GLOUCESTER 31 FIJI 29
GLOUCESTER’S pack power is developing into a potent weapon after dismantling the international side’s set-piece at Kingsholm.
All four of the Cherry and Whites’ scores came from either catch and drive lineouts or penalty tries after having to weather some heavy first-half Fiji pressure.
The home side trailed 18-0 ten minutes before half-time before their forwards stepped up and caused havoc accompanied by a perfect kicking display from young stand-in stand-off Dan Robson.
Gloucester struggled to gain a foothold originally when faced with the physicality of the Islanders at the breakdown and scrum.
It was from the set-piece that the tourists took the lead when a scrum collapsed and fly-half Jonetani Ralulu knocked over the kick after seven minutes.
Worcester centre Josh Matavesi was enjoying the exhibition atmosphere with plenty of one-handed passes and after more great hands Fiji scored the game’s first try on 19 minutes.
Fizzing offloads out of the tackles sucked in Gloucester’s defence and hooker Tuapati Talemaitoga cut a great line through the 22 from the ruck and sprinted over with Ralulu unsuccessful.
The fly-half was on target three minutes later with a second penalty before the home side wasted chances to gain go-forward following two five-metre lineouts that were turned over.
Fiji rubbed salt in when their ambition was rewarded with their second try as full-back Metuisila Talebula broke from his half and right wing Timoci Matanavou was on hand to sprint under the posts.
Ralulu converted to make it 18-0 with seven first-half minutes remaining before the hosts finally came to life and slashed the half-time deficit to a more respectable ten.
After the rolling maul brought a try against Ospreys last Friday, Gloucester returned to their trusty companion when 20-year-old Robson turned down three easy points for the corner.
The five-metre catch and drive was engaged and first pocket rocket prop Dario Chistolini was rebuffed before openside Matt Cox was driven over on 37 minutes and Robson converted.
That momentum was built upon when Robson landed a 40-metre penalty with the half’s final play to make the score line more encouraging at the break.
Fiji restored the 13-point gap after just two minutes when Ralulu’s crossfield kick sent Hartpury wing Steph Reynolds backpedalling and Watisoni Votu had too much power with Ralulu off target.
Cherry and White scrum dominance brought a yellow card for Fiji replacement Ratu Penijamni Makutu with the referee going under the posts for a Robson-converted penalty try on 54 minutes.
After pulling to within six, that work was undone two minutes later when Ralulu knocked over another penalty after Gloucester’s forwards got tied up in their 22 trying to run it.
Further Gloucester pack pressure saw another yellow for Fiji number eight Nemani Naqusa after an hour before a second Robson-converted penalty try was awarded when the islanders kept infringing.
The two-point gap became five though with another Ralulu penalty not long after the restart but Gloucester went straight back to doing what they do best on 68 minutes.
Another penalty went to the corner and following the catch and drive, young hooker Koree Britton peeled off and dotted down with Robson’s kick giving his side the lead for the first time.
Fiji had the chance to snatch it at the death when Ralulu’s long penalty attempt from his own half drifted short but Gloucester took it over their own line and dotted down giving away a five-metre scrum.
But the home side shunted back pressure from the away side to drive them into touch and seal a perfect night at Kingsholm.
GLOUCESTER: M Thomas; S Reynolds, D Locke (Boulton, 72), T Molenaar, I Clark; D Robson, D Lewis (Field, 68); Y Thomas (Murphy, 52), K Britton (D’Apice, 76), D Chistolini (Heard, 73); W Graulich, H Casson; R Moriarty, M Cox (Sparks, 76), P Buxton (captain). Replacements: T D’Apice, D Murphy, T Heard, E King, B Sparks, B Field, G Boulton, S Hawley.
FIJI: M Talebula; T Matanavou, S Wara, J Matavesi (Fatiaki, half-time), W Votu; J Ralulu, K Bola; S Samoca (captain) (Penijamni Makutu, 50), T Talemaitoga (Naureure, half-time), M Saulo (Manu, half-time); A Ratuniyarama, S Kalou (Naikatini, 72); J Domolailai (Samoca, scrum replacement, 52) (Ratuva, 72), M Volau, N Naqusa. Replacements: S Naureure, D Manu, R Penijamni Makutu, A Naikatini, Iliesa Ratuva, N Matawalu, R Fatiaki, A Natoga.