Gloucester romped into the LV= Cup semi-finals with a seven-try demolition of London Irish.
The Cherry and Whites were almost out of sight by half-time as they turned on the style to completely outwit the Exiles 41-8 at Kingsholm. Gloucester scored five tries in that period, taking a bonus point and – without an amazing collapse after the interval – were assured of their place in next month’s last four showdowns.
Irish found themselves 12 points down inside a quarter-of-an-hour as the home side went over twice in two minutes. Centre Tim Molenaar started the rout on a cutback run in midfield to slice past the visiting midfield and go over on 13 minutes.
Almost straight away, wing Charlie Sharples got the ball in the 22 and weaved right to touch down in the corner. And, when centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu went straight up the middle on 22 minutes, he fed scrum-half Dave Lewis for a dangerous grubber kick to the corner. Sharples would have touched the bouncing ball down with ease but was obstructed by Exiles’ wing Sailosi Tagicakibau that earned the Samoan 10 minutes in the sin-bin and Gloucester a penalty try.
It was mostly one-way traffic as former Gloucester fly-half Ryan Lamb was left to try long-distance penalties to get his team on the board, one of which went over on 26 minutes. Irish tried to claw back the deficit, refusing a kickable penalty in the home 22 and going for an attacking lineout instead.
But their frailties in that department were exposed as former England lock Alex Brown grabbed Irish hooker Brian Blaney’s throw to clear. And, after fellow second row Jim Hamilton stole over for the bonus point try, another Irish lineout loss was fatal as the ball was spun out for Fuimaono-Sapolu to send full-back Olly Morgan in for the fifth touchdown.
Irish were strangled again in the opening second-half exchanges but defended well and kept the Cherry and Whites out. Their defiance brought rewards as, despite a creaking scrummage throughout the match, Irish gained some territorial parity with their opponents and a few half-chances to increase their meagre points.
Eventually, they cracked it when big Tongan Chris Hala’ufia, on for number eight George Stowers, stole through a gap on the Gloucester 22 and charged over for the unconverted try. But, as it entered the last quarter, the game’s intensity withered away.
Irish tried to be creative, with Lamb and Kiwi centre Dan Bowden chipping over the flat-line home defence, but it came to nothing. However, visiting wing Adam Thompstone produced a brilliant last-gasp tackle with 10 minutes to go which denied Sharples his second touchdown.
Gloucester were not to be denied, though, and after another bout of pressure on the visiting line, the ball was spun down the line for back row replacement Akapusi Qera to charge over from 20 metres. And, just to seal it, Sharples finally grabbed his second touchdown with a 40-metre sprint down the right wing in the final moments.