Gloucester secured the season’s first piece of silverware by defeating Newcastle Falcons at Franklin’s Gardens to win the LV= Cup at the third attempt.
Having reached the past two Anglo-Welsh cup finals, the Cherry and Whites finally secured victory after losing to Northampton Saints last season and shipping 50 points against Cardiff Blues in 2009.
Aviva Premiership Rugby strugglers Newcastle rarely threatened in the Northampton final as Gloucester performed strongly without their international contingent.
Bryan Redpath’s side dominated a drab first period thanks to Tom Voyce’s early try and Nicky Robinson’s kicking. The latter was instrumental again in the second half, kicking with aplomb and playing an integral part in Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu’s 59th-minute try. And tournament top scorer Charlie Sharples ensured five trophyless years at Kingsholm would come to an end despite a late try from the Falcons’ Luke Eves.
Leading up to the game, Gloucester head coach Redpath insisted his side were paying no attention to their favourites tag despite the fact his are arguably the country’s in-form side. Redpath made two changes to the starting line-up that defeated Newport-Gwent Dragons last week, with Henry Trinder dropping to the bench and a fractured forearm ruling out club stalwart Peter Buxton.
Tim Molenaar and Akapusi Qera came in to replace the pair, while Newcastle head coach Alan Tait plumped for three changes to the side that snatched a 21-20 victory over Harlequins. Luke Fielden, Tane Tu’ipulotu and Kieran Brookes all came into the Falcons side, who were hoping to draw attention away from their poor league form.
However, Gloucester’s strength in possession was evident from the offset as they went over the whitewash in just the sixth minute. Newcastle, who won the cup in 2004, were opened up by free-flowing passing, with Molenaar offloading to Voyce who had a clear run to the corner after play switched from right to left.
Robinson struck a superb left-footed conversion to extend the lead to seven points as Gloucester looked to build on their early momentum. However, it took until the 21st minute for the Cherry and Whites to extend their advantage as fly-half Robinson kicked home after Newcastle were penalised for offside.
The Falcons went close to registering their first points of the afternoon moments later after a poor Gloucester restart, although Jimmy Gopperth’s attempted kick from the halfway line whistled just wide. The New Zealander failed to make amends in 34th minute from the Gloucester 10-metre line, before the normally-reliable Robinson also fluffed a kicking opportunity on the stroke of half-time.
Newcastle looked rejuvenated after the restart and started the second period strongly, although Robinson soon found his kicking range to stretch Gloucester’s lead further. The 52nd-minute penalty was followed up seven minutes later by Gloucester’s second try of the afternoon after some clever play allowed Fuimaono-Sapolu to dart through and go to ground under the posts.
The 30-year-old’s try came thanks to some clever link-up play with Robinson down the blindside of the pitch, before the latter converted. Gloucester crossed again in the 67th minute through Sharples, who ghosted down the right flank to bounce over in the corner before Robinson converted.
Eves did pinch a try for Newcastle which Gopperth converted, but there was still time for Gloucester’s Darren Dawidiuk to go over for a catch-and-drive score to cap a well-deserved victory.