'Complacent' Gloucester pay ultimate price with damaging London Irish loss
GLOUCESTER 12 LONDON IRISH 18
THE house that Nigel Davies built disappeared in this lacklustre, comprehensive defeat.
Gloucester’s stunned rugby director conceded complacency got the better of his men.
The Cherry and Whites were gunning for their fourth victory over London Irish this term – and their third in five weeks.
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Davies admitted his side failed to steel themselves mentally – and paid the ultimate price.
The former Wales centre explained: “The disappointing thing was we didn’t turn up today, emotionally, and couple that with the error count in our game and that’s the reason why we failed today.
“We got it wrong as a group, and we don’t think that’s acceptable.
“We’re still very much a work in progress, today showed that we’re not good enough yet to slip off the hard work and intensity and the accuracy that we’ve brought to certain games.
“We have very little control over the game, and that was largely due to the error count and how our set-piece failed to work too.
“I’d have to say yes we were complacent.
“I felt we’d covered off everything we needed to cover off, but on the back of that first-half performance in particular, the lack of intensity and commitment, I would say we had to have been complacent – and I’ll take that on the chin.”
The home side never got going, slipping to their first home defeat since the opening day of the season.
A second home Premiership loss now makes their play-off battle an uphill struggle.
Two first-half tries for impressive Irish lock George Skivington left insipid Gloucester hamstrung, and they never recovered.
Freddie Burns’ four penalties kept the home side in touch, but in reality they never threatened scoring a try – and this ended up as the third-straight contest where the Cherry and Whites have failed to score.
Gloucester always had opportunities to turn this game on its head, but never fashioned more than snatched half-chances.
The trademark Davies grit evaporated as the Exiles remained resolute in organisation and sprightly in attack.
Irish’s transformation from the also-rans that were whipped with six tries 47-3 on December 15 was remarkable.
Hats off to Brian Smith and Co for arresting a terrifying slump that has bedevilled their season so far – but it still should not have got the better of Gloucester.
This was Gloucester’s worst performance of the season, and therefore under Davies.
He spent so much time demanding Gloucester walk before they run on the attacking front in pre-season and at the start of the campaign.
That back-to-basics approach has paid huge dividend.
But in recent weeks the Cherry and Whites boss has asked his players to expand their gameplan and start playing more complex attacking rugby.
So far that move has not worked.
Here Gloucester tried to attack too early, too deep and too often – certainly in the first half – and it backfired big-time.
Gloucester’s forwards never took control, the big ball-carriers never got into their stride, and consequently the home side’s backline tried to push for openings that simply did not exist.
One pick-pocket try from Skivington was enough to send Kingsholm into anger – but the second knocked Gloucester off what stride they had left.
Both came before the break, the second right ahead of the turnaround.
And Irish never ceded their advantage.
Burns landed two penalties in the third quarter as Gloucester rallied and started to push for openings.
But still the malaise failed to lift, and Tom Homer’s penalty with eight minutes remaining all-but nailed the victory lid tight.
Shane Monahan’s late break pushed Gloucester into the Irish 22, but then the home side were bested at the scrum – not for the first time on the day.
The obligatory Will James yellow card came with two minutes to go – that’s his second yellow in as many weeks and his fourth for the season.
And after that, the game was gone.
A defeat severely damaging to Gloucester’s top-four hopes and their overall morale: but now the Cherry and Whites must hit back and secure a home quarter-final in the Amlin Challenge Cup in the next fortnight.
GLOUCESTER: Pens: Burns 4 (2, 33, 58, 62).
LONDON IRISH: Tries: Skivington 2 (22, 38). Cons: Shingler (38). Pens: Shingler (11), Homer (72).
GLOUCESTER: R Cook, C Sharples, M Tindall (capt), B Twelvetrees, S Monahan, F Burns, J Cowan (D Robson, 52), D Murphy (N Wood, 52), H Edmonds (D Dawidiuk, 63), S Knight, T Savage, W James, S Kalamafoni, A Qera (M Cox, 52), B Morgan. Unused: D Chistolini, P Buxton, T Molenaar, M Thomas.
LONDON IRISH: T Homer, J Joseph, S Tagicakibau, S Shingler, M Yarde, I Humphreys (S Geraghty, 51), P Phibbs (J Moates, 74), M Lahiff, D Paice (S Lawson, 39), H Aulika (L Halavatu, 69), G Skivington, B Evans (capt), M Garvey (J Gibson, 74), J Sinclair, C Hala’ufia. Unused: J Yanuyanutawa, K Low, G Armitage.
REFEREE: D Rose.