GLOUCESTER 36 MONT DE MARSAN 16
FREDDIE Burns suffered a knee ligament scare, Shaun Knight was kicked twice in the head – and Gloucester had a seriously messy first-half.
But despite all the bluster – self-inflicted or otherwise – the Cherry and Whites booked their Kingsholm quarter-final in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Fly-half Burns limped out after 12 minutes, leaving boss Nigel Davies hoping his left knee damage is only light.
Gloucester believe tighthead prop Knight was booted twice in the head – and have reported the incident to the match citing commissioner.
Replacement prop Morgan Phelipponneau could now find himself in hot water with European Rugby Cup disciplinary bosses.
Gloucester rose above the French resistance – dirty tricks and all – to shrug off a poor first-half and blast five tries in total.
It was the hiding – in rugby terms – the entre Kingsholm squad had craved ever since they believe Andy Hazell had his eyes gouged at Stade Guy Boniface back in October.
Hazell’s ugly reaction was lamentable no doubt, but the Cherry and Whites were always incensed no action was brought against the alleged perpetrators of rugby’s dirtiest illegal tactic.
And now they will hope European Rugby Cup disciplinary bosses will bring action against this latest Mont de Marsan indiscretion.
Rugby director Davies explained: “Freddie has a problem with the medial ligament in his left knee, similar to what he had in pre-season.
“That kept him out for about three weeks then, and fingers crossed this won’t be any worse than that.
“But we’ll have to keep assessing that over the next 48 hours to see how he holds up.
“He’ll link up with the England camp as planned, we’ll liaise with them and take it from there.
“To be fair to Freddie he wanted to keep playing, but we didn’t want to take any risks.
“There were several incidents again that left our players frustrated to say the least.
“Shaun Knight was especially incensed by one incident, and we’ll certainly be referring that to the citing commissioners.
“There were a couple of kicks to the head.
“There were always likely to be several incidents, and it was important that we didn’t react or do anything stupid.
“And I’m very pleased with my players, they handled all of that very well.
“No one reacted to provocation, and I would like to think that will help our case with the citing with the situation of Shaun Knight.”
Henry Trinder’s two tries in four second-half minutes sealed Gloucester’s bonus-point victory – and their place in the last eight.
Now Davies’ men will watch with keen interested the rest of the weekend’s Heineken Cup action, to discover which side dropping down from that competition they will host in the Amlin’s last eight.
Jonny May and Charlie Sharples claimed tries in a patchy first-half, with May grabbing his second in the afternoon’s final throes.
Fit-again Trinder and May looked much sharper this week than last, on their second outings since lengthy injuries.
May opened the try scoring with a smartly-taken finish on the left flank, after Burns’ tap penalty and pass out of the tackle that caused his knee injury.
Sharples raced in for try number two, outpacing all-comers after a direct break from Billy Twelvetrees.
Around that though, Gloucester were imprecise and out of synch in the first half.
Mont de Marsan’s reliable goal-kicker Jean-Baptiste Claverie kept the scoreboard ticking over – and when Yann Brethous stole home for a try, the collective Gloucester head-shakes went into overdrive.
Fijian wing wizard William Ryder skinned Martyn Thomas, raced down the left flank, and then Sebastien de Chaves sent his blindside flanker over for a score to silence Kingsholm.
The teams turned around locked at 16-16, with Gloucester clearly furious.
Mathieu Giudicelli’s yellow card helped Gloucester’s scrum cause, but the home side always had set-piece potency in any case.
And with the visitors a man down, Davies’ men struck.
Three power scrums on the Mont de Marsan line ground them down, Sione Kalamafoni punched a trademark hole – and Twelvetrees sent Trinder home.
Four minutes later the wily centre doubled his tally: Sharples broke clear, Thomas shipped inside to keep the ball in play, and Trinder was on hand with the finish.
Game over – but not before May plundered his second score.
Thomas popped off the ground to onrushing Huia Edmonds, the free-running hooker outstripped the cover – and then set May racing into the left corner.
Six wins from six testing Amlin Challenge Cup pool one contests.
Bring on Europe’s biggest and best, say Gloucester: they will have to improve to see off a Heineken Cup side, but they also say that’s fine with them.
GLOUCESTER: Tries: May 2 (10, 79), Sharples (23), Trinder 2 (60, 64) Cons: Twelvetrees (79) Pens: Burns (3), Twelvetrees 2 (22, 51).
MONT DE MARSAN: Tries: Brethous (28) Cons: Claverie (29) Pens: Claverie 3 (4, 14, 19).
MONT DE MARSAN: Giudicelli (50), Cabannes (69).
GLOUCESTER: M Thomas, C Sharples, H Trinder, T Molenaar, J May, F Burns (B Twelvetrees, 12), D Robson (D Lewis, 67), N Wood (D Murphy, 52), K Britton (H Edmonds, 52), S Knight (D Chistolini, 62), J Hamilton (capt), W James (S Monahan, 76), T Savage (P Buxton, 72), A Qera (G Evans, 67), S Kalamafoni.
MONT DE MARSAN: Y Durquet (T Duvallet, 70), J Beaulavon, S Lucu, T Mchedlidze, J-B Claverie (A Douvesy, 70), A Pic (J Cabannes , 41), J Florini (M Phelipponneau, 32), T Bordes, T Mailau (M Giudicelli, 70), S de Chaves, S Murray (capt), Y Brethous, V Farre (A Lescure, 41), A Ricaud (E dos Santos, 67). Unused: P Correia.
REFEREE: Dudley Phillips (IRE).