George Skivington saluted his Gloucester players’ professionalism after they recorded a stirring 38-34 Heineken Champions Cup victory over Ulster at Kingsholm. Just four days after England international Danny Cipriani left the west country club, Gloucester put the episode well and truly behind them to keep alive hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.

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“Anything like that, a player leaving under any circumstances can always be a distraction,” Gloucester head coach Skivington said following the abrupt Cipriani exit. “But the boys are professional rugby players, and their job is to get out on the pitch and play well. They have all spoken to Danny and wished him well, but they have got on with the job in hand.”

John Cooney looked to have inspired a memorable Ulster victory, but Gloucester triumphed through substitute fly-half George Barton’s try five minutes into stoppage time in front of an ecstatic 2,000 crowd.

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Gloucester delivered arguably their best performance under Skivington just six days after they were routed 55-10 by Lyon in France. Gloucester conceded 17 points while their Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin, and it looked like proving costly until Barton came up trumps.

Ulster saw touch downs by Cooney, full-back Michael Lowry and their former Gloucester fly-half Billy Burns, in addition to a penalty try, while Cooney added three conversions and two penalties. Gloucester had two penalty tries, with Barton, Rees-Zammit and centre Mark Atkinson touching down, while fly-half Lloyd Evans kicked three conversions and a penalty.

 

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Skivington praised the contributions of Evans and Barton, adding: “They did exactly what I thought they would do. “They both want to develop, and backs coach Alex King has got a good hold on them and he is teaching them the tricks of the trade.

“It is no surprise to me that Lloyd managed that game pretty well, and no surprise that George comes on and is composed and delivers right at the end.”

Gloucester trailed by ten points with five minutes left, but they dug deep to claim a stunning win and effectively end Ulster’s last-eight ambitions following their loss to Toulouse last week. Skivington said: “We are not exactly where we want to be yet, and there will be plenty of jinks in the road.

“It was a tough old game. Ulster are a quality outfit. The maul was a strong point for us, and our defence was outstanding. When you are playing quality teams like Ulster, you might get a little lead, but teams always fight their way back. But we stayed on task, and the players were organised and backed each other up right until the end.

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“The most important thing is what happens on the pitch. We stayed in the fight right until the end. We are very much attacking every game. We are definitely hoping to qualify, and everyone is managing their squads the way they see fit.”

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