging six-minute spell for the home side, putting Newcastle firmly back into contention as they trailed just 10-9 at half-time.

Burns required treatment early in the second period when he fell awkwardly after challenging for possession from a steepling kick, yet he quickly dusted himself down to land his second penalty.

But there was precious little entertainment provided by either side, with Gloucester missing the creative spark of injured backs like Sharples and James Simpson-Daniel, and Newcastle content to let Gopperth keep them ticking over. Ill-feeling was never far from the surface either, and referee Richards issued another lecture – this time to Gloucester prop Nick Wood – after a wrestling match involving four players on halfway.

Gloucester spent a long passage of play penned deep inside their own half, but they found another gear after Redpath began using his replacements. Trinder took them clear on the scoreboard when he collected Narraway's defence-splitting pass, and then Gloucester put an emphasis on all-out attack following a yellow card for Newcastle number eight Ally Hoog.

And the sin-binning proved costly as Gloucester made them pay with a try in the corner from May that Taylor converted from the touchline. And with a bonus point touchdown now up for grabs, the Falcons folded, allowing Lawson to round off more good work by Narraway for a score which took Gloucester past 30 points.

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