Gloucester ran in six tries on their way to recording a 45-8 victory over Munster at Kingsholm this afternoon. It was a day for new combinations for the province, a new coaching ticket, a new kit and debuts for eleven of Munster's young guns.
PRE-SEASON FRIENDLY: Saturday, August 23
GLOUCESTER 45 MUNSTER 8, Kingsholm
Scorers: Gloucester: Tries: Penalty try, Billy Twelvetrees, Matt Kvesic 2, Elliott Stooke 2; Cons: James Hook 2, Billy Burns; Pens: James Hook 3
Munster: Try: Cian Bohane; Pen: Johnny Holland
Gloucester fielded a strong team which included household names like John Afoa, Greg Laidlaw, Billy Twelvetrees and Richard Hibbard, and all were eager to impress in front of a 12,719-strong crowd.
Despite their new and experimental look, the Munster side were not far off the mark at the interval. With a stacked penalty count against them and a man in the sin-bin, the Anthony Foley-coached visitors were only 10 points behind a superior Gloucester outfit at half-time.
But with little possession and a straining defensive effort the Cherry and Whites took advantage and opened Munster up during the closing 40 minutes, crossing the whitewash on five occasions.
The Gloucester pack secured the opening score after they were awarded a penalty try by referee Greg Garner after six minutes of play and out-half James Hook added the extras. The hosts were dominant in the set piece and were awarded a free kick, opting to reset on two further occasions before Garner halted proceedings in favour of the hosts.
Hook added a penalty six minutes later to extend the lead and thankfully Munster were able to stay within reach when Gloucester were unable to complete a number of attacking phases, let down by their final pass.
The English Premiership club also crossed the line for two try-scoring opportunities but Jonny May's attempt was pulled back for a forward pass from scrum half Laidlaw, while Ben Morgan was unable to control the ball on grounding.
Ivan Dineen was yellow carded for a tackle on Hook before the break, in what look liked a harsh decision but, with an 8-3 penalty count against Munster and little possession, Foley's charges were always on the back foot.
Johnny Holland(pictured above) kicked Munster's first points at the start of the second half but with an immediate reply from Hook Gloucester quickly restored their 10-point advantage.
Minutes later the Welsh out-half added his third penalty for 16-3 before the Cherry and Whites advanced to full-attack mode ably led by the centre partnership of Henry Trinder and captain Twelvetrees.
Twelvetrees was first to cross the whitewash after 50 minutes, with Hook converting, before the driving maul set up openside flanker Matt Kvesic for the next two, and then replacement Elliott Stoope completed Gloucester's scoring sequence when he claimed the last two tries. Billy Burns took over kicking duties and added one conversion.
There was little consolation for Munster when Cian Bohane added a late try in the 79th minute after John Ryan and Niall Horan found space and some decent attacking momentum.
Commenting after his first game as head coach, Anthony Foley said: "We showed a lot of enthusiasm and a solid work-rate, but we lacked accuracy and we couldn't keep possession of the ball.
"It was a big learning exercise for our young lads out there today and I thought they acquitted themselves quite well physically.
"We need to learn how to control the game and how to maintain possession of the ball, and build pressure in the opposition's territory, so we have areas to work on."
GLOUCESTER: Rob Cook, Charlie Sharples, Henry Trinder, Billy Twelvetrees (capt), Jonny May; James Hook, Greig Laidlaw; Dan Murphy, Richard Hibbard, John Afoa, Tom Savage, James Hudson, Sione Kalamafoni, Matt Kvesic, Ben Morgan.
Replacements: Darren Dawidiuk, Yann Thomas, Sila Paufisi; Elliott Stooke, Jacob Rowan, Callum Braley, Billy Burns, Stevie McColl, Tom Palmer, Ross Moriarty, Henry Purdy, Shane Monahan, Mark Atkinson, Tom Isaacs.
MUNSTER: Stephen Fitzgerald; Ronan O'Mahony, Cian Bohane, Ivan Dineen, Darren Sweetnam; Johnny Holland, Duncan Williams; Alan Cotter, Ger Slattery, BJ Botha, Donncha O'Callaghan (capt), Sean McCarthy, Shane Buckley, Barry O'Mahony, CJ Stander.
Replacements used: Cathal Sheridan for Williams, John Ryan for Cotter, Kevin O'Byrne for Slattery (all half-time), Rory Scannell for Dineen, John Madigan for Stander (56 mins), Ryan Murphy for B O'Mahony, David Johnston for Holland (both 63), Niall Horan for Botha (66), Greg O'Shea for Fitzgerald (68), Ned Hodson for Sweetnam, Ryan Foley for Sheridan (both 77).
It will be an all-Irish affair at the GUINNESS PRO12 final on Saturday as, after 22 rounds of tough competition, the two teams that finished top of the table after the regular season - Leinster and Connacht - will face each other at the iconic BT Murrayfield.