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Gloucester and Edinburgh given golden chance to escape their mid-table anonymity

29 Apr | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Gloucester and Edinburgh given golden chance to escape their mid-table anonymity

Alex Spink says there is no shortage of incentive for both to win Friday's Twickenham Stoop showpiece - but takes Gloucester to triumph.

FOR the third time in four years Gloucester are set to finish the English Premiership season down amongst the dead men – ninth of 12 competing clubs.

The Cherry and Whites have an impressive stadium, fanatical supporters and a decent sprinkling of international playing talent. You would not know it from glancing at the Kingsholm trophy cabinet.

In the last nine years only one piece of silverware has had the name of Gloucester inscribed on it. And the Anglo-Welsh Cup is considered a minor prize these days.

Hence the excitement in the cathedral city this week. The last English club remaining in European competition are 80 minutes from becoming Challenge Cup winners – and, with it, possible Champions Cup qualifiers. Maybe, just maybe, things are about to change.

Tickets for Friday’s night match against Edinburgh, being staged at Harlequins, sold out in no time, unlike the all-French final of the Champions Cup between holders Toulon and Clermont. They’re having to give those ones away.

You have to go back to the mid-Noughties for the last time Gloucester fans felt so upbeat. Castle Grim was rocking a fortnight ago when the home side beat Exeter Chiefs 30-19 in their semi. Exeter are a fine side this season but were outplayed by a Gloucester team which has won only eight of its 20 league matches. It was Chiefs’ misfortune to walk into their West Country rivals’ most complete performance of the campaign.

England winger Jonny May, who scored the decisive try, summed up the mood of his club and their supporters when he said: “It means everything. It means we’ve got something to play for. It will be something great for the city, not just for this season. It marks a point in history and will be something to be remembered forever.”

Of course they’ve first got another match to win and Edinburgh too are not short on incentive. No Scottish club has won a bean in Europe and few thought this would be the team to change that, given that they lie seventh in the Guinness Pro12, 22 points adrift of pacesetters Glasgow. 

It is a far cry from three years ago when the capital’s club reached the European Cup semi-finals, beating four-time champions Toulouse along the way. That famous day the player who steered Edinburgh to quarter-final glory was current Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw. The same Laidlaw who now leads Gloucester’s attack, a marksman par excellence. I expect his deadly boot to be the deciding factor.

Let’s not pretend that victory in this game would, in isolation, catapult either club into the super elite. After all Gloucester won the Challenge Cup in 2006 and did not appreciably kick on from there.

The league tables don’t lie. These two sides have been mid-table mediocre across the season. But a European triumph would represent a stepping-stone to better times and both would undoubtedly settle for that.