Gloucester fly into play-offs
May 7, 2011
Gloucester fly into play-offs%]
Gloucester ensured their Aviva Premiership play-off spot with a crushing 68-17 win over Sale at Kingsholm that sets up a trip to Saracens in the semi-finals.
The home side were slow into their stride but then the Sharks were blown away by the power of the home pack and some brilliant attacking play from Charlie Sharples and Henry Trinder. The two of them collected five of Gloucester's ten tries to ensure there was to be no fairytale endings to their distinguished Sale careers for Charlie Hodgson and Chris Jones.
After three minutes Gloucester had the first opportunity to put points on the scoreboard but Nicky Robinson dragged wide his 30-metre penalty attempt. Moments later the Sharks had a golden opportunity for the first try - but somehow they blew it.
Some weak Gloucester tackling allowed Sale to make inroads in the home 22 and a try seemed a certainty - but a forward pass from Nick Macleod to his support player when only a metre from the try line meant the chance was lost.
When Sale were penalised at a scrum 40 metres out, Gloucester declined the kickable penalty. However, from the resulting lineout the home side were in turn penalised so their option failed to pay off.
After 16 minutes Gloucester took the lead. Sale lost possession at a ruck near halfway enabling James Simpson-Daniel to swiftly counter-attack. It resulted in a try for the supporting Rory Lawson, with Robinson's conversion attempt being unsuccessful.
Sale were showing some improved form, troubling Gloucester with some enterprising attacking play. The visitors earned their reward when Hodgson reduced the arrears with a simple penalty - but that success was short-lived as Scott Lawson drove over from close range for a try which Robinson converted to give the home side a 12-3 lead after 25 minutes.
Charlie Sharples scores for Gloucester against Sale at Kingsholm © Getty Images
Gloucester soon extended that lead when from a scrum close to the Sharks line. The home side moved the ball along their three-quarter line for Trinder to walk past some poor defensive work from Sale for a try which Robinson converted to make it 19-3 at the interval.
Five minutes after the restart Gloucester picked up their fourth try and with it the bonus point to ensure qualification for the play-offs. From a driving lineout in the Sharks' 22 the ball sped along the back line for Sharples to outflank the cover for an excellent try.
Moments later Sharples was over again following clever work from Robinson, who kicked both conversions to leave Sale 33-3 adrift. Robinson gave the visitors some respite when his stray pass was intercepted by Sale hooker Neil Briggs, who galloped over for a try which Hodgson converted.
However, normal service was resumed when Trinder crossed for Robinson to convert, then excellent work from Trinder saw Sharples race 50 metres for his hat-trick try - which Robinson again converted. The outside half then picked up a try when Sharples beat off two weak tackles to send his team-mate over the line.
Sale collected a consolation try which Hodgson converted, before the outside-half was substituted to an appreciative round of applause from the home crowd. However, two late tries from Simpson-Daniel - both converted by Tim Taylor - rounded off an emphatic Gloucester victory.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Firdose Moonda looks at the moves towards greater integration within South African rugby ... and what the future holds
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14
With just two rounds left in the regular season, we look at the prospects of the teams taking part in the Championship play-offs
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker