Worcester Warriors match analysis: Jonny May plays paramedic to breathe life into Gloucester Rugby's play-off dream
BY THE time the Fire Brigade answered the distress call, Jonny May had already quenched the flames.
Gloucestershire's finest rolled into Kingsholm in response to an alarm triggered in error.
Air vents in the Kingsholm showers were left unwittingly unopened, and the steam trap sounded the klaxon.
Fire fighters blasted to the ground – only to discover the real emergency had played out on the pitch half an hour earlier.
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Wayward Gloucester had not only bungled a hatful of chances, but also gifted embattled Worcester two seriously soft tries.
The hosts wasted two driven lineout scoring opportunities in the first-half alone.
Then Henry Trinder flew out of the defensive line, straight past the sizeable frame of Josh Matavesi, and the burly Warriors centre bustled under the posts.
Fit-again Trinder immediately atoned, exchanging passes with May to claim a well-fashioned try to ease his ruddy cheeks.
But then Tim Molenaar threw one risky pass too many in his own 22, Alex Grove nipped in, stole the ball, and powered home.
Both time and incision were in short supply, so Gloucester resorted to mayhem.
Captain Chaos Jonny May's Cannonball Run break from one 22 to the other was rudely interrupted by Errie Claassens' shin.
The South African full-back scythed down May illegally.
Referee David Rose and Television Match Official Trevor Fisher's conference call handed Gloucester the game.
Claassens was not only sent off, Gloucester were awarded a penalty try.
Rob Cook was visibly relieved to end the night with an easy conversion under the posts – rather than a tricky touchline penalty to decide the contest.
"Thank God it wasn't a yellow card and a penalty," he exhaled. "It wouldn't have been the easiest of kicks.
"I would definitely have had a pop – but I can't say for sure how it would have gone!"
Gloucester should never have let themselves slip into an episode of 999.
The Michael Buerk voiceover almost writes itself... a normal Friday night at Kingsholm that descended into danger and all that.
Two early penalty shots from Cook lulled Gloucester into the classic false sense of security that always precedes disaster on the BBC docu-drama show.
Andy Goode has been carrying his trademark timber around the Premiership so long now, that no one should be fooled by his frame.
Even if he does look like a loosehead, he still has the mind and mastery to control a game from fly-half.
Ryan Mills is still learning his trade in his natural position of inside centre, and during this Six Nations run he has coped manfully at ten.
But that old dog Goode taught him a few line-kicking tricks.
The ex-Leicester and Saracens outside-half slotted Worcester's first points after winning one such tactical battle.
Gloucester then wasted those two quickfire driven-lineout penalties, spurning a good ten minutes of territory and possession.
Flanker Sam Betty was sin-binned for a dangerous shoulder charge – the clearest opening for Gloucester to steam ahead.
But the Cherry and Whites failed to capitalise on their man advantage.
Worcester stiffened their resolve, Trinder somehow missed that midfield monument Matavesi, and the former Exeter Chief trundled under the posts.
Trinder needed just two minutes to atone, setting May free down the left wing.
Lurking on May's shoulder, Trinder timed his supporting run perfectly to receive the return pass – and canter under the other set of sticks.
Chris Pennell missed a long-range penalty, to conclude a confusing half.
Two Cook penalties came quickly after the restart, with Gloucester hoping to escape that frustrating first-half pattern.
No such luxury.
Goode cut the deficit with one shot at goal, despite missing another and failing to find touch with a penalty lineout chance waiting.
Just as Gloucester thought they had ridden the storm then, an ill-conceived tap 22 drop-out heralded that dreaded 999 musical disaster refrain.
The home side tried to escape their 22 with some sevens-style exhibition passing.
Worcester centre Grove gleefully gobbled up Molenaar's forced basketball chest-pass, took a second to get his bearings – and raced to the whitewash.
Goode's easy penalty handed Worcester the 20-19 lead, with Gloucester starting to sweat at the start of the final quarter.
Cook slotted a penalty to edge the home men back ahead with ten minutes to play.
But Worcester were prepared to do anything to avoid a fifth-straight league defeat.
And replacement Danny Gray converted a penalty five minutes from time, the Warriors wrestling the advantage once again.
Every tick of the clock dulled the beat of Gloucester's Premiership play-off heart.
Nigel Davies' men knew full well another home loss could flatline their top-four ambitions.
The pulse dimmed markedly, the night drew dark.
And then that man May reached for the shock paddles.
His electric break sparked Gloucester back to life, Claassens left his leg hanging, and that was that – after a good radio conflab between the officials, of course.
The penalty-try call will forever more be hotly disputed, but Claassens' trip was certainly cynical.
Gloucester just about completed the CPR job on their play-off dream without emergency service help then.
Claim payback at Bath on Friday to avenge the Blue Black and Whites' Kingsholm cup win of three weeks ago, and that top-four plan will be alive and kicking.
GLOUCESTER: R Cook, C Sharples, H Trinder, T Molenaar, J May, R Mills, D Robson (D Lewis, 76), D Murphy (N Wood, 53), D Dawidiuk (H Edmonds, 64), R Harden (D Chistolini, 71 – reversed 72), L Lokotui, W James, T Savage, A Qera (A Hazell, 64), S Kalamafoni. Unused: P Buxton, S Monahan, M Thomas.
WORCESTER WARRIORS: E Claassens, C Pennell, A Grove, J Matavesi (J Drauniniu, 61), D Lemi, A Goode (D Gray, 64), J Arr (P Hodgson, 68), M Mullan, E Shervington (A Lutui, 64), E Murray (J Andress, 68), J Percival (capt), D Schofield (C Gillies, 62), S Betty (J Abbott, 68), M Kvesic, B Cowan. Unused: C Jones.
REFEREE: David Rose.