Gloucester Rugby 7 Munster 20
Gloucester were left broken hearted as Munster battled to a hard-fought victory to dump the Cherry and Whites out of the Heineken Cup.
Nigel Davies men came under fire following a dismal 29-8 defeat to Saracens last week but were determined to restore some pride at Kingsholm.
They simply had to win to keep their European hopes alive and deny the Irish province their place in last eight.
But while they delivered a performance full of passion and desire, it was not enough to secure a much-needed victory.
Charlie Sharples’ sensational try at the end of the first half had inspired the Cherry and Whites, following Keith Earls’ earlier effort.
But the deadly boot of Ian Keatley, who supplied 10-points, and a crucial score from Peter O’Mahony proved decisive as Munster booked their place in the quarter-finals
Davies rang the changes for the clash with Shane Monahan handed a first Heineken Cup start against his fellow countrymen.
He replaced Mike Tindall, with Jonny May moving to centre, while Martyn Thomas and Dan Robson came in at full-back and scrum-half respectively.
Up front, and with Nick Wood unavailable in Europe, Yann Thomas packed down alongside Darren Dawidiuk and Sila Puafisi, while Ben Morgan failed to recover from an abductor strain and was restricted to a place on the bench with Gareth Evans handed the number eight jersey.
Gloucester hit the ground running at a capacity Kingsholm with Monahan setting the early tone.
A Robson grubber and chase set Munster alarm bells ringing but Ian Keatley won the foot race by a whisker to save the day.
In an all too familiar sight the Cherry and White scrum was put under pressure but they continued to set the pace.
Sharples made an electric break on the counter-attack and combined with Jonny May shortly before the 10-minute mark and it laid the foundations for a kickable penalty.
But despite having the distance, Twelvetrees pushed his effort agonisingly left of the uprights.
Munster punished Gloucester’s failure to turn pressure into points as they opened the scoring.
James Downey and Johne Murphy combined to make the initial in roads and following a succession of phases Keatley slotted a simple penalty.
Twelvetrees instantly had the opportunity to level the scores but frustratingly was once again narrowly off-target.
Ten minutes later, Munster took a major stride towards victory as they expertly manufactured the opening try.
They stretched Gloucester to the limit with a sustained period of pressure and after sucking in the wide defence, Keatley dabbed a delicate grubber to the corner.
With nobody at home, Earls collected the bobbling ball with ease and raced under the sticks for a monumental try, with Keatley converting.
Matters were made worse for Gloucester as Burns butchered his restart to hand Munster a scrum on the half-way line. They turned the screw at the set-piece and earned a penalty but Keatley hit the left upright.
Gloucester desperately needed something before half-time and they delivered in emphatic fashion.
Martyn Thomas released Monahan on the switch and the wing beat several defenders before offloading to Elliot Stooke.
The ball was quickly recycled, with Robson sniping around the fringe and firing a miss-pass to Twelvetrees, who fed Sharples.
He ignored a man on the outside and fixed Felix Jones before waltzing inside Murphy and Keatley to score a sensational try.
Twelvetrees handed the kicking duties to Burns and he made no mistake to bring the scores to 10-7 at the break.
Stooke was taken out in the air from the restart and Gloucester were awarded a penalty to clear their lines at set-up an attack of their own.
They went through a succession of phases before Burns chipped to the corner and Jones conceded a lineout.
Gloucester laid siege to the Munster try-line but were let down by sloppy handling as the Irish province cleared.
The tide was threatening to turn on Gloucester and Munster hammered away with wave after wave of attack following a break Earls.
Gloucester refused to budge and Keatley threaded through an ineffective dink. But the pressure eventually told.
The Cherry and Whites made a mess of a scrum and Murray stole possession to surge through, he looked to find Tommy O’Donnell but a Gloucester hand saved the day and Knoyle touched down.
But Munster once again demonstrated their power at the set-piece and captain O’Mahony burrowed over a crucial try and Keatley was on target with the conversion.
Gloucester continued to battle but it was in vein as a succession of 50-50 calls went against the home side, to the dismay of the Kingsholm crowd.
A breakout from Monahan threatened the Irish province but rusty handling saw the move peter out and Keatley soon stretched the lead to 20-7 with a controversial penalty that proved the final nail in Gloucester’s coffin.
Gloucester: M Thomas (R Cook 58); C Sharples, J May, B Twelvetrees (Capt.), S Monahan; F Burns, D Robson (T Knoyle 57); Y Thomas (D Murphy 58), D Dawidiuk (H Edmonds 44), S Puafisi (S Knight 60), E Stooke, J Hudson (T Hicks 74), M Cox (S Kalamafoni 50), M Kvesic, G Evans (B Morgan 50).
Try – C Sharples; Con - Burns
Munster: F Jones; K Earls, C Laulala, J Downey, J Murphy (S Zebo 68); I Keatley, C Murray (D Williams 79); D Kilcoyne (J Cronin 64), D Varley, BJ Botha (S Archer 67); D Foley (D O’Callaghan 67), P O’Connell, P O’Mahony (Capt.), T O’Donnell, J Coughlan.
Tries – K Earles P O’Mahony; Cons – I Keatley (2); Pens – I Keatley (2)
Referee: L Hodges
You can re live all the action and reaction from Kingsholm below.