Gloucester whitewash ends Ospreys EDF title

Gloucester ended the Ospreys’ reign as EDF Energy Cup holders with a 17-0 victory that was based on their defensive resolve in today’s opening semi-final at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.

Gloucester soaked up long periods of pressure and were often tested by the attacking skills of the Ospreys’ Wales winger Shane Williams, but they did not crack under pressure.

Instead they made the most of their own attacking chances, nudged into a lead through three penalties and a dropped goal from Ryan Lamb and sealed victory when former England wing Iain Balshaw went three-quarters the length of the pitch for a 75th minute interception try.

It was far from a perfect performance from Gloucester who struggled for a platform in the scrums and who were disrupted by injuries to Mike Tindall (knee) and James Simpson-Daniel (thigh) in the first half.

But they kept their defensive shape well, grew in confidence and booked their trio to Twickenham on April 18.

“I thought it was just an outstanding defensive display,” said Gloucester’s director of rugby Dean Ryan.

“We have been criticised in the past for trying to play too much rugby in these situations but we showed a lot of maturity to stay in the game.”

Full-back Olly Morgan took the man-of-the-match award for his calmness at the back of Gloucester’s defensive barrier and he shared the views of his coach.

“Defence coaches that defence wins games and that was proved today,” Morgan said. “Our discipline was good in certain areas, James Hook missed a few at the sticks and things went our way today.”

Hook’s two missed first half penalties had a major bearing in such a tight game, but the Ospreys were guilty of failing to take penalty chances when they came along.

Though Williams was a “constant thorn in our side” according to Ryan, the Ospreys were unable to finish off some of the most promising attacks sparked by the Welsh wing.

Heavy showers throughout the game made the ball slippery and contributed to the high error count but Gloucester played a more pragmatic game in the conditions.

Number eight Gareth Delve, who missed Wales’ Six Nations campaign because of a knee injury, took his chance to impress against his compatriots and he was a close challenger to Morgan for the man-of-the-match award.

“Today was a huge game for Gareth against ten or eleven of their Six Nations squad,” Ryan said.

“If the Lions’ selectors are looking for something beyond that, then he is something to consider.”

Gloucester took a second minute lead when Morgan was obstructed after he chipped ahead and Lamb slotted the penalty.

But most of an error-riddled first half belonged to the Ospreys who used the pace and flair of Williams and Gavin Henson to pin Gloucester in their own territory.

The pressure came to nothing, however, because Hook was unable to find the target with two penalty attempts, the first a relatively straightforward effort, the second from far out on the right after Gloucester’s defence had been stretched.

Gloucester suffered a setback when Tindall, their captain, hobbled off to be replaced by former Wales international Matthew Watkins.

The Ospreys suffered a blow of their own when full-back Henson was helped off three minutes before the break after he received treatment.

Having absorbed the pressure, Gloucester ended the half on the attack but a kick through from Lamb ran dead and the fly-half was then wide of the target with a kickable penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Another heavy shower during the interval made handling conditions difficult but that did not prevent Williams opening the second period with a jinking run.

The winger was unable to retain possession and Lamb countered with a chip and chase from defence and a raking kick that put Ospreys winger Tommy Bowe, a member of Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning squad, under pressu

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