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Gloucester Rugby 12 London Irish 18

05 Jan 2013
Gloucester Rugby 12 London Irish 18

George Skivington’s inspirational first-half double paved the way for London Irish to battle to their first away win of the season as Gloucester were handed their first loss at Kingsholm since the opening day.

Despite missing England international Alex Corbisiero, who failed a pre-match fitness test, Irish went at the Gloucester scrum – their opponents Achilles heel last week against Leicester.

And the visitors’ efforts were rewarded with just their third win in the Aviva Premiership, in what was a game dogged by mistakes, earning themselves welcome points in a run of four games against the league’s top four teams.

For the second time in as many weeks, the golden boot of Freddie Burns was not enough to save Nigel Davies’ men who face an in-form Saints side next week.

Their win means they push Gloucester out of the play-off places, and Davies will need his side to rediscover their confidence with the ball in hand if they are to regain their spot.

Marshalled by Australian scrum-half Pat Phibbs – coached by Brian Smith at the ACT Brumbies – the Irish played with greater patience and balance than they have on the road this season.

But Gloucester came out of the blocks quicker, regaining the kick-off and moving the ball through several phases before forcing a penalty from close range.

League leading goal kicker Burns doesn’t miss much these days, and knocked over the first points with just a minute on the clock.

Where Smith’s men have folded in the past, the early score sparked life into a team featuring several changes up front, most notably the introduction of gritty Canadian international Jebb Sinclair at openside who was impressive in slowing Gloucester’s hard-running back row unit around the fringes.

Gloucester’s problems at the set-piece looked to have followed them back from Welford Road, as a Corbisiero-less pack drove them off a scrum in front of the Cherry and Whites’ own posts and Steven Shingler kicked the penalty.

While the home side appeared unable to keep possession, Irish looked comfortable with the ball in hand. Driving deep into Gloucester territory they varied their attacks, hitting Yarde wide on the left before tightening things up – with second-row Skivington diving over from close range on 22 minutes.

Burns hit back with a long-range effort to keep his side in touch, with his boot also keeping them in the territorial battle dropping a series of well-weighted kicks over Yarde’s head and into the corner.

However errors meant Davies’ men were unable to exert any real pressure from those positions, and after ex-Irish prop Dan Murphy coughed up possession 10 metres from the try line, Phibbs hammered a kick long down field.

Shane Monahan fumbled the ball under pressure from a great chase by England man Jonathan Joseph – playing on the wing to fit Shingler into the centres – who flicked the loose ball up to the ever-present Skivington for his second.

Shingler added the extras with a minute remaining to put his side up 15-6; their two-try half meaning Irish went in at half-time with their highest 80-minute points total away all year.

After the break, Irish started brightly but lost fly-half Ian Humphreys to a concussion. A bruising Ben Morgan run down the left touchline lifted the crowd, and his side, and worked Gloucester back within range.

Irish were caught slowing the ball and Burns obliged with the boot, putting his team within six, before adding another from the 10m line minutes later.

Shingler missed on opportunity to respond immediately, but with the clock ticking down Tom Homer stepped up – after Gloucester were again whistled for an offence in the scrum – and nailed a 40m kick to put his side six points clear.

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