Full time: London Irish 22 Gloucester 29By Jonathan Low
December 08, 2012
London Irish 22 Gloucester 29
Brian Smith slammed his side's defence after they let slip a 22-9 lead in this afternoon's Amlin Challenge Cup defeat to Gloucester.
The Exiles ultimately went down 29-22 at Madejski Stadium, and Smith was left fuming with his side's inability to hold on to their advantage.
Exiles' director of rugby said: "The bottom line is our defence has let us down.
"You just don't go up 22-9, it's unforgivable and we've really blown a great opportunity.
"Now we're vulnerable and given ourselves a lot of work to do.
"It was a bit of a groundhog day experience because it's the second time we've played them this season.
"On the opening day we scored three tries and found a way to lose that game and we've done the same today which is very disappointing.
He added: "To get 13 points clear should have been enough, but we relaxed and got caught out.
"We got a few tough breaks in the second half and a decision or two could have gone our way but we've got to put our hands up because we missed too many tackles in the second half.
"I think we made the mistake of thinking we had the game won with 20 minutes to go and it's cost us dearly.
"It's very disappointing," said Smith.
"We should have been able to maintain enough workrate and hold them out, but they scored too easily in the second half.
"We've got to sort that out very quickly."
Irish now trail Gloucester by two points in Pool 1, but they have the opportunity to take revenge when they play them once more, at Kingsolm next weekend in the reverse fixture.
A win is a necessity if they want to progress in the competition.
The Exiles failed to make the most of excellent starts to both the first and second half, when Sailosi Tagicakibau in the first and Halani Aulika in the second went over.
However, Gloucester never let the home side run away with their advantage, and they gradually worked their way back into the game.
A fine spell midway into the second half arguably turned the game, as Dan Murphy and then Freddie Burns both went over within six minutes of each other to give Gloucester the lead for the first time.
And they were to hold on to that lead for the rest of the match.
Irish could not find a way through and despite retaining possession for the final minutes, they were unable to unlock a terrific Gloucester defence.
The Exiles had a perfect opening few moments when centre Tagicakibau burst through the Gloucester defence after just two minutes to give his side the lead.
It was the confidence boost which the team needed, and with Ian Humphreys converting, Irish were 7-0 ahead.
Gloucester's centre Freddie Burns, who had an outstanding match for Nigel Davies' side, then kicked the first of his four penalties.
Irish then missed a golden opportunity to extend their lead, but Sailosi Tagicakbau failed to pick up Ofisa Treviranus' pass out wide on the right and the moment was gone.
The two sides then exchanged penalties and Humphreys missed another to make the score 10-6, and a frentic two minutes just before half time resulted in Anthony Watson breaking clear, but he was bought down by Gareth Evans.
Another Freddie Burns penalty brought Gloucester within one point of Irish just after the restart, but a Halani Aulika try extended the home side's advantage.
And Anthony Watson then scored a superb breakaway down the left touchline try to increase further the lead for the Exiles - 22-9.
However, Dan Murphy and then Freddie Burns capped a fine six minutes for Gloucester, as they worked their way back into the game, and were in the lead for the first time at 23-22.
Irish began to look jaded and shaky at the back, with Gloucester upping their game to devastating effect.
Burns then added another penalty to make it 29-22 with seven minutes remaining, and saw out the game, despite some sustained pressure from the Exiles in the final few minutes.
It was a defeat which will hurt Irish, but there is the perfect chance to claim revenge in seven days' time.
London Irish: Homer, Ojo, Joseph, Tagicakibau, Watson, Humphreys, Allinson, Lahiff, Paice, Aulika, Evans, Garvey, Danaher (c), Gibson, Treviranus.
Gloucester: Thomas, Sharples, Molenaar, Burns, Monahan, Taylor, Robson, Wood, Dawidiuk, Knight, Savage, Hamilton (c), Kalamafoni, Cox, Evans.