Two superb tries at either end of the match restored Gloucester’s confidence after two GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP defeats – but there was little else to enliven a dire struggle in muddy conditions at Kingsholm.
Most of the game was a stalemate as Irish stifled Gloucester’s efforts without ever really coming close to a try themselves.
However, the capacity 12,500 crowd’s growing frustration at the long scoreless periods was relieved by England wing Iain Balshaw in the 71st minute when he scored just 10 minutes after coming on as a replacement.
It had been a long time since Gloucester opened the scoring after just three minutes with a superb try by full-back Olly Morgan. His touchdown resulted from a kick deep into Gloucester territory by Exiles full-back Delon Armitage. Fly-half Ryan Lamb was waiting for the ball but could not control it and it bounced off his chest and went loose.
However, Lamb showed great composure to regain the ball and launch a break which took him to the Irish 10-metre line. Quick passing reached flanker Peter Buxton who galloped up the left wing to set up Morgan for his scoring break. He kicked ahead and then won the race to the corner touchdown.
Lamb could not add the conversion points and three minutes later Irish fly-half Shane Geraghty was also off-target with a penalty chance.
Irish had another real scoring opportunity in the 12th minute when they had a five-metre scrum and retained possession on the line long enough to mount half a dozen penetrating raids. Gloucester held out magnificently, eventually winning the scrum put-in to relieve the pressure.
They quickly got back into Irish territory and a speedy attack inside the visitors 22 saw James Simpson-Daniel race over the line only to be shoved out of play before he could make the touchdown.
The Irish forwards doggedly worked their way back to the Gloucester 22 and were rewarded with a 20 metre penalty which Geraghty landed to open their account in the 27th minute. Lamb had the chance to restore Gloucester’s lead with a penalty from wide out on the right five minutes later but flunked it. And it was third time unlucky for Lamb in the 37th minute when another penalty shot went awry, this time hitting the post.
The second half proved an even more barren affair than the first with both sides struggling to create real scoring opportunities in the mud and the highlights being a flurry of replacements on both sides at the start of the final quarter.
Strangely one of the biggest cheers of the afternoon greeted the decision of Gloucester coach Dean Ryan to send on scrum-half Peter Richards as replacement for Rory Lawson in the 61st minute.
The changes certainly worked for Gloucester. In the 71st minute flanker Andy Hazell made a great break, covering 30 metres before being stopped at the line. There, Richards fed Balshaw who dived for a try which was converted by replacement fly-half Willie Walker.
Walker added a penalty with three minutes to spare and Gloucester held out at the end as Irish tried to trundle their way over the line with a final rolling maul.