Four-try Monahan puts Gloucester on brink of European quarter-final
GLOUCESTER 47 LONDON IRISH 3
TWO tries in the final five minutes of the first-half turned this game totally in Gloucester’s favour.
Just as the hosts were beginning to labour without reward, up popped fearsome strike-running wing Shane Monahan.
All Black scrum-half Jimmy Cowan drifted off a left-wing ruck, delayed the pass – and Irish barnstormer Monahan blasted through the line, arced out left and outgunned Tom Homer into the corner.
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Moments later, Irish dropped a restart short and wide, hoping to catch Gloucester out.
Instead Tongan brute Sione Kalamafoni collected, spun out of the tackle, raced down the left flank – drew last man Homer, and sent Monahan cantering home.
Gloucester boss Davies admitted it was a quickfire salvo that totally broke the London Irish spirit and resistance.
“The first 20 minutes was a real arm wrestle as you would always expect,” explained the Cherry and Whites rugby director.
“We didn’t always play in the right areas of the field in that opening sequence, because we tried at times to force things too much from deep.
“But once we settled we started to gain reward, we managed territory a little better – and in the second-half eventually once we got through one phase in their half, we scored.”
After the turnaround Gloucester cut loose and floored Irish, seeing them off for the second time in as many weeks.
Monahan plundered his third and fourth tries, and Rob Cook and Dan Robson got in on the act too.
After last week’s 29-22 victory over the Exiles, this six-try hammering leaves Gloucester in near total control of Amlin Challenge Cup pool one.
See off Mont de Marsan and Bordeaux after the turn of the year, and the Kingsholm men can look forward to a home quarter-final – and Davies was in no mood to disagree.
“That’s a huge result, a huge statement and it maintains the momentum we’ve got going into a very crucial festive period,” he conceded.
Irish could only muster one penalty from Homer’s two first-half shots at goal.
It was a woeful afternoon from the struggling Reading men, who still cannot get to grips with Shaun Edwards’ new defensive system.
After the break full-back Cook countered from a poor clearance – and punished an even poorer kick chase, to bisect the dog-legged defence and race under the posts.
Not even a yellow card to Will James for a professional foul at a ruck could halt the Gloucester charge.
The Cherry and Whites were totally dominant at the scrum from the start, and as events unfolded at the breakdown too.
Monahan’s hat-trick try came after a marauding break from Charlie Sharples, who arced off his wing to race from one 22 to the other.
Gloucester recycled at pace, and Monahan went in at the corner.
That was the bonus-point score on the hour, and Irish simply had no answer.
A fine wide pass from Burns set Molenaar away in the Irish 22, and from the ruck Monahan popped up for try number four.
Irish made some attempt at a rally, but the error-strewn visitors were unable to convert several half-chances.
As time wore down Jim Hamilton sauntered to halfway in the 13 channel, Nick Wood cut up the middle and drew the defence – and sent half-back Robson jinking home for the final score.
So Gloucester take charge of their European situation then – and now for the testing Christmas run.
Neither Exeter at Kingsholm nor Leicester at Welford Road will be anything other than total wars of attrition.
GLOUCESTER: Tries: Monahan 4 (35, 40, 60, 72), Cook (44), Robson (74). Cons: Burns 4 (35, 40, 44, 60). Pens: Burns 3 (7, 25, 39).
IRISH: Pens: Homer (12).
GLOUCESTER: James (46), Britton (78).
GLOUCESTER: R Cook (M Thomas, 66), C Sharples, M Tindall (T Molenaar, 61), B Twelvetrees, S Monahan, F Burns, J Cowan (D Robson, 52), D Murphy (N Wood, 50), D Dawidiuk (Britton, 50), R Harden (S Knight, 20), W James, J Hamilton (capt), T Savage (M Cox, 61), A Qera (D Dawidiuk, 78), S Kalamafoni (G Evans, 61).
LONDON IRISH: T Home, T Ojo, S Shingler, G Armitage, A Watson, S Geraghty, D Allinson, M Lahiff (J Yanyantawa, 41), D Paice (S Lawson, 41), H Aulika (L Halavatu, 41), J Sandford, B Evans (capt), K Low, J Gibson, A Gray.
REFEREE: N Paterson (SCO).