Bordeaux v Gloucester: Robson's roar a sign of a difficult job done
A ROAR of tribal ferocity and relief blasted out across Stade Andre Moga.
Through the glowering mist the Gloucester bench could just about make out Dan Robson's uncharacteristic victory cry.
The bristling scrum-half charged down Camille Lopez's hurried clearance, fly-hacked deep into the Bordeaux 22 – and then hauled full-back Lachie Munro over his own try-line.
Hustling Gloucester the feed at the five-metre scrum proved enough to end a tense and terse encounter.
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The Kingsholm men won a penalty at that scrum, flawless Freddie Burns stepped up and posted his eighth goal of the night – and Gloucester snatched their Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final spot.
The Gallic temperament is infectious and at the end of another night of bluster, Robson could not argue.
"When we won that scrum I just turned to the bench and let out a big roar," said the increasingly-impressive 20-year-old.
"That's unusual for me, but we'd had a very tough night, we'd had to battle for everything, and that was the point where we knew we'd done it."
If Robson's French impression nailed the result, Nick Wood's wily impersonation was just as pivotal.
The cerebral loosehead prop produced a try-saving interception from Marcel Denetre's pass – by calling for the ball in French.
Wood shouted 'a gauche' as he tracked back on the Bordeaux centre's outside shoulder, only five metres from the Gloucester whitewash.
Denetre duly shipped on left, only to see Gloucester's grinning front-rower collect, and immediately turn on his heel.
So that's what one year of a Modern Languages degree at Brasenose College Oxford teaches you.
Accident traffic delayed kick-off as Gloucester arrived late.
The Cherry and Whites failed to turn up full-stop against London Irish the previous week, slumping to a frustrating 18-12 Premiership defeat.
And Bordeaux's sprightly start certainly caught Gloucester cold.
Les Bordelais call their home town Sleeping Beauty after the black pollution that once stained the walls of the majestic 18th century architecture.
The city's rugby club might have pretensions as a sleeping giant given their Top 14 struggles, but coaches Rafazel Ibanez and former England flank-forward Joe Worsley have created a powerful defensive zeal.
A taxi strike greeted the Gloucester squad and supporters on Thursday afternoon.
Merignac Airport's cab rank was a motorcade of martyrdom, thick with the fug of Gauloises and solidarity.
More savvy than revolutionary these days though, the disgruntled drivers were quickly back to work in time for a money-spinning match day.
Such changing times ensured the men of Bordeaux-Begles would not write off this clash, despite no chance of quarter-final qualification.
Bordeaux sensed Gloucester's battle for fluency straight from the off, Munro's two penalties eclipsing one for Burns in the opening quarter-hour.
Raphael Carballo then profited from Charles Brousse's first impressive turn of the night.
The outside centre drifted over a weak tackle from Henry Trinder, and sent his winger darting home for the game's opening try.
Trinder's three-month groin strain absence could clearly account for several off-kilter moments on the night.
Fears of a London Irish repeat started to whip through the hefty Gloucester support, but the Cherry and Whites themselves simply set about exploiting some territory.
Darren Dawidiuk capped a fine ten-metre rolling maul in the Bordeaux 22, dragging Gloucester back into the reckoning.
Burns' conversion and then his fourth penalty of the half gave Gloucester a 19-13 lead.
But then disaster struck – more soft tackling allowed Bordeaux to steam through the middle all too easily, with Brousse once again leading the charge.
And it was prop Tamato Leopolu's try that left Gloucester red-faced at the break.
Munro's conversion wrestled Bordeaux a 20-19 advantage.
Bordeaux struck first after the restart, Munro's penalty stretching the home lead to four points.
No sooner had Burns cut the deficit back to one though, than replacement hooker Huia Edmonds was off to the sin-bin.
His second involvement of night was to kill the ball at a ruck, and Scottish referee Andrew McMenemy was having none of it.
Munro duly restored the four-point cushion with his fourth penalty of the night – Gloucester were back to square one.
But just when the search for poise seemed fruitless, the Kingsholm men galvanised.
Suddenly Tim Molenaar and Ben Morgan's breaks were creating gaps, and fit-again Jonny May started to find his groove too.
Several half-chances came and went, but then Bordeaux lock Andrew Chaveau joined Edmonds in the bin.
Burns posted his sixth-straight penalty of the tie – and Gloucester trailed 26-25 with 18 minutes to play.
A stray Bordeaux hand in a ruck then gifted Gloucester the chance, and Burns wrapped the penalty home, to claim a two-point lead with four minutes to play.
Will James' high tackle frayed his coaches' fingernails, as Bordeaux kicked for a driving lineout.
But Gloucester sacked the maul with perfect timing – and then came Robson's victory intervention.
Gloucester greeted Burns' eighth penalty and the final whistle with equal relief.
Nigel Davies has restored Gloucester's je ne sais quoi.
In a season of wins under duress, even the calm new boss will struggle to explain this one.
But still the wins keep coming, and with it Gloucester's lure increases.
Neither Lesley Vainikolo nor a stray group of London Irish fans could stay away.
After Irish's Thursday night win in Mont de Marsan, one Exiles wag bravely donned his customary green and white cardinal's outfit.
Gloucester's faithful quickly placed a £100 bounty on the cardinal's hat, for whoever nails it to The Shed.
Keep your eyes peeled for some unusual greenery at Kingsholm on Saturday then, as Gloucester aim to dispatch Mont de Marsan in style and set up a home quarter-final.
BORDEAUX: L Munro, R Carballo, C Brousse (B Serin, 52), M Denetre, T Brana, C Lopez, J Seron (Felix Le Bourhis, 49), J Poirot (F Labbe, 65), H Forbes (F Rofes, 65), T Leopolu (N Descamps, 49), A Chaveau, F Tisseau, G Gibouin (Louis Madaule, 74), R Kitshoff (H Chalmers, 69), D Larrieu. Unused: C Navickas.
GLOUCESTER: R Cook, C Sharples, H Trinder (M Tindall, 70), T Molenaar, J May (M Thomas, 70), F Burns, D Robson, N Wood (D Murphy, 57), D Dawidiuk (H Edmonds, 56), D Chistolini (S Knight, 55), J Hamilton (capt), W James, S Kalamafoni, A Qera (D Dawidiuk, 65-67), B Morgan. Unused: P Buxton, G Evans, D Lewis.
BORDEAUX: A Chaveau (62)
GLOUCESTER: Edmonds (57)
REFEREE: A McMenemy (SCO)