BORDEAUX-BEGLES 26 GLOUCESTER 31
A VITAL victory, one to stabilise Gloucester’s season.
And at the end of a mostly-torrid night, no one can begrudge boss Nigel Davies simply focusing on that and little besides.
Expert and flawless marksman Freddie Burns posted 26 points with the boot, while hooker Darren Dawidiuk claimed Gloucester’s first try since December 15.
Burns’ unerring haul of eight penalties and one conversion – on top of a dew-soaked pitch – ultimately guided Gloucester home.
But at Stade Andre Moga Gloucester’s teak-tough resilience returned, after a costly week’s absence.
The Cherry and White were humiliated after their 18-12 Kingsholm defeat to London Irish in the Premiership last weekend.
The Kingsholm men felt they had not turned up.
For large tracts of this clash they failed to fire in the craved manner – but Davies’ men restored the heart, pride and grit required for any kind of victory across The Channel.
Gloucester’s rugby director might have issues with elements of the performance, but in the immediate victory aftermath he was simply relieved to see his men back on track.
Davies explained: “That’s an absolutely vital win – not just for this game but for the season as a whole.
“We were very poor defensively in the first-half, we dropped off a few tackles and it wasn’t good enough.
“We had to fight back, and it wasn’t difficult at half-time because we needed to improve our territory to give ourselves chances.
“Do that and step up from a defensive perspective, and we would always be in with a shout.”
Hailing the performances of Tim Molenaar and Dan Robson, Davies also tipped his hat to Burns’ supreme goal-kicking prowess.
He continued: “We need a place kicker in the 80s to start winning games and get into positions to win trophies.
“And Freddie has stepped up to the mark, he’s been fantastic on that front.
“There’s never any easy game in France, and after a disappointing London Irish defeat it was great to get the result – that was all-important.
“We’ve won all five games in this pool so far and that’s not a bad record.”
Bordeaux full-back Lachie Munro’s two penalties trumped Burns’ one in the first 15 minutes to hand the home side a 6-3 lead.
Weak tackling and loose alignment then allowed wing Raphael Carballo to steal home for the game’s opening try, stunning the Cherry and Whites as Bordeaux plundered a 13-3 lead.
Fit-again Henry Trinder has played such little rugby of late, he will need time to hit top speed.
And he was out of position when he slipped off influential Bordeaux outside centre Charles Brousse for that try.
Two Burns penalties cut the deficit as Gloucester tried to shrug off their general malaise.
And then hooker Dawidiuk capped a ten-metre rolling maul to claw back the lead.
Burns’ conversion and another penalty put Gloucester 19-13 to the good.
But more sloppy defending allowed Bordeaux to turn around with a one-point advantage, prop Tamato Leopolu scuttling home for his side’s second try, again converted by Munro.
A Munro penalty opened the second half, with Burns responding in kind quickly.
Replacement hooker Huia Edmonds was sin-binned almost immediately after joining the fray, for killing the ball as Bordeaux broke dangerously.
And Munro’s penalty put Bordeaux 26-22 ahead heading into the final quarter.
Andrew Chaveau then walked to the bin too, to even up the teams again.
And Burns nervelessly cut the home lead to one point.
Bordeaux fly-half Camille Lopez then snatched at a drop-goal attempt, proving something of a let-off for Gloucester on another home raid into Cherry and Whites territory.
But the dogged visitors finally built some phases on their approach play, and duly won a penalty that owed everything to staying calm and just retaining the ball.
Burns once again delivered without a hint of worry, to hand his side a 28-26 lead.
With time ticking down impressive scrum-half Robson charged down Lopez, fly-hacked deep and raced after the loose ball.
Munro had to scoop up and try to find his bearings – but Robson hauled him over his own tryline, for a five-metre attacking Gloucester scrum.
At the set-piece Bordeaux folded, and the impressive Gloucester eight won another penalty.
Time was up on the clock but referee Andrew McMenemy allowed Burns to shoot at goal.
Another faultless strike was the outcome – signalling the final whistle that meant Gloucester secured an Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final.
Beat Mont de Marsan in style at Kingsholm on Saturday and Gloucester can command a home tie in the competition’s last eight.
Who needs a classic when you can have a nail-biter that ends with nailing down knockout European action.
BORDEAUX: Tries: Carballo (18), Leopolu (40). Cons: Munro 2 (18, 40). Pens: Munro 4 (3, 14, 46, 57).
GLOUCESTER: Tries: Dawidiuk (31). Cons: Burns (31). Pens: Burns 8 (5, 21, 24, 36, 54, 62, 76, 80).
BORDEAUX: L Munro, R Carballo, C Brousse (B Serin, 52), M Denetre, T Brana, C Lopez, J Seron (Felix Le Bourhis, 49), J Poirot (F Labbe, 65), H Forbes (F Rofes, 65), T Leopolu (N Descamps, 49), A Chaveau, F Tisseau, G Gibouin (Louis Madaule, 74), R Kitshoff (H Chalmers, 69), D Larrieu. Unused: C Navickas.
GLOUCESTER: R Cook, C Sharples, H Trinder (M Tindall, 70), T Molenaar, J May (M Thomas, 70), F Burns, D Robson, N Wood (D Murphy, 57), D Dawidiuk (H Edmonds, 56), D Chistolini (S Knight, 55), J Hamilton (capt), W James, S Kalamafoni, A Qera (D Dawidiuk, 65-67), B Morgan. Unused: P Buxton, G Evans, D Lewis.
BORDEAUX: A Chaveau (62).
GLOUCESTER: Edmonds (57).
REFEREE: A MCMENEMY (SCO).