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London Welsh 25, Gloucester 31
LONDON Welsh gained a losing bonus point in a pulsating encounter at the Kassam Stadium yesterday.
Gloucester, orchestrated by their superb young fly half Freddie Burns, were good value for their victory and came close to a fourth try at the death.
But the Exiles would have been gutted not to get anything after their stirring second-half fightback.
Just as they had in their last home game, Welsh battled superbly and showed the sort of commitment that will be key if they are to survive in the top-flight.
Despite losing the experience of hooker Neil Briggs and centre Sonny Parker to early injuries, they remained resolute and briefly looked as if they might sneak victory when leading 25-21.
In the end, Gloucester's pace told and there is no reason why the west country side cannot finish in the top four this season.
Gloucester were wearing changed colours for the first time in their Premiership history, but they had their traditional partisan support.
A lineout infringement gave them the first shot at goal and Burns made no mistake with the penalty on five minutes.
Welsh had a chance to level three minutes later, but Gordon Ross, their No 10, missed his kick to the right.
Ross, however, soon made amends from closer range after No 8 Ed Jackson carried well up to the Gloucester 22.
Welsh lost Briggs to an arm injury, with Burns slotting his second penalty from the restart.
Burns carved through Welsh’s midfield with great pace and a try looked on.
Back-pedalling wing Nick Scott was adjudged to have deliberately knocked on Burns’s pass, although the ball appeared to go backwards.
Gloucester quickly tapped the penalty and sent wing Shane Monahan racing over before the Exiles could react.
Welsh responded with a decenty attack of their own, winning a penalty, which Ross converted on 18 minutes.
But they also lost their second man to injury when Parker was stretchered off.
Only a great scrambling tackle by scrum half Tyson Keats stopped Monahan grabbing a second try on the right, while the home scrum was being put under real pressure.
Burns was full of spark, passing and running at pace, but his side’s second try came relentless forward pressure before lock Tom Savage forced his way over.
Burns converted, but Ross soon replied with a penalty to just about keep his side in touch.
Gloucester’s Burns missed a penalty as half-time approached.
With the clock ticking down further, Welsh were awarded a three-pointer in front of the posts, but opted to tap and go before eventually being held up, so it was 18-9 at the break.
Welsh began the second half with a bang, roaring into the Gloucester 22 where they were awarded a penalty after Burns was sin-binned for another deliberate knock-on, which seemed harsh.
Ross slotted the simple kick, but Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees soon replied in kind.
Again the side with the extra man failed to make it count on the scoreboard.
The forward battled intensified as Welsh showed their mauling skills and earned a penalty, which Ross slotted for 21-15.
Welsh then incredibly took the lead for the first time.
They repeatedly battered the Gloucester line before French international prop Frank Montanella went over for the try, Ross converting.
Ross added a penalty, which was cancelled out by one from Burns.
Gloucester showed great composure to turn over Welsh ball five metres from their own line as battle intensified.
The visitors’ pace proved key again as they conjured up a third try on the break after 72 minutes.
Burns made and converted it, with replacement prop Shaun Knight dummying his way over.
Gloucester finished the stronger and had two great attacking scrums, but Welsh held out tenaciously.
In the end, the visitors settled for what they had as Burns cleared into touch.