Biarritz are in command of their Heineken Cup pool after a fine 42-15 win over Gloucester, featuring a Takudzwa Ngwenya hat-trick.
Biarritz are in command of their Heineken Cup pool after a magnificent 42-15 win over Gloucester, featuring a Takudzwa Ngwenya hat-trick.
It was a similar arm-wrestle to Biarritz's win over Glasgow last week initially, but with Biarritz at home, there was always going to be an extra dimension. In this match, it came in the form of numerous offloads which Gloucester found it harder and harder to cope with as time ticked on.
Imanol Harinordoquy and Fabien Barcella were chief targets for the short passes, while Dimitri Yachvili's expertly-varied distribution kept Gloucester's defence guessing. The gain-line was rarely left intact by Biarritz's runners and once Andy Hazell had gone to the bin for a blatant kill of the ball, it was pure one-way traffic.
There was also an extra dimension in Ngwenya. They like their superstar wingers here in France and Ngwenya is fast achieving that status in Basque country after a season of bedding in. He rounded off the first half with two fabulous tries, the first a burst of searing pace which nobody in Gloucester's drift could cope with, the second a sumptuous chip and gather. It was little more than Biarritz's superiority deserved. Early in the second half, he rushed up in defence to force a turnover, then raced up in support of Damien Traille's counter-attack to round off both the attack and his hat-trick.
It was not just he though: Biarritz's backs looked dangerous every time they got the ball. Marcelo Bosch seems to have found a home for his talents at full-back and made three telling breaks of over 20 yards. Arnaud Mignardi at outside centre was also a permanent threat. With Yachvili calling on all his years of experience to set them going, Biarritz were formidable.
Gloucester were also their own worst enemies. Too many clearance kicks did not find touch and far too many running channels were left uncovered. Too many tackles were missed. In finest French fashion, the away team simply didn't turn up.
The French have not developed a reputation for ramming advantages home in this competition, but Biarritz broke the mould in the second half, not relenting until Ayoola Erinle had sealed the bonus point try to make it 35-8. Anything Gloucester had to add after that was purely cosmetic.
Tom Voyce and Jake Boer both went over in the second half to save Gloucester from a humiliating scoreline, but further tries by Ayoola Erinle and Valentin Courrent ensured Biarritz were rarely troubled.
France international Dimitri Yachvili opened the scoring after just two minutes with an early penalty that was cancelled out by Nick Robinson's effort.
A tightly contested forward effort saw Yachvili land two more penalties after 13 and then 26 minutes, the latter when Andy Hazell was shown the yellow card for illegally preventing Biarritz playing the ball after his tackle on Nicolas Brusque.
With Gloucester reduced in numbers, Biarritz looked to break clear on the scoreboard but they only managed to add five points with the first of Ngwenya's three tries.
The United States international sped past Tom Voyce to score on 33 minutes, however Yachvili failed with the conversion.
Hazell returned but Biarritz still added a second try just before half-time when Ngwenya kicked over the head of Lesley Vainikolo and gathered the ball to touch down, converted by Yachvili to open a 21-3 lead at the break.
Yachvili missed a snap drop-goal attempt in the opening minute of the second half but when Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples lost the ball, that handed play to Biarritz.
Full-back Marcelo Bosch reacted quickly, picking up possession before passing to Ngwenya who raced clear to complete his hat-trick after 49 minutes. Yachvili added the conversion to stretch the lead to 28-3.
Gloucester rang the changes by introducing Freddie Burns and Boer and it was not long before outside-half Burns was taking a shot at goal after Voyce scored his team's first try.
Gloucester retained possession, moved the ball through the phases and took minimal risks before Voyce broke through from close range. Burns missed the conversion but Gloucester had reduced the deficit to 28-8.
However no sooner had Gloucester given themselves some hope than Biarritz scored a fourth try to claim the bonus point just four minutes later.
Replacement outside-half Courrent slipped through before offloading to Erinle, who finished well. Yachvili converted to establish a 35-8 lead.
Again Gloucester found a way to score, the forwards driving on before replacement flanker Boer picked up and dived over. This time Burns added the conversion.
Ngwenya thought he had scored a fourth try but had the score ruled out for an earlier infringement, however Courrent went over two minutes from time to complete a comfortable win for the French.
Tries: Ngwenya 3, Erinle, Courrent
Cons: Yachvili 4
Pens: Yachvili 3
For Gloucester:Tries:Voyce, Boer
Yellow card: Hazell (Gloucester, 25)
Biarritz Olympique: 15 Marcelo Bosch, 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Damien Traille, 11 Nicolas Brusque, 10 Julien Peyrelongue, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Samiu Vahafolau, 6 Magnus Lund, 5 Pelu Taele, 4 JÃ©rÃ´me Thion, 3 Campbell Johnstone, 2 Benoit August, 1 Fabien Barcella.
Replacements: 16 Romain Terrain, 17 Eduard Coetzee, 18 Mosese Moala, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Wenceslas Lauret, 21 Valentin Courrent, 22 Ayoola Erinle, 23 Laurent Tranier.
Gloucester: 15 Tom Voyce, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 James Simpson-Daniel, 12 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 11 Lesley Vainikolo, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Andy Hazell, 6 Akapusi Qera, 5 Will James, 4 David Attwood, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawiduik, 17 Paul Doran-Jones, 18 Pierre Capdevielle, 19 Jake Boer, 20 Rory Lawson, 21 Tim Molenaar, 22 Carlos Spencer, 23 Freddie Burns.
Date: Saturday, October 17
Venue: Parc des Sports Augilera
Kick-off: 14.35 (13.35 GMT)
Referee: Alan Lewis
Assistant referees: David Wilkinson (Ireland), Peter Roche (Ireland)
Television match official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)