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Lewis Ludlow: 'It was always going to be a tough ask' against world champs

By PA
Lewis Ludlow of Gloucester looks dejected after his side's final defeat. Photo by Gaspafotos/MB Media/Getty Images

Gloucester captain Lewis Ludlow admitted his side had been overpowered by the Sharks in their 36-22 victory in the Challenge Cup final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

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Santiago Socino and Freddie Clarke ran in late tries to give Gloucester scoreboard respectability but they were well beaten after being outmuscled by the South Africans’ pack.

“We’re gutted but also proud of what we’ve done this season. We’ve been through some rocky games and rough patches but we’ve always stayed tight as a squad,” Ludlow said.

“We understand we were beaten by the better side, there’s no other way to look at it. They played really well and took it almost to Test match level.

“They’ve got a lot of players who have been there and done it and most of them have won two World Cups.

“It was always going to be a tough ask but I’m extremely proud of the very young side we had out there.”

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The scrum was a weapon for the Sharks with the foundations laid by the ‘Bomb Squad’ front row combination of Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Vincent Koch.

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“Once they got dominance at scrum it didn’t matter what we did, we couldn’t get parity there and that made it pretty hard,” Gloucester boss George Skivington said.

“The boys did a good job and fought hard. That pack and that front row have dominated some of the bet scrums in world rugby. We’ve got a good scrum in the Premiership, but it just wasn’t good enough here.

“They have serious firepower and ironically what we saw from them is not how they’ve been playing their rugby throughout the season.

“They tightened everything up and do what South Africans do very very well at international level. They squeezed us very well.”

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The Sharks became the first South African side to win a European title and head coach John Plumtree insisted this has been done despite the odds being stacked the newcomers to continental action.

“This is not an easy competition for the South African teams at all. There’s a lot of travelling and for me it’s not high performance at the moment,” Plumtree said.

“We’re in it and competing well but there’s a lot of logistical stuff that needs to be sorted out.

“This is our fourth trip up here and we’ve been away from home for three months of the season. That’s not a level playing field.”

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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Comments

2 Comments
C
Craig 29 days ago

Defence was fantastic.

F
Flankly 29 days ago

There was comprehensive scrum dominance, and that was the foundation of a convincing win.

For those that think scrums are an uninteresting part of the game, this was good evidence to the contrary. You got the feeling that Gloucester were contained by the knowledge that errors can lead to scrums, which lead to penalties, which lead to points or very challenging defensive lineouts, and perhaps equally challenging mauls. It’s hard to forge a win when you are haunted by the threat of relentless set piece dominance.

But that was not the whole story of the game. The Sharks also delivered aggressive gainline defense, electric attacks out wide (with constant threats of line breaks as well as clever tactical kicks), metronomic kicking of points, and a passion to apply pressure through the final whistle.

For those that have been wondering how a team with the obvious talent and experience that the Sharks have assembled could be as unproductive as they have generally been this season, this was a moment of some resolution and hope.

Playing like that, the Sharks could be a legitimate URC and Champions Cup contender next year.

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