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Bloodied Gloucester make dramatic winning start to life after Cipriani

By PA
(Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Gloucester put Danny Cipriani’s departure from the club well and truly behind them as they recorded a stunning 38-34 Heineken Champions Cup victory over Ulster. 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.

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England international Cipriani left Gloucester with immediate effect earlier this week, ending a two-and-a-half-year stint in the west country. And how Gloucester responded, delivering arguably their best performance under head coach George Skivington just six days after they were routed 55-10 by Lyon.

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.

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The Burns brothers Freddie and Billy guest on RugbyPass Offload

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The Burns brothers Freddie and Billy guest on RugbyPass Offload

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. Gloucester revived hopes of progressing in this season’s tournament, but Ulster are pretty much down and out following two defeats.

Skivington made 12 changes from the side crushed by Lyon, with only full-back Kyle Moyle, prop Ciaran Knight and captain Lewis Ludlow remaining. Burns, meanwhile, was among four switches in an Ulster side that also saw a start for Ireland back-row forward Jordi Murphy.

 

Gloucester showed no sign of any hangover from their drubbing in Lyon, and they went ahead in the seventh minute through a cleverly-crafted try. Centre Chris Harris made initial ground, then full-back Kyle Moyle cut a superb attacking angle before Rees-Zammit applied a quality finish on his return to club colours following Wales’ Autumn Nations Cup campaign.

Evans converted from the touchline, but it proved a short-lived advantage as Ulster drew level from their first attack. Impressive phase play tested Gloucester’s defence before Burns skipped through a huge gap from 10 metres out to touch down against his former club, with Cooney converting.

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Evans restored Gloucester’s advantage through a short-range penalty before Ulster paid a hefty price for collapsing successive mauls close to their line. Referee Alex Ruiz sin-binned hooker Rob Herring for the first one, then lock Alan O’Connor received a yellow card after he pulled down the next one, with Gloucester awarded a penalty try and Ulster temporarily down to 13 men.

But Gloucester could capitalise on their numerical advantage, failing to score a point before both Ulster forward returned. Cooney kicked a penalty to cut a gap, and he also had a penalty chance from just inside his own half, but the ball fell over as he ran up, and with the allocated kicking time expired, Gloucester were awarded a scrum.

Burns made another break on the stroke of half-time, but Gloucester snuffed out the danger and took a 17-10 lead into the interval. Gloucester, with early sunshine being replaced by driving rain, took just two minutes of the second period to extend their lead.

And again it was their forwards that did the damage, relentlessly driving a close-range lineout before Atkinson joined the charge and touched down for a try that Evans converted via the crossbar into the face of a gusting wind.

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Ulster needed a response, and it arrived eight minutes later when their backs carved open Gloucester’s defence and Lowry applied an outstanding finish. Cooney’s conversion cut the gap to seven points. It got even better for Ulster approaching the hour-mark when they gained a penalty try following a deliberate knock-on by Rees-Zammit.

It meant the Gloucester wing was sin-binned and Ulster gained seven points following lengthy debate between Ruiz and television match official Rowan Kitt. Cooney then scored a try that he converted, before a second penalty try for Gloucester was awarded after substitute Ethan McIlroy deliberately knocked on and became his team’s third player to be yellow-carded, then Barton struck.

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Shaylen 49 minutes ago
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If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 6 hours ago
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