Gloucester clinch first trophy in nine years

March 16, 2024 9:10 am

[Source: BBC]

Gloucester claimed their first trophy in nine years in front of a roaring Kingsholm as they beat Leicester Tigers in the Premiership Rugby Cup final.

Handre Pollard kicked two penalties to one from Lloyd Evans before the Tigers unravelled with two players in the bin.

Seb Atkinson and Cam Jordan ran in scores and two George Barton penalties stretched the lead to 23-6.

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Hanro Liebenberg scored with five minutes left in a late burst, but it was too late for a Leicester comeback.

The win meant Gloucester – who won all of their six matches in the competition – are the first club to win all three iterations of the domestic tournament having taken the RFU Knockout Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup in their history. This is their first trophy since the European Challenge Cup win in 2015.

In a unique season that has included the World Cup and an ongoing break for the Premiership due to the Six Nations, the cup was revamped for the 2023-24 season.

Championship sides were involved for the first time with the pool stages held from September to October before the semi-finals last month.

Yet with this being the first competitive fixture for both clubs in four weeks, the matchday rustiness was visible as a sluggish pace and unforced errors littered the first half.

Gloucester fly-half Barton missed the first chance to put points on the board from the penalty tee.

Tigers scrum-half Tom Whiteley then found a gap and ran into open space, only to get dragged down in sight of the line as he tried to go around the outside of last defender Evans.

The score remained 0-0 after 20 minutes until Pollard finally broke the deadlock with two penalties to put Leicester 6-0 up.

Despite having most of the possession in the first half Gloucester often looked unsure, but after having a scrum dragged down they kicked to touch and made their dominance pay.

After the third time of the Tigers being penalised as Gloucester pushed forward, Fin Theobald-Thomas was shown a yellow card and Evans’ penalty made it 6-3 at the break.

With the man advantage to start the second half Gloucester came out motivated.

Zach Mercer broke the line and while the referee and TMO waved away Gloucester’s claims for a try from the maul, Mike Brown was sent to the bin in the fallout, reducing Tigers to 13 and ultimately leaving them with a task too big to overcome.

Mercer fumbled the ball at the first restart from five metres out, but Gloucester won the following scrum and Atkinson ran through, before Barton’s conversion put the Cherry and Whites ahead.

A terrible restart from Pollard gave the ball straight to the hosts who sprinted forward in a three-on-two but picked the wrong pass and fell short. This time Jordan powered over from the scrum and opened the gap to 14 points.

The Leicester errors kept coming and Barton kicked his first penalty – between another two misses – as the clock ran down.

Leicester finally applied some pressure on the Gloucester try-line inside the final 10 minutes and Liebenberg scrambled over.

They came punching straight back to set up a nervous finale but the Gloucester defence held firm to drag Emeka Ilione into touch and send Kingsholm bouncing.