Jonny May’s first-half try helped Gloucester Rugby overcome a one-man disadvantage to comfortably beat a sub-par London Irish at Kingsholm.
Gloucester led 3-0 when Matt Kvesic was sent off for a tip tackle in the 23rd minute but May’s score and the boot of Greig Laidlaw gave them a handy 13-5 lead at half-time – Alex Lewington crossing for the visitors.
Laidlaw continued to be metronomic from the tee after the interval before Henry Purdy and Dan Thomas’ tries meant Andy Short’s 80th minute score was little more than consolation for Irish, the final score reading 35-13.
The defeat was symptomatic of the Exiles’ poor away form this term, they have won just once on the road since September, while Gloucester have triumphed in each of their last four matches as they continue to build momentum ahead of their pivotal European Rugby Champions Cup play-off.
In the build-up to the game Irish skipper George Skivington called their 21-9 loss to Gloucester at the Madejski Stadium back in November, the low point of the season.
And his troops looked desperate to avoid a repeat result early on – setting up camp in the hosts’ 22 from the first whistle.
However, the inability to turn possession and territory into points which has plagued them all season – as evidenced by the fact that only Leicester Tigers and London Welsh have scored fewer Aviva Premiership Rugby tries – struck again.
Andrew Fenby came closest to notching the first try during their spell of pressure but sterling defensive work from May held him up over the line and a 15th-minute Laidlaw penalty ultimately gave the home side a 3-0 lead instead.
But less than ten minutes later came a potentially game-changing incident – flanker Kvesic being sent off for a dangerous tip tackle on Tomas O’Leary.
And the Exiles exploited that man advantage soon after as Shane Geraghty’s smooth break and neat offload enabled Lewington to go over in the corner for his 11th league try of the campaign.
Chris Noakes failed to add the tricky extras and to their credit, Gloucester responded with a try of their own four minutes later – May latching on to Billy Burns kick through and dotting down.
Laidlaw’s conversion and second penalty, which came off the back of Eamonn Sheridan’s yellow card, then made the score 13-5.
That advantage could have been extended on the stroke of half-time but TMO Robin Goodliffe disallowed Purdy’s try for a forward pass in the build-up.
However, that disappointment was soon cast aside by the boot of Laidlaw as the Cherry & Whites continued to make a mockery of their man disadvantage.
The Scotland international slotted three penalties early in the second half, narrowly missing a fourth, while Noakes responded with just a solitary three-pointer for the visitors.
A slew of substitutions did little to slow the hosts’ momentum as they completely strangled the life out of Irish with a helping hand from their opponents’ ill-discipline.
Persistent infringements eventually saw Dan Leo sent to the sin bin and the Cherry & Whites capitalised as an inexorable driving maul ended with Thomas touching down for try number two.
James Hook’s conversion hit the post but Purdy soon compounded the Exiles’ misery as he ensured their try-line was breached for a third time in the 72nd minute – diving over to extend the lead to 35-8.
Irish did have the last laugh when Short scored in the corner as the clock seeped into red but it was Gloucester who celebrated their last Aviva Premiership Rugby home game of the season with a comfortable win.