GLOUCESTERSHIRE slipped to a disappointing defeat at the hands of Hertfordshire in a tempestuous battle at Dockham Road in the Bill Beaumont Cup.
The County Cup clash was the first in the group stages, with Gloucestershire yet to play Cornwall and North Midlands in a bid to reach the final at Twickenham on June 1.
Playing with the wind on their backs and their tails up, Hertfordshire raced in to a 20—5 lead in the first half.
Scrum-half Sam Arnott missed a tackle which allowed Hertfordshire time and space in the 22 for Old Albanian number eight Matt Chambers to saunter over under the posts. The score was ably converted by Saracens fly-half Josh Sharp for a 7-0 advantage.
But Cinderford hit back in the 15th minute. Cinderford full-back Stef Hawley squirmed past several defenders. Fly-half Mike Wilcox recycled the ball and passed to Chinnor winger Leo Fielding in space on the wing, who nipped over in the corner. Fielding conversions was held up mid-air in the swirling wind.
Captain Robbie Winchle showed Hertfordshire a clean pair of heels with the try-line beckoning but the referee brought him back for a knock-on.
Then Arnott, who had already been warned, took a player out off the ball and was duly binned.
Sharp booted the penalty over to give the visitors a 10-5 lead.
Hertfordshire won another penalty in front of the posts in the 33rd minute and keen to kick while they can before they face the wind in the second half, Sharp split the posts once again.
A try two minutes later put Hertfordshire well and truly in the ascendency.
From the restart, Wilcox’s kick drifted backwards in the wind and although Hertfordshire played the ball - and knocked on - the referee called for a scrum.
With Gloucestershire defence stretched thin, Chambers made a storming run into the 22 with men either side of him before offloading to full-back Henry Robinson to score under the posts.
Sharp converted to give Hertfordshire a healthy advantage.
Gloucestershire had to capitalise with the wind behind them in the second half.
The men in maroon held up a storming driving effort but could not repeat the feat as Torran MacDougall grounded the ball in the 44th minute, but Sharps’ conversion was nowhere near the posts in the strong gusts.
Hertfordshire were then penalised for holding on attempting to run with the ball from their own 22, and after several minutes inching towards the line, Fielding crashed over for his second try in the corner, touching down just before he was bundled to touch. He converted from the touchline to close the deficit to 25-12.
It was soon 30-12 however, as Old Albanian flanker Billy Johnson skipped past tackles to burst clear at the halfway line.
He offloaded to hooker Jack Singleton who just had enough pace to stay clear of the chasing Fielding to cross the whitewash in the 65th minute.
Gloucestershire responded to the danger of defeat - Hartpury’s George Boulton flew into the 22, wriggling out of tackles as he went, before skipper Robbie Winchle darted over under the posts. Fielding converted to close the gap to 30-19 with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Gloucestershire had the odd half chance in the dying minutes, Wilcox knocking one chance on, but they could find the clinical execution that had been lacking to clinch the winning points.
GLOUCESTERSHIRE: S Hawley, N Codlin, S Rodwell, R Winchle (c), L Fielding, M Wilcox, S Arnott, J Smart, T Bozzard, J Lloyd, B Scriven, S Gaynor, R Birkin, W Jones, M Uren
REPLACEMENTS: J Brooks, N Taylor, S Fritchley, Marcus Brown, Harry Hone, R Boughton, G Boulton
HERTFORDSHIRE: H Robinson, S Smart, S Winter, S Ellis , N Hankin, Josh Sharp, S Liebenberg, W Briggs, J Singleton, S Edwards, L Bickle, B Odell, B Johnson (c), O Cooper-Millar, M Chambers
REPLACEMENTS: B Lemiere, O Walliker, Torran MacDougall, Dom Regan, H Nudariki, D Holems
REFEREE: Graham Dickens
STAR MAN: Leo Fielding