Gloucester 36 London Irish 34: Forrester's extra dimension defeats Irish at the end of magical marathon

The European Challenge Cup may be unwieldy, unsponsored and deeply unloved by those clubs who fail to make the final, but by heaven, it has its moments. Yesterday's contest between two of the Guinness Premiership's more adventurous teams lasted two hours, every minute of it played in strength-sapping wind and rain, yet in the closing stages of extra time, James Forrester produced something so special - so wildly above and beyond anything his colleagues had a right to expect, or his opponents had reason to fear - that it was worthy of the winning of any tournament in world rugby.

Forrester was not alone in creating Gloucester's decisive try - James Simpson-Daniel and Anthony Allen both played a significant hand as the nerve-endings throbbed ever more agonisingly - but the slide-rule quality of his grubber kick into the in-goal area, and the astonishing pace he showed to reach the ball millimetres inside the boundary of the pitch, was something to behold. And to think the England selectors have decided against taking him to Australia for next month's Test matches.

"It is still a blur," the No 8 said after fielding the time-honoured requests to talk his audience through the try. "I left the pitch thinking it was a good effort, but now I've seen it on the television, it seems it was a little clumsy. I was in a panic, because the in-goal area was nowhere near as big as I thought when I put in the kick. It worked out, just. There wasn't much room to spare."

Back in his beanpole days, Forrester startled rival forwards - and backs, come to that - by running around like Michael Johnson rather than Martin Johnson, and repeatedly conjured up game-breaking feats in important matches, most of them involving long-legged gallops of 60 metres or more. He is not quite so rapid these days, for he has beefed up physically and tightened up stylistically. He will never be a Martin Corry type, all sweat and snarl. He is, however, better able to stand his ground in the heavy traffic now than at any point in the last five years.

That much was obvious throughout yesterday's game at the Twickenham Stoop. London Irish controlled the forward exchanges for much of the encounter, repeatedly forcing one of the more lightweight packs in Gloucester's annals onto the back foot. As a result, Forrester absorbed more than his fair share of punishment, as did his closest collaborator, the scrum-half Peter Richards. Yet these were the very men who were prepared to play it off the cuff when the opportunity arose, even at the last knockings, when exhaustion was raging through the playing population like a plague.

Not that London Irish will easily come to terms with the fact that the game went to extra time in the first place. Twelve points adrift at 31-19 after Simpson-Daniel's interception try 11 minutes from the end of the statutory 80, they dredged up enough energy to burrow beneath the Gloucester barricades for two late tries: the first a distinctly dodgy effort credited to Olivier Magne; the second a television official's call on behalf of Robbie Russell. This left Barry Everitt with a kickable conversion for the trophy. He missed, hooking his shot across the sticks. Gloucester were barely alive, but still breathing at 31-31.

Everitt did hit the spot eight minutes into the additional period when Olivier Azam was penalised on the floor, but following Forrester's dramatic reclamation of the advantage, he miscued a drop-goal attempt when an ounce of patience would have earned him a better position from which to launch it. Juan Leguizamon, a considerable force at the epicentre of the Exiles' forward effort, also tried a drop - from the halfway line. Needless to say, it bisected the A316 rather than the posts. Whatever the Argentinian loose forward may be, he is no Hugo Porta, still less a Diego Maradona.

On balance, Gloucester just about deserved their first title since winning the Powergen Cup, across the road at Twickenham in 2003. The conditions helped neither side, but while the West Countrymen had Ryan Lamb pulling the strings at outside-half, they were the more ambitious of the sides. There were two Cherry and White tries in the first half: a sharp finish from Mark Foster, chasing Mike Tindall's intelligent kick to the left corner; a more prosaic one from Andy Hazell, driving away from a line-out with a couple of grisly tight forwards for company. Irish managed one of their own through Delon Armitage, but this was more a consequence of Rob Thirlby's frailty under the high ball than any great brilliance on the part of the Exiles.

"This group of players will be around for a long time, and they'll be involved in some big games," said Dean Ryan, the Gloucester coach. "We are where we are. On the strength of watching the other final in Cardiff, I don't believe, speaking as of now, that we would have coped with the power of either Munster or Biarritz. I think we'll cope next season, though."

Ryan has five months to prepare. The Heineken Cup, loved by everybody, arrives at Kingsholm in October.

Gloucester: R Thirlby (J Bailey, 82); J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall, A Allen, M Foster; R Lamb (L Mercier, 47), P Richards; P Collazo (O Azam, 80), M Davies, J Forster (G Powell, 46), J Pendlebury (A Eustace, 78), A Brown, P Buxton (capt), A Hazell (L Narraway, 78), J Forrester.

London Irish: D Armitage; T Ojo, M Catt (capt), R Flutey (G Tiesi, 80), S Tagicakibau; B Everitt, P Hodgson (B Willis, 90); N Hatley (D Paice, 40), R Russell, R Skuse (M Collins, 60; P Murphy, 80), R Casey, N Kennedy, K Roche, O Magne (D Danaher, 78), J Leguizamon.

Referee: N Whitehouse (Wales).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London