Wing Charlie Sharples scored four tries as Gloucester thrashed Newport Gwent Dragons to reach next week’s LV= Cup final at Northampton.
The Cherry and Whites went over for seven tries to set up a showdown with Newcastle at Franklin’s Gardens with a place in next season’s Heineken Cup at stake.
It will be the third LV= Cup final in succession for Gloucester, who lost to Northampton 12 months ago and suffered a 50-12 hammering by Cardiff Blues in 2009.
Gloucester made their intent clear from the off when they refused an early penalty at goal and went for a driving line-out instead. The tactics soon paid off, although in a controversial manner. From that first attacking line-out five metres from the line, Gloucester won the ball and drove relentlessly towards the line.
Under a pile of bodies, flanker Andy Hazell was awarded the score but it should have been ruled out by French referee Christophe Berdos. TV replays showed that the ball slid out of Hazell’s grasp as he tried grounding it, but Berdos decided to award the try without referring it to the video official.
Nicky Robinson missed the conversion but there was no doubt about Gloucester’s next try when centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu found a gap in the Dragons’ midfield defence to run over from 20 metres by the posts, making fly-half Robinson’s conversion easy.
It was all going smoothly for Gloucester, but the Dragons woke up midway through the half and caused some problems. Fly-half Jason Tovey had a couple of chances to kick his side onto the scoreboard but failed with a penalty.
The Dragons also came close to a score when wing Will Harries was bundled into touch a few metres away only for the referee to call play back. And when centre Pat Leach put a kick to the goalline, fellow centre Tom Riley just missed touching down when the ball bounced the wrong way.
But normal service resumed for the home side when Tovey’s pass was intercepted by Robinson, who raced 60 metres to the line. Sharples scored his four tries within 20 second-half minutes, grabbing his first try after being put away by centre Henry Trinder.
Dragons lock Adam Jones managed to cross the line on 51 minutes but they did not look like staging any sort of dramatic comeback.
Sharples made doubly sure of that when he went over in the corner for his second to put the home side 31-5 ahead. And his third was quite spectacular as Fijian flanker Akapusi Qera, who came on just minutes earlier as a replacement, charged over the halfway line before giving Sharples a 40-metre run to the line.
Sharples then grabbed his fourth try to seal the win, and as the Kingsholm announcer started telling the crowd where to buy their cup final tickets, Gloucester conceded two late tries of little consequence as wing Aled Brew and replacement Jevon Groves went over.