Danny Cipriani shines as Gloucester beat Castres in front of Eddie Jones

first_img Sign up to the Breakdown for the latest rugby union news Danny Cipriani Share on Pinterest Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks. Since you’re here… match reports English clubs’ start to Europe’s premier competition were mixed enough to qualify this ultimately tight victory for Gloucester as a much needed boost for the Premiership’s self-esteem. Had the hosts slipped up at home against understrength visitors on a dismal wet Sunday lunchtime it would have been a truly grim weekend for all involved, the watching England head coach, Eddie Jones, included.Instead Jones headed home to put the final touches to his autumn squad selection with the endless debate over Danny Cipriani’s match-turning qualities still smouldering.Cipriani was no longer on the pitch when Gloucester’s forwards crucially held firm on their own line late in the game but for the first hour the fly-half was as influential as anyone, his game management and all-round kicking proving well above average in testing conditions.Whether it will be enough to persuade Jones to bring him back into the England fold on Thursday is, as ever, another matter. From Cipriani’s perspective, however, the combination of 14 crucial points from the tee and several telling kicks out of hand at least demonstrated that, should the call come, he remains capable of shaping a contest regardless of the weather or who might be watching.His only real mistake came late on when, having found a yard of space, he clung on to the ball rather than finding the unmarked Matt Banahan wide on the left. The error was compounded when Freddie Clarke went off his feet at the ensuing ruck, conceding a penalty which briefly threatened to drag Castres back into contention and prompted Gloucester’s head coach, Johan Ackermann, to replace his No 10 with Owen Williams. Share on Messenger Freddie Burns’ costly clanger was unforgivable, says Jeremy Guscott Reuse this content Share on WhatsApp Topics Champions Cup Share on LinkedIn Scarlets sunk by late penalty try as Racing 92 triumph in the rain … we have a small favour to ask. 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This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Rugby union Read more Gloucester Ackermann also felt his side could have made more of their territorial advantage at times but remains among those who believe Cipriani could yet, if invited, add to England’s options between now and the World Cup next year.“Regardless of what happens in the autumn Tests he is driven as a person and a lot of things can change between now and the World Cup,” Ackermann said. “I am a firm believer in picking on form. You never know; in six months’ time, if he is still the in-form 10, Eddie can change his mind. I thought he was good today. The balance between his attacking and kicking game was good, especially in the first half.”Sterner examinations lie ahead for both Cipriani and Gloucester this season, starting against Munster in Limerick on Saturday. It may also be that Jones was in Gloucestershire to cast an eye over a couple of other contenders – with injuries, suspensions and Joe Marler’s retirement from Test rugby having complicated his pack selection. Val Rapava-Ruskin had relatively little chance to shine off the bench but Ben Morgan, happily back fully fit again, performed well enough to press a claim should anything befall Billy Vunipola or Zach Mercer between now and England’s first autumn Test against South Africa on 3 November.By then it should be slightly clearer how seriously Castres are taking this year’s tournament. Having won the French Top 14 title despite finishing sixth in the regular season they are not a club with bottomless resources and have never viewed Europe’s premier competition as the be-all and end-all. In 14 previous attempts they have made the knockout stages just once.Their opening lineup of the campaign duly contained only three of their championship-winning starting XV, with their full-back Julien Dumora shifted to fly-half and their master tactician Rory Kockott on the bench it was hardly a team-sheet to inspire visiting confidence. It will be fascinating to see how many changes there are for Saturday’s pool game against Exeter, with avoiding defeat at home still seemingly viewed as a higher priority.Gloucester are also missing virtually a full pack’s worth of currently unavailable talent but they would have won by a wider margin had a seemingly legitimate first-half try for Tom Marshall not been ruled out for a supposed obstruction at a distant ruck by Fraser Balmain. Ultimately it did not matter, particularly after Marshall had again combined smartly with Callum Braley to send the scrum-half scooting over beside the posts.When Cipriani added two penalties to extend the home lead to 19-6 the outcome did not look in any doubt, the crowd still giggling at an attempted quick-taken crosskick from Castres’No 9, Ludovic Radosavljevic – which he instead sliced straight into the crowd behind the dead-ball line. Technically the French word for donkey is âne but poor Ludo did not require a translator to understand the chants of “Eeyore” being brayed at him from the Shed.It was very nearly as painful as Gloucester’s kit, a faintly vomit-inducing confection of pink and dark blue hoops with matching shorts and socks. Quite why big European games are now seen as an excuse to wheel out these crimes against fashion is a topic for another time but, with Martin Laveau’s consolation score forcing the home side to defend stoutly until the closing moments, this was very much a day for substance over style.Gloucester Woodward; Sharples, Twelvetrees, Atkinson, Marshall (Banahan, 61); Cipriani, Williams 74), Braley; Hohneck (Rapava-Ruskin 46), Marais (Walker 69), Balmain (Knight 75), Savage, Grobler, Clarke, Polledri, Morgan (capt).Try Braley. Con Cipriani. Pens Cipriani 4.Castres Batile; Laveau, Ebershohn, Vialelle, Paris; Dumora, Radosavljevic (Kockott 52); Stroe (Falatea 76), Jenneker, Fa’anunu (Hounkpatin 59), Samson (Caballero 76), Jacquet, Babillot (capt), Delaporte, Tulou (Mafi 52).Try Laveau. Pens Dumora 2. Drop-goal Dumora.Referee Marius Mitrea (Italy). Attendance 9,993. Share on Facebook Share via Email Read more Castres Support The Guardian Read more Share on Twitterlast_img read more