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Howard praises Gloucester Rugby fighting spirit after Under-18s Finals Day

Howard praises Gloucester Rugby fighting spirit after Under-18s Finals Day

Joe Howard praised the fighting spirit of his Gloucester Rugby team after they came within three points of winning the title on Premiership Rugby Under-18s Academy League Finals Day.

The Cherry & Whites succumbed to Leicester Tigers 34-31 at Allianz Park, with the side from the Northern Conference completing their second consecutive unbeaten campaign.

Gloucester were trailing 24-0 at half-time but battled back to make a game of it before the end.

And Howard, who attends Hartpury College, said his side probably left too much to do after a slow start.

“Leicester came out the blocks and scored off a couple of first-phase moves, so we were always on the back foot,” he said.

“We’ve been in this position before against Bath and Quins and we know we are not done until the end.

“At half-time we were talking about winning the game and to be fair we took it to the final minute, it makes it hurt all the more but I’m proud of the boys with how they reacted.”

Gloucester surged back in the second half, with a double from Louis Rees-Zammit as well as scores from Stephen Varney, Ethan Hunt and a penalty try.

Kicker George Barton had a chance to level the match but his penalty from close to the halfway line hit the post.

Joe Browning scored two tries for the victors as well as one each from Archie Vanes and Sam Costelow, who also had 14 points with the boot to guide Tigers to a win.

It’s the second consecutive year Gloucester have lost out to Leicester in the final, as it finished 43-21 in 2018.

Despite the result this time out Howard, who can play in the back-row or at lock, said he and his teammates had built a brotherhood since coming together at the start of the season.

He said: “We’ve been training together for eight months and we treat each other like brothers – that is how we want to play on the pitch.

“Gloucester have looked after us. They don’t look at size, they look at core skills and developing you as a player.

“They treat you as a friend and even if you’re struggling they are there to help you out, that’s why we are such a tight group.

“It helps us come together and push those games right until the death.”

Alex Guest, junior academy manager for Gloucester, said his side have been left to rue their slow start.

In the second half they agreed to play the style they had worked on all season, with a focus on playing with the ball in hand.

“If we had five more minutes or had not given them a head start we might have got over the line,” he said.

“We came here to play and I don’t think we had stuck to what we usually do, trying to move the ball with some plays out the back.

“That’s what has scored us a lot of tries this season. We had a quick reflection on what makes us, us, and a few choice words then the boys stuck at it and it came off.

“If you’re that many points down at half-time you have two options – roll over and make them look really good or stick at it.

“What Gloucester sides do is stay the fight, if there is time on the clock a Gloucester side will stay on and keep fighting.”

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