Gloucester were sent reeling from this year's European Cup stage by a proud and passionate Agen last night, kicked to death by four clinching penalties from the man who had been targeted from the kick-off, Jerome Miquel.
If the scoreline looks reasonably close, it does not reflect the better rugby played by the men from the Garonne valley and if Gloucester thought they could sneak it midway through the second half, not a ridiculous thought, then the reality must have been even harder to take as this made it home and away for the French side.
To be mugged twice is not something that would please the Gloucester coach Dean Ryan. But he was able to savour a stunning 50-yard run from James Simpson-Daniel which put the replacement centre Peter Richards in under the posts and gave Gloucester a lead which stunned Agen. For a while they lost discipline, composure and fire.
Simpson-Daniel's run, and it was not the only one, was a fitting reply to the exploits of the local magician Rupeni Caucaunibuca, the little, or not so little, winger from Fiji who has been the butt of many jokes about his waistline. There have even been spoof interviews written asking if he is porking up enough to be the fastest prop in the world.
He has also angered his coach, Didier Faugeron, who accuses him of delivering only 20 per cent of his potential. Multiply his devastation by five and Agen would top the French table. After his first run on the end of a long pass from Nicolas Morlaes he put the full-back Pepito Elhorga away for a try and left the Gloucester defence blinking on another jinking run.
His final attempt saw Jake Boer deliberately trip him to become the sixth to be shown a yellow card. The first half had ended with 14 from Agen playing 13 from Gloucester. Conrad Stoltz had previously been sent off for serial offside and Mike Tindall joined him after blatant interference at the back of a ruck. The final flourish of yellow had been to the props Laurent Cabarry and Carlos Nieto for their part in an eight-man dispute between the forwards.
The ambitious hope had been to contain what was fully expected to be and duly turned out to be a very physical Agen pack but the script was ripped to shreds. They ripped into Gloucester with gusto, the second try in 15 minutes saw Dave Vainqueur and Manu Ahotaeiloa linking to exploit gaps as wide as the Forest of Dean to give Arnaud Mignardi the scoring sprint.
Agen: Tries Elhorga, Mignardi; Conversions Miquel 2; Penalties Miquel 4.
Gloucester: Tries Balshaw, Richards; Conversions Lamb; Penalties: Lamb 2.
Agen: P Elhorga; D Vainqueur (C Stoltz, 77), M Ahotaeiloa, A Mignardi, R Caucaunibuca; J Miquel, N Morlaes (capt); L Cabarry (C Popescu, 50), A Tiatia (J Narjissi, 50), A Galasso (E Guinazu, 67), W Stolz, S Socol, M Lievremont, F Culine (C Yukes, 38), T Soucaze.
Gloucester: O Morgan (M Foster. 9); J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall, A Allen (P Richards, 40), I Balshaw; R Lamb, R Lawson ; C Califano (P Collazo, 60), M Davies (O Azam, 53), C Nieto, M Bortolami (capt), A Brown, P Buxton, A Hazell (J Boer, 50), A Balding.
Referee: Donal Courtney (Ireland).Reuse content