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'Wasn't complete horror show': Gloucester verdict on 35-point loss

By PA
(Photo by PA)

Gloucester head coach George Skivington readily acknowledged Leinster’s quality and status at the top end of European rugby after his team suffered a 49-14 Heineken Champions Cup defeat. Leinster cruised into the tournament’s round of 16, scoring seven tries on their way to a third successive bonus-point pool win as Gloucester suffered a record home loss in top-flight European competition.

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“I have definitely not seen us have to deal with an attacking threat like that. The speed and accuracy they had definitely caught us out,” Skivington said following the second Gloucester loss to Leinster in the past four weeks. “They scored three tries off first-phase play – they had us all over the place a few times.

“We know how clinical Leinster are with their plays, it’s just very different when they are put in front of you and have got three guys running great lines. There are some good learnings for us as a team. If you are that accurate and you can do it at that speed, you are going to blow people away.

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“We have been very good defensively this year, but that was a step up. We couldn’t get a foothold in the game, barring a couple of penalty tries. There was some good stuff – it wasn’t a complete horror show. The scoreline wouldn’t look great without watching the game, but there were a few good bits in there.”

Four-time European champions Leinster were never seriously threatened at Kingsholm as they followed up a 57-0 victory over Gloucester before Christmas with another comprehensive success.

The Irish heavyweights secured a bonus point by half-time through tries from wing Jordan Larmour, prop Michael Ala’alatoa, centre Jamie Osborne and number eight Caelan Doris. Fly-half Ross Byrne converted all four scores and, although Gloucester claimed two penalty tries from collapsed mauls, it was damage limitation from an early stage.

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Leinster full-back Hugo Keenan crossed early in the second period for a try that Byrne again converted, then flanker Josh van der Flier and hooker Ronan Kelleher touched down, with replacement Harry Byrne adding two conversions.

With eight teams qualifying from each of the two pools, though, Gloucester could still reach the Champions Cup knockout phase if they beat Bordeaux-Begles in France next weekend. Skivington added: “We are still in a position (to qualify) and we will get ready for Bordeaux. I am excited about it, but we are going to have to have a better start than we did today.”

For Leinster, it is already a case of mission accomplished in terms of progressing from their group and a record-equalling fifth European title is certainly not beyond them on current form. Head coach Leo Cullen said: “It was a pleasing win. There was some good variety in our play. Gloucester had their moments in the game and they didn’t make life easy for us, so there is plenty for us to get better at, but it was a good day for us.”

Cullen also had praise for 21-year-old centre Osborne, who deservedly claimed the player-of-the-match award. “He is just getting better all the time,” Cullen added. “He is still incredibly young and you can see the natural ability that he has. He had some really outstanding moments in the game.”

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