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London Irish 9 Gloucester Rugby 21

30 Nov 2014
London Irish 9 Gloucester Rugby 21

Henry Purdy and Steve McColl touched down after the break as Gloucester Rugby arrested their recent slump with victory over London Irish in a cagey encounter at the Madejski Stadium.

With both sides struggling for form in recent weeks, a nervy first half saw the visitors take a narrow 3-0 advantage into the break through Greig Laidlaw’s penalty.

The Cherry & Whites continued to threaten through their returning international half-backs Laidlaw and James Hook, with the Scottish scrum-half landing another three points before McColl fed Purdy to race clear shortly after the interval.

Shane Geraghty wrestled the Exiles back into contention with three penalties but his efforts proved in vain as Hook produced a classy chip in behind for McColl to race on to and dot down late on.

Brian Smith’s side are still without a home victory in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season and were ultimately subdued by a dominant Gloucester pack that helped end their side’s run of three consecutive league defeats.

A lifeless first half did little to excite the Madejski crowd, though Wales fly-half Hook looked in menacing form for the visitors, putting in a number of clever kicks behind the Irish line.

A wayward kick from Exiles fly-half Chris Noakes was then punished with a deft return from McColl as the full-back collected his chip before Irish spilled the ball into touch five metres out.

From the resulting line out, the Cherry & Whites’ pack produced a powerful catch and drive but they were held up over the line before Irish debutant Geoff Cross won a penalty at the scrum five to ease the pressure.

There has never been a Premiership game that remained 0-0 at half time but this encounter looked destined to be the first until the deadlock was finally broken five minutes before the interval.

The hosts were penalised at the maul and Laidlaw, fresh back from a successful autumn with Scotland, landed his attempt to hand his side the lead.

Geraghty then had a chance to level the score with the last kick of the first period but his attempt from inside his own half fell well short and the visitors went into the break 3-0 ahead.

Shortly after the restart, Laidlaw saw a penalty attempt rebound off the post only for his side to regain possession through excellent work at the breakdown by Matt Kvesic.

Referee Matthew Carley then played advantage after Irish had strayed offside but Gloucester could not make it count as Mark Atkinson fumbled the ball and Laidlaw settled for the three points to make it 6-0.

The game sparked into life on 47 minutes as Atkinson made amends by stealing the ball and offloading neatly to McColl who showed quick hands to release Purdy to dive over in the left corner.

Laidlaw missed a tough conversion from the touchline and the Exiles soon had their first points as Geraghty landed two penalties in quick succession to bring the score back to 11-6.

David Humphreys’ side then forced the Irish front row to go straight to ground at the scrum, with Laidlaw bisecting the posts from the resulting penalty on the hour.

Geraghty cancelled out Laidlaw’s effort moments later but was fortunate not to concede a try when Tom Savage charged down his clearing quick, with the lock narrowly beaten by the roll of the ball before he could touch down.

The visitors had their second try on 72 minutes when Hook produced a moment of sublime skill to catch a wayward pass one handed and put a deft kick in behind for McColl to collect and dot down.

Laidlaw landed the tough conversion to put his side 21-9 ahead as Gloucester’s pack controlled the breakdown and set piece in the closing moments to deny Irish a losing bonus point.

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