Gloucester battle past London Welsh
September 30, 2012
Gloucester ended London Welsh's winning run%]
Gloucester overcame a spirited display from London Welsh claim a 31-25 victory at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford.
Freddie Burns boosted his England hopes as his attacking spark helped the Cherry and Whites avoid becoming the Exiles' latest Aviva Premiership scalp in a thriller. The visitors appeared in control as they opened up an 18-9 interval lead thanks to tries from Shane Monahan and Tom Savage, with Burns involved in the creation of both scores.
But the boot of Gordon Ross, who ended the game with 20 points to his name, kept Welsh in it and Franck Montanella's try looked to have set Lyn Jones' men up for a third-straight win. However, a thrilling counter-attack instigated and supported by Burns, back after a spell in the sin bin, saw replacement prop Shaun Knight barrel over for the clinching score.
Burns and Ross had traded early penalties before the visitors landed the first telling blow. Welsh had lost hooker Neil Briggs and centre Sonny Parker to injury when Burns struck his second penalty before producing two moments of brilliance to create the opening try.
The fly-half launched a break from deep with a lovely sidestep and only Nick Scott's deliberate batting down of the scoring pass prevented a try. The Exiles wing was sent to the sin bin for his trouble and Burns caught the hosts sleeping as he took a quick tap to allow the powerful Monahan to get over on the right.
Ross responded with a penalty for Welsh but they were fortunate not to concede a second try to Monahan when the winger brilliantly swerved his way out of the grasps of the Exiles cover, only to be denied a memorable score by a superb covering tackle from Tyson Keats.
It proved a brief reprieve as more good work from Monahan and wing partner James Simpson-Daniel laid the platform for Savage to barge over after Burns had gone close. Ross again responded with a penalty but Welsh were being forced into ill-discipline as they struggled to contain Gloucester's desire to put tempo on the game.
They were also guilty of failing to convert two excellent tryscoring chances. Lock Matt Corker sparked a thrilling counter from deep during the dying embers of the first half, but repeated battering at the Gloucester line yielded no reward. And moments into the second half Ross failed to get his pass away with several men free outside him as Burns stepped in and was adjudged to have deliberately knocked on.
That saw the Gloucester man binned and Ross kicked his fourth penalty, but Welsh infringed moments later after failing to secure their own line-out ball to let Billy Twelvetrees reinstate the nine-point gap between the sides.
When the Exiles did manage to win set-piece ball their rolling maul was proving a handful for Gloucester, and one such surge led to Ross' fifth penalty. The hosts then took the lead after more strong work from their pack. Several drives took them close to the line before Montanella was adjudged to have grounded the ball beneath a pile of bodies.
Ross converted for a one-point advantage and quickly added yet another penalty after Sione Kalamafoni was penalised for attempting to hurdle a pair of London Welsh defenders. But Burns replied with his third penalty and then superbly created Knight's winning try to give Stuart Lancaster a glimpse of what he could offer come the autumn internationals.
Gloucester director of rugby Nigel Davies was full of praise for his playmaker and tipped him for international honours. He said: "I have worked with a lot international 10s and he is certainly up there that's for sure, and the fact he has been able to mature at this level for a couple of years has certainly helped him.
"As a 10 it's not all about you, it's about the team and how you run the team and he is starting to do that for us now. He is playing exceptionally well, there is no doubt about it. A game like this can be very difficult for you if you don't get it right at number 10. But for large parts of the game he controlled the game, put us in the right areas and he was a constant threat.
"His goal-kicking is improving all the time and his out of hand game management and kicking is excellent at the moment too, so he is really maturing."
Exiles coach Lyn Jones admitted his players were frustrated. "We didn't kick well in the first half, and that brought Gloucester into the game," he said. "As a result they managed to score two good tries, so turning round 18-9 down with couple of bad injuries, you are up against it.
"We showed some spirit and came back, we managed the game well and got our noses in front, but we had a penalty advantage before the break in front of the posts that went begging and there was one with 15 minutes to go that we failed to deal with.
"We had our opportunities but it wasn't to be today. You have to deal with ups and downs of the season but I think the boys are frustrated and disappointed as it was within our grasp but we need to learn how to play accurately."
Jones also confirmed the first-half injuries suffered by hooker Neil Briggs and centre Sonny Parker appear serious. "Sonny has gone for an x-ray on his ankle, it could be ligaments, it could be a fracture, we don't know, we will have to wait for the results on that, and Briggs had a nasty traumatic situation with his shoulder," he said.
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