Aled Thomas kicked all the points for a young Gloucester Rugby side as they condemned London Welsh to their tenth straight defeat in a hard-fought LV= Cup group match at the Kassam Stadium.
This was a must-win game for both sides to retain any hope of qualifying for the semi-finals after respective defeats at Bath Rugby and Exeter Chiefs last week, but no tries were scored in an error-strewn affair.
Nothing separated the teams at half-time – with three kicks apiece from fly-halves Will Robinson and Thomas – but Thomas’ second-half penalties were enough to seal the victory.
Welsh will once again rue letting the match slip away, and now face a daunting month of Aviva Premiership Rugby action against Wasps, Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints.
An early surge from Exiles flanker Peter Browne led to the game’s first points, an impressive 40-metre burst that saw Gloucester penalised for not releasing at the ruck, allowing Robinson to make it 3-0 in the third minute.
Gloucester’s young guns, with an average age of just 23, looked nervous early on – kicking poorly and struggling to retain possession or territory.
Referee Rhys Thomas sin-binned both Gloucester’s Shaun Knight and Welsh’s Shane Cahill after 19 minutes, losing patience with persistent collapsed scrums and deeming both props equally culpable.
With both sides down to 14 men, Gloucester levelled things up when flanker Dan Thomas, impressing in just his second senior match, earning a penalty at the breakdown that fly-half Thomas easily converted.
A jinking run from Gloucester hooker Luke Cole on his full debut saw Exiles lock Dean Schofield sent to the sin-bin for killing the ball, and captain Thomas duly converted to give his side a 6-3 lead after 29 minutes.
Welsh were soon level, Robinson kicking a soft penalty as Gloucester centre Billy Meakes tried to run the ball out of his 22 and was penalised for crossing.
Gloucester put together the best spell of the half, going through multiple phases to patiently work their way into Welsh’s 22 where Exiles flanker Nathan Vella was penalised for going off his feet and captain Thomas kicked his side into a 9-6 lead.
With the final kick of the half Robinson impressively levelled the scores again – a monster effort from the half-way line after Gloucester were adjudged to be offside in the midfield.
Gloucester looked sharper after the break and immediately took the lead again after winning a penalty at the scrum, fly-half Thomas on target again to make it 12-9 after 43 minutes.
Welsh patiently went through the phases to earn a kickable penalty, but captain Tom May instructed Robinson to kick for the corner, a bold call made to look foolish as they spilled the subsequent line-out.
Exiles wing Seb Stegmann was then harshly penalised for not releasing after 69 minutes, Thomas stroking it over from 45 metres to give his side a six-point lead for the first time.
Welsh hammered away in vain at the Gloucester try-line, but captain Thomas was able to seal the win with three minutes remaining after the Exiles were penalised for holding on.
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