GLOUCESTER 46 LONDON WELSH 20
CLUB-COUNTRY limbo can be one of the most frustrating scenarios in English rugby.
Just ask James Simpson-Daniel how he found the no-man’s land of training with England in midweek, then battling to get up to speed in time for a weekend clash with Gloucester.
The evergreen wing might have had more than his fill of holding tackle bags – but Gloucester’s new breed of test stars and internationals in waiting are loving every minute.
England discarded Ben Morgan for the second week running, once again favouring Thomas Waldrom for their Australia clash.
Unperturbed, the 23-year-old loose forward jumped straight back into the mix at Gloucester – and promptly romped to a hat-trick in this six-try London Welsh hammering.
“All our test players are relishing everything that’s happening right now,” enthused Gloucester forwards coach Carl Hogg.
“The likes of Ben Morgan, Billy Twelvetrees and Freddie Burns, if they are released and come back to us from England in midweek, they are full of confidence and eager to get going again with things here.
“There’s no thoughts of missing out or anything like that – they just relish the atmosphere here, and they are keen to get cracking and ready for the next challenge with the club.”
In the LV=Cup context, Gloucester had to win to keep their hopes of progression alive.
The home side had the game in the bag with four first-half tries, Morgan claiming two and completing his treble after the break.
Imperious fly-half Freddie Burns once again excelled, leading the Gloucester line with pace, ambition and verve – and slotting six from seven off the tee to boot.
Nick Scott and James Tideswell stole scores for Welsh – but despite a third-quarter lull, Gloucester were always more potent.
Rob Cook’s yellow card proved an inauspicious opening, as he walked for tackling Dan Caprice in the air.
Former Gloucester skipper Adam Balding then felled Mike Tindall round the neck, and Burns duly opened the scoring with a smartly-struck penalty.
Gloucester made light of their numerical hindrance though, profiting directly from a training-ground ploy.
Twelvetrees smashed through the defence at first receiver after quick lineout ball, allowing Burns a free run at the next breakdown.
He fired out to Reynolds on the wing, and the impish Hartpury speed merchant danced back inside and set a ruck metres from the Welsh whitewash.
Cowan picked up Monahan’s clever shallow line, fed the desired inside ball, and the bullish Irishman drove home from two yards.
Burns landed the conversion, and though Ross quickly slotted a penalty for Welsh, it was the home side who made clear profit during their ten-minute spell with 14 men.
Brutish Balding blasted up twice from attacking lineouts, and Ross doubled his own and his side’s tally off the tee.
Cook’s intelligent chip in behind then forced Jamie Stephenson to collect and carry into touch in his own 22 – setting the platform for Gloucester to press once more.
A textbook driving maul later, and number eight Morgan emerged last from the pile with the ball, and Gloucester’s second try.
Burns converted and added a penalty three minutes later, as the Cherry and Whites turned the screw.
A strong Kingsholm backline kick chase then forced another penalty – and one driven lineout later, Gloucester had a second penalty and were camped on Welsh’s line once more.
Welsh defended the next maul with more impetus, but Gloucester kept calm, and kept the ball.
Burns shredded the line with a pacy break, but was just unable to stretch over.
Welsh lock Matt Corker promptly killed the ball, and walked to the bin for his indiscretion.
Nothing could calm the Gloucester stampede though, and Fijian bulldozer Qera trampled home from close range after another Cowan reverse pass.
Scenting try-bonus point blood inside the first half, Gloucester opted for a scrum from their umpteenth penalty.
But an overcomplicated back-row move led to the otherwise-faultless Twelvetrees passing inside to thin air.
Gloucester’s first collective mistake of the half cost them a near-certain try.
No lament from the hosts though – instead they produced the move of the match.
Qera raced through a ragged outside centre channel after Burns’ fine cut-pass, offloading in style to Monahan.
He in turn rode the incoming challenges, biding time just long enough to set the onrushing Morgan away on a clear run to the line.
Gloucester had another chance for points at the half’s death, but Burns was unable to convert the penalty.
Bonus-point secure before the break then, Gloucester fluffed a handful of third-quarter chances, and the game lost structure.
Ex-Kingsholm poacher Voyce provided a telling break after Twelvetrees’ clearance missed touch, and wing Scott ghosted home under little resistance.
The jolted home side hit back, with replacement hooker Britton capping another driven lineout.
A midfield reshuffle had Tindall deputising at fly-half, with Molenaar and Locke into the centres.
His horse Monbeg Dude won his first race up the road at Cheltenham earlier in the afternoon – so it was only natural his part-owner ended the day with the odd agricultural clearance hoof.
Welsh kept pressing – Lyn Jones’ squad spirit ever to the fore – but they could not force an opening.
And one loose pass allowed Morgan to pounce, fly-hack on – and romp home for his hat-trick score.
Gloucester should have coasted home – but makeshift ten Tindall still had another trick up his sleeve.
Lining up a clearance in his own 22, England’s most-capped centre fumbled a solid pass from Dave Lewis.
Replacement prop James Tideswell rubbed his eyes, knocked his head to check this was no daydream – picked up and dotted down for Welsh’ second try.
A solid victory to set Gloucester’s LV=Cup campaign on course – but the home side will no doubt be frustrated with a patchy second-half.
Next week the return of the Premiership will see Sale head down to Kingsholm, Bryan Redpath, Steve Diamond and all.
Everyone knows what that means – and Gloucester know while this is a start, they will need more to pull off a victory over the Sharks that could exorcise a few demons.
GLOUCESTER: R Cook, S Monahan, M Tindall (capt), B Twelvetrees (D Locke, 62), S Reynolds, F Burns (T Molenaar, 62), J Cowan (D Lewis, 66), N Wood (D Murphy, 51), H Edmonds (K Britton, 51), R Harden (D Chistolini, 62), T Savage, W James (W Graulich, 41), A Qera, M Cox, B Morgan. Unused: R Moriarty.
LONDON WELSH: T Voyce, D Caprice, S Parker, S Jewell (J Lewis, 36), N Scott, G Ross (A Davies, 70), J Stephenson (N Runciman, 55), T Bristow (A Joly, 55), W Hafu (G Bateman, 66), P Ion (J Tideswell, 41), A Brown, M Corker, L Beach, M Hills (E Jackson, 66), A Balding (P Spivey, 66).
GLOUCESTER: Tries: Monahan (8), Morgan 3 (23, 37, 74), Qera (29), Britton (65). Cons: Burns 4 (8, 23, 29, 37), Cook (74). Pens: Burns (5, 26).
LONDON WELSH: Tries: Scott (60), Tideswell (77). Cons: Ross (60), Davies (77). Pens: Ross 2 (11, 20).
GLOUCESTER: Cook (2).
LONDON WELSH: Corker (29).
REFEREE: T Wigglesworth.