Rugby World reader Alex Shaw sees Gloucester lift the first trophy of the English domestic season.

Gloucester (10) 34
Tries: Voyce, Fuimaono-Sapolu, Sharples, Dawidiuk Cons: Robinson 4 Pens: Robinson 2
Newcastle (0) 7
Tries: Eves Cons: Gopperth

With the success of England’s Six Nations triumph fresh in the mind, albeit tinged with frustration at the lacklustre performance in Dublin which cost them the Grand Slam, it is unsurprising that the LV= Cup final arrived with little fanfare or celebration. However, there were certainly two sets of supporters who eagerly anticipated this match, one set from the south-west, and the other from the north-east, and they travelled to Franklin’s Gardens (somewhat in the middle? Geography was never my forte) to witness Gloucester take on Newcastle Falcons.  Whilst both teams may have had more pressing issues in the Aviva Premiership to deal with, neither side would be taking their foot off the gas for this match. For Gloucester it offered a chance to earn some overdue silverware, whilst for the Falcons it provided an opportunity to play in the Heineken Cup for the first time in over six years, a reward which their league position offers no chance for.

Click here for the LV Cup Final in pictures from Gloucester RFC

The game started tentatively, both teams entering into a kicking duel, which was eventually won by Olly Morgan who caught his own up-and-under and lead to some early pressure on the Falcons defence.  Newcastle stood strong however and showed their intentions in this game, winning the early battle at the scrum, causing Gloucester’s pack to concede a penalty when they were firmly camped on the Falcon’s five metre line. Newcastle’s nerves began to tell though as they made several unforced errors including knock-ons in the contact and a dropped catch from Alex Tait whilst under no pressure from the advancing Gloucester defence.

To compound their early mistakes, Newcastle soon found themselves 7-0 down as Gloucester attacked the blindside from a scrum deep inside Falcon’s territory before switching the play, and after several neat passes, found Tom Voyce on the wing who easily cut inside and dived over the line. Nicky Robinson duly stepped up and converted for the full seven points. Robinson continued to impress, kicking well tactically, and keeping Gloucester in the Newcastle’s half, which allowed the Welshman to capitalise on the Falcon’s indiscipline and slot a penalty. However, Newcastle’s usually reliable stand-off Jimmy Gopperth was having a game to forget, having missed his two attempts at goal, and allowing Gloucester to maintain their lead. The fly-half did redeem himself just before the break however, making a great tackle on Charlie Sharples who would definitely have been in for a try had Gopperth not made the intervention, and ensured that Gloucester went into the break with just a 10 point lead.

Click here for the report from the official Gloucester rugby website

Much like the first half, the second started cautiously, with both teams eager not to surrender possession unless absolutely necessary. A Robinson penalty got the scoreboard ticking over once more, and heralded a step up in class for Gloucester, who moved through the gears and quickly registered two more tries. The first came from some clever interplay from the Gloucester backs who spread the ball wide, before a clever inside ball found the ever-present Robinson who threw another short inside pass to Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu and the big centre coasted over near the posts to provide his team-mate with a simple conversion.

The second came straight out of the textbook as the Gloucester backs once again put width on the ball until reaching Charlie Sharples on the wing, and Sharples had no problem exploiting the overlap and crossing over the line, with Robinson once more converting. Newcastle though were not ready to bow out just yet, and Ally Hogg picked up the ball from the base of the scrum, and in the process of handing off the Gloucester defender, slipped a neat offload to Hall Charlton who ducked under a tackle before playing a simple pass to Luke Eves, and the winger dived over to get the Falcons on the scoreboard.

Click here for the official view from the Newcastle Falcons

The game though was not quite over yet, as Gloucester formed a maul deep inside the Falcons 22, and then drove it through the tired Newcastle defence and over the line, with Darren Dawidiuk, the replacement hooker, claiming the try. The man of the match award went to Nicky Robinson, and there was unlikely to have been a single fan in the stadium who disagreed with the choice, the fly-half ran the show for Gloucester and didn’t put a foot wrong all game, a performance which will have Wasps fans excited to see what he can do in the black and gold next season. With the final score 34-7 to Gloucester, the journey back down the motorway will be a pleasant one for the Cherry and Whites supporters, however it is important for the players to stay focused on the Premiership now, and continue their encouraging push up the table. As for the Falcons, this loss, although expected by many, will provide them with a tough challenge to overcome as they will need to ensure this morale damaging defeat doesn’t affect their fight against relegation.

Gloucester coach Bryan Redpath:
“The players stuck to a lot of basics. I thought Nicky’s kicking to that bottom right-hand corner was exceptional and it just frustrated Newcastle.
“It gave us a bit of strength and then we took our opportunities. I am delighted for the players and the staff. I am absolutely chuffed to bits for everybody involved with the club.
“The players should be happy about winning something because we set our sights to get as high as we can in the Premiership and win a competition.
“We’ve done that and now the challenge is left to push on in the Premiership and make sure we keep growing as a side and learn from tough days.”

Click here for each side’s road to the final
Newcastle head coach Alan Tait:
“I shook Bryan’s hand after the game and the first thing I said to him was ‘it was probably a job too far for us’.
“Full credit to what they are doing at Gloucester. They looked the part even in the warm-up. They are a good outfit.
“Obviously 10 games on the bounce is no mean feat, but we got stuck into the game and I still thought we had a bit of a chance at half-time because I knew we were still strong.
“We just didn’t play in the right areas and when they got us to 20-0 we started to play the old Barbarians stuff that doesn’t really work at this level.
“We have got to be happy to get to the final and it was great experience for our younger players.”
Gloucester: Morgan; Sharples, Molenaar, Fuimaono-Sapolu, Voyce; Robinson, Pasqualin; Wood, Azam, Harden; Hamilton, Brown; Qera, Hazell, Narraway.
Replacements: Burns for Morgan (60), Trinder for Molenaar (56), Taylor for Fuimaono-Sapolu (74), Dawidiuk for Azam (78), Knight for Harden (71), James for Hamilton (64), Cox for Hazell (41).
Newcastle: A. Tait, Fielden, Tu’ipulotu, Fitzpatrick, Eves, Gopperth, Young, Golding, Thompson, Brookes, Hudson, Van der Heijden, Swinson, B. Wilson, Hogg.
Replacements: Catterick for Fielden (61), Bobo for Fitzpatrick (53), Charlton for Young (69), Shiels for Golding (65), Vickers for Thompson (46), Hall for Brookes (68), M. Wilson for van der Heijden (62), Levi for Swinson (71).
Att: 6,848
Ref: Dave Pearson (RFU).