Gloucester Rugby claimed a dramatic 38-34 victory over Ulster in an enthralling clash at Kingsholm in round 2 of the Heineken Champions Cup on Saturday night.
An 85th minute try from replacement fly-half George Barton secured his side a famous victory in Europe after scores from Louis Rees-Zammit and Mark Atkinson as well as two penalty tries.
Ulster scored 24 unanswered points during the second half until Barton’s vital score and an immense defensive performance saw the hosts show resilience to win their first game in Europe this season.
Rugby reporter Charlie Hynes takes a closer look at the individual performances from a historic victory for the Cherry and Whites:
15. Kyle Moyle – 7
Moyle has pace to burn and threatened the Ulster defence as he lurked on his teammate’s shoulders for offloads such as in the build-up of Gloucester’s first try. He came through on a great line off Chris Harris’ shoulder to work his way through the Ulster 22 before being brought down short.
The Cornishman made 75 metres from 71 first half metres as well as making three offloads and one clean break. He showed his desire to put his body on the line for his side as he took a courageous high ball late on which saw him flip horizontally but keep hold of the ball and recycle it for Gloucester.
14. Charlie Sharples – 6
Sharples was starved of ball on the wing but worked hard and put his body on the line for his side. He made a good defensive contribution which included a good one-on-one first half tackle on his own line to prevent an Ulster score. The long-time servant of the Cherry and Whites worked hard sprinting up and down his wing like a racehorse chasing the box kicks of Charlie Chapman to put pressure on the Ulster back field.
13. Chris Harris – 8
The return of Harris into the midfield after international duty gave Gloucester that star quality that they have been needing at outside centre.
The Scot showed his strong ball carrying early on that had proved a successful weapon at the end of last season, as he made a half break to set the wheels in motion for Gloucester’s opening score.
Harris looked dangerous whenever he had the ball in hand creating numerous dangerous attacks, including when he swept up a Billy Burns chip in behind the Gloucester defence and cut through a gap in the Ulster line. Overall, Harris made 52 metres this evening with 42 of those metres coming in the first half alone.
12. Mark Atkinson – 8
The inside centre was a key part of Gloucester back line as he was used as a device to truck up good ball off first phase to try and create tempo to their play. He produced a magnificent looping pass over the Ulster defence out wide to give Louis Rees-Zammit an opportunity to charge for the line.
There is also no doubt that Atkinson will be on the receiving end of some comments from his forward pack as he poached a well worked mauling try early in the second half. This was a good recovery after being caught out in the defensive line for Ulster’s opening score.
11. Louis Rees-Zammit – 7
The young Gloucester starlet showed a remarkable ability to perform after coming straight back into the Cherry and Whites side after being away with Wales on international duty.
His day started perfectly as six minutes in he finished off a great move in the corner, showing great strength as he carried two covering Ulster defenders over the line.
However, Rees-Zammit’s most valuable contribution may have come late on as he got the ball in hand and glided across the pitch and towards the Ulster line. His first attempt put Gloucester in a great position and then the second saw him just loose control as he went for the line. Many may feel the youngster should have opted to pass the second time but his willingness to back his own abilities in key moments is great to see.
10. Lloyd Evans – 8
If anyone watching from home had a Danny Cipriani related bingo card in the game, they would have surely completed it with the comments from BT Sport’s commentary team every time Evans seemed to get the ball.
The fly-half showed that he is not living in the shadow of his former teammate and is the future of this Gloucester side going forward. He managed the game well and looked to take the game to Ulster as he attacked the line to create space for his dangerous runners out wide.
His work in defence was commendable as he made nine tackles, the joint most of any Gloucester back, as well as tracking back to sweep up a dangerous ball that had been hacked through by John Cooney who was in pursuit.
Evans’ kicking put Gloucester in good territorial positions and was very accomplished from the tee with four successful kicks including one which bounce off the crossbar. His key involvement game with a great amount of composure as he gave young replacement George Barton space to dive over for the winning score.
9. Charlie Chapman – 8
The 22-year-old showed experience beyond his years as he brought a sense of organisation to an enthralling encounter. Chapman looked to dictate the play with his quick and accurate passing from the base of the ruck to add tempo to Gloucester’s game and utilise their strong ball carriers. His kicking from the base was also exemplary showing fine precision to hit touch and give his wingers good ball to chase.
1. Val Rapava-Ruskin – 8
The loosehead proved a danger at the breakdown from the off as he made a good turnover to put his side in an early ascendancy. He made three turnovers throughout the game but did get caught out on occasions by referee Alexandre Ruiz.
A force with ball in hand as well including a strong carry from a well designed line out move.
The Gloucester scrum also held firm as they won all six off their own ball and one from Ulster’s feed.
2. Jack Singleton – 7
Singleton backed up the decision for Gloucester to sign him on a permanent basis as he gave his side a solid base at the lineout with some accurate throwing. Got exposed for speed by the Ulster backs in defence on a couple of occasions.
3. Ciaran Knight – 7
Knight was part of the Gloucester pack that bullied the forwards of their Irish opposition on occasions with strong lineout drives which resulted in one of Gloucester’s penalty tries.
The tight head prop made 10 tackles throughout, including a great individual tackle on the line as he got low to prevent an Ulster score.
4. Ed Slater – 7
Slater remains a consistent and reliable member of Gloucester’s play with his dependable lineout work as well as ability to get around the park and make tackles. He was unlucky early on as he showed good hands from the top of the lineout to put Rapava-Ruskin through a gap in the middle of the lineout, only for the pass to be deemed forward. During the game, Slater made an immense 15 tackles.
5. Matias Alemanno – 8
The Argentine giant was an absolute monster in defence for the Cherry and Whites as he made an incredible 18 tackles in his 62 minutes on the field, 13 of which came in the first half.
He looks to be a fine acquisition for the West Countryside and slotted straight back into the side after time away with Argentina in the Tri Nations.
6. Jordy Reid – 7
Reid is a player that may not provide flash moments for his side but will more than make up for that with his defensive work rate. He proved a warrior for Gloucester with nine first half tackles and a great individual defensive effort on his own line 57 minutes with Ulster piled on the pressure blood pouring down his face whilst putting his body on the line.
7. Lewis Ludlow – 9
‘Captain Fantastic’ is a very fitting way to describe the performance of the Cherry and Whites skipper.
Ludlow was immense for his side today as he put in some bruising hits on the Ulstermen. He made 16 tackles as he led by example, the most notable was a beautifully timed and earth shattering hit on Ireland winger Jacob Stockdale.
His disruption of the Ulster lineout gave his side vital ball at times such as his steal when Ulster were camped on the Gloucester line. A sensational and complete performance from the captain that he will hope his side can build on in the coming weeks.
8. Ruan Ackermann – 6
The South African used his wrecking ball like ability to try and get his side over the gain line with 10 carries making 18 metres. Eight of those carries came in the first half.
He was partly responsible for the opening Ulster score as he didn’t get off the line quick enough which left the gap for Billy Burns to go in unopposed.
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16. Henry Walker – 8
17. Alex Seville – 6
18. Jamal Ford-Robinson – 6
19. Alex Craig – 6
20. Seb Nagle-Taylor – 7
21. Toby Venner – 6
22. George Barton – 7
23. Henry Trinder – 6
George Skivington put his faith in his replacements as all the momentum appeared to be with the visitors. This decision paid off as they added a fresh feel to proceedings.
Last week’s star Seb Nagle-Taylor was a force to be reckoned with once again as he made 29 metres from only three carries. 20-year-old George Barton was another star from the Lyon game and came on to get the decisive score as he showed a good turn of pace and finishing ability from short range to send the 2,000 Cherry and Whites supporters into hysterics.
Replacement hooker Henry Walker showed some incredible nerve to hit two late lineouts with the clock in the red to give his side a lifeline in the match and in Europe.
Elsewhere, young scrum half Toby Venner came on for his debut and looked composed at the crucial moments late on.