Gloucester lost their unbeaten record in a scrappy match which was only redeemed by a pulsating finish as the Premiership leaders pressed hard for a sixth consecutive victory yesterday.
A gritty London Irish side controlled events , corralling Gloucester like a herd of water buffalo, allowing them only the occasional rampage into the Exiles' part of the paddock.
It was a torrid first half, particularly for Gloucester, who spent much of the time fighting to get into Irish territory. In fact pretty much the first time the visitors got into that half of the pitch was after the interval, when it was their turn to defend it.
Irish were at them from the outset, harrying, chivvying and chasing. Inevitably, penalties were squeezed from the Cherry and Whites; unfortunately for the Exiles their kicker, the former New South Wales Waratah Peter Hewat, seemed jet-lagged, having arrived from Australia last Tuesday. He landed his first one but missed three others.
Gloucester defended well, especially when confronted by speedsters such as Topsy Ojo and Delon Armitage or Tomas De Vedia, so for all the Exiles' probing out wide, and their magnificent driving mauls, the thin Cherry and White line held firm.
Gloucester eventually got a scoring opportunity, half an hour into the match – a penalty, wide on the left. Up stepped Chris Paterson, trailing a 17 out of 17 record in Scotland's recent Rugby World Cup campaign. He missed.
Irish finally found a way past the visiting defence four minutes into the second half. They pressed into the Gloucester half and the fly-half, Shane Geraghty, looked up and saw an empty corridor down the Irish left. He sent a lovely chip over the Gloucester heads and the ball was gathered by De Vedia, who raced around Paterson and over the line. Hewat converted.
Gloucester began to put together the sort of rugby that has taken them to the top of the table. They pushed into the Irish 22 and worked the ball right, then left. Paterson ran on to the scrum-half Mike Prendergast's pass from a ruck before passing to Iain Balshaw. The full-back chipped over the opposition and won the race to the touchdown. Paterson added the conversion this time.
But De Vedia broke the visitors' hearts with a 75th-minute try which took the video referee a minute or so to verify. The left winger's chase of Geraghty's little grubber kick had been legitimately grounded. A Paterson penalty shortly after that at least earned the beaten leaders a losing bonus point.Reuse content