London Irish 29-33 Gloucester
London Irish lost Declan Kidney’s first game in charge as play-off hopefuls Gloucester hit back from 17-0 down to claim an away bonus-point victory.
After Josh McNally and Piet van Zyl crossed in a bright Irish start, their 17-point lead quickly evaporated, and Gloucester led 19-17 at half-time. Tom Marshall’s brace added to James Hanson, Lewis Ludlow and Mark Atkinson’s tries for the visitors.
Theo Brophy-Clews and Joe Cokanasiga’s scores earned Irish two bonus points.
Nevertheless, defeat edged the hosts closer to an immediate return to the Championship, bottom of the table with four matches remaining – but with now only a 10-point gap to 11th-placed Worcester. Gloucester’s dominance either side of half-time brought 33 points without reply, repeatedly stronger in the breakdown than the hosts. Victory lifted Johan Ackermann’s side into the top six, coming after rivals Bath’s loss to leaders Exeter on Friday. The Exiles’ new technical consultant Kidney, who arrived on 9 March and is being assisted by head coach Les Kiss, took full charge after Thursday’s departure of director of rugby Nick Kennedy. Kidney and Kiss previously worked together with Ireland as head coach and defence coach respectively and won a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2009. London Irish technical consultant Declan Kidney said, “If it was an entertaining game, then I’m delighted for the neutrals who were there, but for London Irish supporters I’m disappointed as they gave us great support and helped bring us back into the game in the final quarter.
“They wanted to see us finishing off the job as well and that’s what we must work towards. The game lasts for 80 minutes and we need to learn how to manage our way through that after what was a dream start. “They’ll be big learnings from today’s game and I honestly believe most of that is within our control. “We’ll fight right to the end. We’ve got another huge game in two weeks’ time. All we can afford to look at is the next game and then we’ll take a look at the league table after that.” Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann commented, “At 17-0, I was lost for words in the sense that it was mistake after mistake, penalty after penalty and we didn’t see the ball. They got the points. “To claw it back before half-time was a big positive. A lot of character was shown to score three good tries and be back in the contest. “There are tough games ahead, and the fact that results in other games will play a part. We are excited to win, but there is nothing to get excited about the season yet.
“There is too much work to be done. I said when I arrived at the club that there was going to be a process. The character is there, and the work is not going to stop.”