Battling Gloucester find a way to grab win over London Welsh
THE warning signs went unheeded, but still Gloucester snatched victory.
Bullish London Welsh flexed enough muscle in the closing stages of the first half to offer a portent of danger ahead.
And the Premiership new boys promptly tub-thumped their way into second-half ascendancy.
But just as Nigel Davies keeps on saying, this Gloucester side refuses to acknowledge defeat.
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Gloucester led 18-9 at the break – but three Gordon Ross penalties and Franck Montanella's converted try turned the tables for a 25-21 home advantage.
Freddie Burns' third penalty reduced the Gloucester deficit to one point edging into the game's final quarter.
And then the livewire fly-half kick-started a turnover counter-attack that ended with replacement prop Shaun Knight throwing a dummy and barrelling home for the winning try.
From there Gloucester closed out a brutal and engaging contest.
Talk about resilient. It speaks volumes that the game's outstanding player was Welsh's Hudson Tonga'uiha, and the game's outstanding ploy was the home side's driving maul.
Gloucester could not cope with Welsh's driving and tight-phase play, nor impressive centre Tonga'uiha's endless ability to offload in the tackle.
Shane Monahan and Tom Savage's first-half tries ought to have provided Gloucester with a solid victory platform, but Welsh are no mugs, and needed little invitation to hit back.
But still the Cherry and Whites found a way to win – and in this most rugged of leagues, that is always what counts most.
Gloucester started brightly and smartly, kicking well for position.
Billy Twelvetrees recovered a high ball well, Burns put a fine touch-finder down the line, and Rob Cook nearly sneaked through on a counter-attack.
Welsh conceded a penalty for attacking the jumper mid-air at a lineout, and Burns duly opened the scoring.
Gordon Ross then fluffed a penalty, but despite his miss Gloucester lost impetus – and just two minutes later Ross levelled the scores with his second penalty attempt.
One attempted tackle on Tongan brute Sione Kalamafoni was enough to end Welsh hooker Neil Briggs' afternoon.
Burns slotted his second penalty, to put the Cherry and Whites back in front – and then the mercurial fly-half struck.
Dummying a clearance kick, Burns shredded the Welsh defence and raced from one 22 to the other.
Burns drew the cover for an outside pass, but Welsh wing Nick Scott batted the ball down.
A sin-binning was the only option.
And from the resulting penalty Burns took a quick tap, caught the Welsh defence half-asleep and sent Monahan into the right corner for the game's opening score.
Welsh raced back onto the attack, making light of their missing man, and Ross slotted his second goal of the game.
Irish bruiser Monahan then powered down the right again, eluding two tackles – but he was unable to produce a try-scoring offload when he was eventually hauled down.
Gloucester demolished the Welsh scrummage straight away, though, and Burns punted the penalty to the corner.
Tommaso D'Apice's not-straight throw wasted the platform, though, and despite another steamroller scrum, Welsh were able to clear.
But Gloucester maintained field-position control, and James Simpson-Daniel cut the line twice after a strong attacking scrum.
Twelvetrees and Burns both followed suit after a series of tight drives once-again impressive lock Savage drove home.
Burns converted to stretch the score, but shortly afterwards Ross landed his third penalty goal when nonplussed Rupert Harden was penalised for his scrum binding.
Dump-truck loose forward Kalamafoni kept on maiming defenders, eventually winning Burns another penalty shot at goal.
But the 22-year-old was unable to convert.
Both sides gifted each other possession twice in the space of a hectic minute – crucially Gloucester conceding the ball last.
Welsh broke the field length, that man Tonga'uiha offloading threateningly once again.
The home side drove in tight under the posts, took a quick tap penalty and continued likewise.
But Gloucester just about managed to hold out, despite one Welsh raider driving the ball against the post – but not the upright's base.
No sooner had the game resumed than Burns was in the sin-bin, harshly ruled to have deliberately knocked on a Ross pass.
Ross landed his fourth penalty, and Gloucester stared down ten minutes a man light.
A fine line kick over the top from Cook pegged Welsh back though, and after a series of tight drives in midfield, Twelvetrees slotted a straightforward penalty.
Welsh rallied once again, though, Lyn Jones' side refusing to be subdued.
Dan Robson misjudged touch and carried a kick out for a Welsh lineout.
A penalty from the driving maul allowed Ross to cut the Gloucester lead to six points.
And the Cherry and Whites slipped behind just four minutes later, conceding their first try of the match.
Another rolling maul uncontained, two more offloads allowed – and prop Montanella spun over the whitewash.
Gloucester were threatening to implode at this point, and Kalamafoni conceded a crazy penalty for trying to hurdle a tackle.
Ross slotted his sixth penalty, before Burns landed his third.
Welsh threatened with yet another maul that turned to a pick-and-go sequence.
But the Gloucester pack won a vital turnover on their own line, and cleared calmly.
And then another turnover forced the match-winning counter-attack score.
Burns' floated pass set Simpson-Daniel away down the left, he cut inside and fed Twelvetrees, and the former Leicester centre shipped back inside to Burns.
Burns was hauled down just shy of the line, but Gloucester recovered – and a smart dummy allowed replacement prop Knight to bundle home.
Burns converted, and Gloucester finally shut down the contest.
Anything but straightforward, but Gloucester are unbeaten on the road in three: all these points are priceless.
LONDON WELSH: S Jewell, T Arscott, S Parker (P MacKenzie, 20), H Tonga'uiha, N Scott, G Ross (R Davis, 74), T Keats (N Runciman 74), F Montanella (T Bristow, 63), N Briggs (D George, 12), P Ion (A Joly, 53), J Mills, M Corker, D Browne (K Kulemin, 74), M Hills, E Jackson (A To'oala, 41).
GLOUCESTER: R Cook, S Monahan, M Tindall (H Trinder, 63), B Twelvetrees, J Simpson-Daniel, F Burns, D Robson (D Lewis, 63), N Wood (D Murphy, 65), T D'Apice (K Britton, 58), R Harden (S Knight, 58), T Savage, P Buxton (G Evans, 48), A Qera, S Kalamafoni. Unused: W James, M Thomas.
REFEREE: L Apgeraint-Roberts.