Gloucester’s Shed erupted with joy as local boy Charlie Chapman scored the bonus-point try looking dazed with delight as his side moved to fourth in the Premiership table as Bristol were condemned to their sixth Premiership loss this season.
The Bristol players may have been welcomed by a chorus of boos from the Kingsholm faithful due to the historical intensity of this West Country derby, but there was a far more convivial atmosphere between the coaching staff with Gloucester’s head coach George Skivington chatting happily with the visitors’ director of rugby Pat Lam.
After the match Skivington revealed that Lam offered him help last season when he was bedding into his new role and his side were struggling and thanked the opposition coach on BT Sport.
“I have to say thanks to Pat because when things weren’t going our way last year. Pat actually offered some time to me and I took him up on it. He was brilliant,” said Skivington. “He gave me a boost of confidence. Some of the stuff he said about systems was absolute gold for me and hopefully the team.”
Gloucester managed to grab a stranglehold on the game via their set piece, defence which was marshalled with expertise by Scottish Lion Chris Harris and backed up by gritty work on the deck by man of the match blindside Ruan Ackermann. The baying crowd also played their part.
Skivington, who celebrated his 39th birthday with the win, praised his side’s unity.
“Hopefully it gets the supporters excited and we still know we have a long way to go but I am pleased with that part of how we are – how tight the boys are and how much this means to them,” he said.
It was a first half for praising defence. Harris’s centre partner Mark Atkinson, who made his England debut this autumn, was also impressive in the defensive effort.
In Gloucester’s previous outings this season, almost 80 per cent of their tries have come from the back of line-outs and this trend continued as hooker Jack Singleton pushed over off the back of a driving maul just short of 40 minutes giving them an 8-3 lead.
With fog descending over the hybrid pitch the second half started with the introduction of one of Bristol’s galacticos – Semi Radradra. The Fijian was making his first appearance of the season as a replacement for Alapati Leiua. Radradra was injured en route to winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. It was ominous for Gloucester as within minutes Radradra linked up well with Piutau off the back of a good clearance from their talismanic former All Black Steven Luatua to create a try for former Gloucester wing Henry Purdy, putting them ahead for the first time.
However, Gloucester took their chances brilliantly against the run of play as they were awarded a penalty, opted for a scrum and off the back of it Atkinson and Harris showed they were also capable of attacking magic. The Englishman set the Scot up to run in between the posts to take the hosts back ahead.
Bristol were frustrated and collapsed a Gloucester maul close to the line, which led to a penalty try and saw Dan Thomas sent off. The Shed were in a state of ecstasy as replacement scrum-half Chapman ran over in the corner for a 79th-minute try.
Lam added: “The frustration is that we cannot get into our game. We talked all week about trying to get in behind them. The space was there but we got caught in behind them. We spent a lot of time giving them momentum.”