England hopeful Freddie Burns sealed his side’s 31-25 victory with a touchline conversion as Gloucester Rugby left it late to deny new boys London Welsh a third consecutive Aviva Premiership victory.
Burns’ 73-minute effort capped a busy afternoon that saw him kick 16 points and receive a yellow card as he went head-to-head with former-Scotland fly-half Gordon Ross – who notched 20 points of his own.
Going in 18-9 down at half-time Exiles head coach Lyn Jones must have been pleased with his side’s response – and their resilience in the face of a good Gloucester side – to earn a losing bonus point.
But Gloucester deserved the win despite showing little of their trademark attacking flair in the absence of the injured Charlie Sharples and late withdrawal of Jonny May.
Having dominated the early exchanges, Gloucester opened the scoring through a Burns penalty, after the Welsh pack brought down a Gloucester line-out deep into their own 22.
His opposite number Ross missed a penalty attempt in his side’s first foray into Gloucester territory on nine minutes, but was on target two minutes later, levelling the scores from 25 metres.
Gloucester No. 8 Sione Kalamafoni came up with an instant response, the Tongan powerhouse collecting a kick and thundering into the Welsh defence in a collision that knocked hooker Neil Briggs out of the game and gave Burns the opportunity to regain the lead with another penalty.
Burns then made the first real line-break by opening up the Welsh defence from deep inside his own territory and going 60 metres and only a knock-down by Exiles’ wing Nick Scott prevented a Gloucester try.
With Scott sent to the bin, Burns tapped the penalty and caught the defence sleeping, putting Shane Monahan over for his first try for the club since moving from Rotherham in the summer.
Despite conceding the majority of possession and field position, Ross kept the home side in touch with another penalty, however they paid a heavy price losing former-Welsh international Sonny Parker to an injury that saw the centre stretchered off on the same phase.
Promising 23-year-old lock Tom Savage opened his own Gloucester try account, crashing over from short range following a spell of good pressure by the West Country side, with Burns adding the extras to take the lead out to 18-6.
Conceding another penalty, this time at the scrum, Gloucester again handed player-coach Ross an opportunity – and he obliged, knocking over the most impressive of his three first-half penalties from long range.
With the clock ticking down Hudson Tonga’uiha and stand-out wing Scott linked up to lead a London Welsh break-out that put the Exiles within touching distance of the Gloucester line for the first time in the half.
Winning a penalty under the posts scrum-half Tyson Keats opted not to hand the ball off to the dependable Ross, but tap and go himself but he came up empty leaving the sides 18-9 at half-time.
Ross got another chance just three minutes into the second half from an identical position when Burns was judged to have knocked down a pass as Welsh again threatened.
Like Scott in the first-half, the Gloucester ten was shown yellow and Ross kicked his side to within a score.
The six-point deficit was short lived with Billy Twelvetrees, deputising for Burns, kicking a penalty of his own minutes later.
Trying to regain momentum the Exiles looked to their driving maul, that proved so dangerous last week, and it produced a Ross penalty from 30 metres.
That set up the platform for another surge into Gloucester territory that finished with a pushover try by prop Franck Montanella between the posts – Ross added the extras to give the home side their first lead in the game.
Ross extended that to 25-21 with a penalty just inside the Gloucester half after Kalamafoni was penalised for hurdling an oncoming defender.
Burns added another penalty, and with seven minutes to play a 50 metre Gloucester counter-attack led by the electric James Simpson-Daniel saw replacement Shaun Knight go over on the following phase – Burns adding the extras from the touchline to seal victory.