Gloucester Rugby: Nigel Davies - We've shown steel
RESILIENCE and steel is now firmly installed throughout the entire Gloucester squad following their forwards-inspired comeback against international opposition, believes Nigel Davies.
The explosive Fijians laid down their traditional challenge before the match and the maturing Cherry and White guns came out firing, answering it in emphatic style to win 31-29.
It may not have been pretty, with the pack accounting for all four tries following two penalty scores and two from rolling mauls, but it was gutsy.
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Rugby director Davies could afford a grin as big as scrum coach Tony Windo's after seeing his gamble to blood youngsters in this LV= Cup window firmly pay off.
Five of the team that grounded the flying Fijians are under 21 and still studying at Hartpury, while a further six have not yet reached 25.
Following the Ospreys defeat in Swansea, the second in a row following the Stoop reverse the week before, Davies' side needed a victory and he was delighted with their response.
He said: "It was great because we're blooding a new crop of players and the thing about rugby is you have to learn how to win games.
"It's all very well having the skills and the ability, which is something that we want to see more and more of.
"But you've got to learn to win games and that was a great learning experience for a lot of our younger players.
"We had a team that was endeavouring to work for each other and fight for each other and that's all you can ask.
"I'm just delighted that the guys that have been brought in have bought into the ethos of what we are trying to create and generate here.
"That is a winning mentality and determination and a never-say-die attitude and we saw bags of that."
Early physical dominance from the Pacific islanders saw them bully their way into an 18-0 lead after half an hour, following two tries and two penalties plus one conversion.
Staring down the barrel of a gun, Gloucester's bucks composed themselves and inspired by a perfect display from young Dan Robson at fly-half they fought their way back into proceedings.
Having already turned over two five-metre catch and drives, Davies' men went back to their trusty companion with prop Dario Chistolini first rebuffed at the line before Matt Cox muscled over.
A Robson conversion and effortless 40-metre penalty brought the sides to within ten at the break before the Fijians showed more flair at the start of the second period to grab a third try.
Facing another tough mountain to climb at 13 points down, Gloucester responded yet again by going back to basics and upping the pressure in the scrum.
Overcoming a Premiership set-piece is one thing, but dismantling an international side's is something else with that force bringing two yellow cards for Fiji forwards.
The result was two easily converted Robson penalty tries before the youngsters endeavoured to make life difficult for themselves again by gifting two successful penalties from each restart.
At five points down with 15 minutes to go Gloucester rolled back the years by going back to doing what they know best – unleashing the devastating rolling maul.
It seemed fitting that one of their developing charges, hooker Koree Britton, should get the winning touchdown with fellow 20-year-old Robson yet again on target to round off the night.
Davies admits he would rather victory was attained a little easier, but he could not fault the courage of his young charges who had been thrown together just a week before.
"We would rather not be kings of the comeback but that is what this resilience is about," added Davies.
"We know that games sometimes do not go your way and you have to ride the knocks and come back stronger.
"That is what this team is doing and it is great to see the guys coming into the team and train for the first time with us in some instances.
"They are buying into that ethos and that is the only way to be successful – to have a squad of players who are buying into a clear ethos."