Rob Cook happy to typify Gloucester's trademark resilience with match-winning try against Scarlets
GLOUCESTER 31 SCARLETS 17
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CONTROLLED Gloucester shackled the timid Scarlets in a measured first-half performance.
The stubborn Cherry and Whites refused to kowtow to the transformed and bullish Llanelli men after the break.
The visitors knocked some heads together at half-time, then promptly set about cracking some Gloucester skulls on the field too.
At times the physicality of the Scarlets exceeded reason, but their fire and frustration boiled over, forcing Gloucester onto the back foot.
Just when the home side were at their most vulnerable though, up popped flawless full-back Rob Cook.
Matt Kvesic joined Dan Robson in the sin-bin, leaving Gloucester dangerously denuded with 13 men on the field.
The Scarlets sensed their time to strike, trailing 24-12 with 11 minutes to play.
Simon Easterby’s side edged inexorably towards the Gloucester tryline.
A Scarlets score seemed almost inevitable, to set up a grandstand nail-biting finish.
In a flash Gloucester stole the ball, Cook blasted deep into space – and beat Aaron Shingler in the footrace.
The 29-year-old scooped up and galloped under the posts, for Gloucester’s fourth, and decisive try.
The former Lincolnshire cricketer admitted it was his score that secured Gloucester the victory, but played down any personal credit.
“We were down to 13 men and struggling a little bit,” Cook explained, “so it’s always nice to score a try, but in that situation it just gave us a bit of breathing space.
“If they had scored from that attack, things would have been pretty close going into the last 10 minutes.
“So it was great to close out the win, it gives us a good bit of momentum going into the season now.
“From last year we showed that we have got a fighting spirit all the way through the team and the squad.
“We carried that all the way through last season, and we showed it again here.
“They came back at us, but we hit back at them again, and we managed to get a score at a crucial time.
“Our first-half performance was very controlled though, and that gave us the platform to go on and get the win.”
James Simpson-Daniel opened the scoring, brushing off a despairing tackle to sweep home on his first Kingsholm appearance since October 27 last season.
Billy Twelvetrees doubled the try tally to close the first quarter, beating the static defence to Freddie Burns’ line-turning grubber.
Gloucester bossed the first-half but failed to add further score before the break.
Jo Snyman was sin-binned for Scarlets for a needless high tackle just ahead of the turnaround, but even that could not usher Gloucester to the whitewash once more.
The visitors emerged furious with themselves for the second period, and quickly set about restoring pride and parity.
Gloucester could not cope with the Scarlets’ driving maul, and duly conceded a penalty try.
Burns landed a penalty in riposte as the Kingsholm men tried to cap any thoughts of a visiting comeback.
Then wily centre Henry Trinder used all his nous to unlock the defence for Gloucester’s third try.
His snap chip down the short side caught Scarlets unawares, allowing openside Kvesic to scamper clear after beating the defence to the loose ball.
Ken Owens struck on a training-ground lineout front-peel ploy from Scarlets next, the visitors bungling the very same move just minutes before it paid try dividend.
The revved-up Scarlets were suddenly approaching full flow.
And from a dominant scrum half-back Robson was sin-binned for killing the ball.
Gloucester’s defence became more scrambled and desperate, but somehow the hosts held out.
Nigel Davies’ men had almost negotiated the sin bin without censure, when Kvesic joined Robson on the sidelines.
The former Worcester scavenger was ordered from the field for one breakdown transgression too many.
But as the Scarlets scented further try blood, Cook intervened with his match-winning turn.
Replacement scrum-half Rhodri Williams had enough time to finish another smart lineout ploy at the death.
The impressive half-back raced home after the Scarlets had set up a decoy driving maul that suckered the majority of the Gloucester pack out of position to cover the snipe.
Teething problems at the scrum and in defence around the lineout aside, Gloucester can be mightily pleased.
The Cherry and Whites backline looks in extremely good order.
A repeat performance against Sale next week and Gloucester will start the league season with a victory.
GLOUCESTER: Tries: Simpson-Daniel (12), Twelvetrees (20), Kvesic (48), Cook (70). Cons: Burns 4 (12, 20, 48, 70). Pens: Burns (46).
SCARLETS: Tries: Penalty (43), Owens (55), R Williams (79). Cons: Priestland (43).
GLOUCESTER: R Cook, C Sharples (S Reynolds, 74), H Trinder (M Tindall, 71), B Twelvetrees, J Simpson-Daniel, F Burns (B Burns, 79), T Knoyle (D Robson, 41), N Wood (D Murphy, 51), D Dawidiuk (K Britton, 63), R Harden (Y Thomas, 51), T Savage (capt), J Hudson (L Lokotui, 22), S Kalamafoni, M Kvesic, B Morgan (A Qera, 51).
SCARLETS: G Owen, L Williams (J Williams, 47), G Maule (A Warren, 29), S Williams, K Phillips, S Shingler (R Priestland, 41), G Davies (R Williams, 47), P John (R Evans, 54), K Owens (E Phillips, 54), S Lee (J Adriaanse, 54), G Earle (J Ball, 51), J Snyman (S Timani, 63), A Shingler, J Turnbull, R McCusker (capt). Unused: R Kelly, C Price.
REFEREE: G Garner.