Gloucester, needing to win with a bonus-point to make the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, came up alarmingly short at the Parc Aguilera, losing 24-10 to a streetwise Biarritz outfit.
Despite needing four tries, and a win, Gloucester never looked like coming away from a wet and windy night with the spoils. From basic handling errors to poor kicking, the opening twenty minutes put paid to any hopes Gloucester had.
Biarritz set their stall out early on, going through several phases in the pouring rain. The result was a penalty for offside, which Dimitri Yachvili dispatched with ease. That was followed by a sweeping length of the field attack that took a despairing Iain Balshaw tackle to halt. The chips were down and Gloucester were failing to step up to the plate, once again.
Olivier Azam, as early as the fifth minute, cracked under the pressure of a five metre defensive line-out, which cost Gloucester dear. A series of close drives paid dividends when the resurgent Imanol Harinordoquy blundered over from short range. Yachvili slotted the conversion and suddenly Gloucester were staring down the barrel.
It took just six minutes for Gloucester to pull the trigger and blow their fading Heineken Cup hopes out of the water. Yachvili was the tormentor in chief, gathering his own chip ahead to slide over. If that wasn't enough he gathered himself to put another arrow through Gloucester's hearts, sending over the conversion with ease.
Sensing more than just their European hopes were on the line - Dean Ryan has already hinted at looking elsewhere for players - Gloucester responded with the kind of try they score time and again on the training paddock. Matthew Watkins showed silky feet to free James Simpson-Daniel; life in the old dogs yet?
Not even the loss of Apo Satala, sent to the sin-bin for hands in the ruck, stopped the fightback - Barkley adding a penalty to his earlier conversion to trim the gap to a converted try. T
he five hundred travelling Gloucester supporters were incensed when Balshaw went down under Damien Traille's challenge chasing a kick that would have led to a certain try. Traille was yellow-carded, no points were scored - justice of a kind, for contact between traille and Balshaw was minimal.
Biarritz weathered the storm as Traille watched on, and once restored to a full complement took no time at all in adding to the size of Gloucester's mountain. Willie Walker's kick was charged down by Julien Peyrelongue, the fly-half able to round the job off with the score.
The most frustrating aspect of this Gloucester display, which again was simply not good enough, was their desire to kick the ball for the opening sixty minutes. They were chasing four tries, yet seemed content to chase endless, and aimless, kicks down field. Dean Ryan may well be chasing a few out of Kingsholm this summer.
So another dismal Gloucester campaign comes to a premature end, leaving us all once again asking the question, 'will Gloucester ever deliver on the big stage?' The honest truth, based on the past six European games, is a resounding no. As to where Dean Ryan goes from here, one may suggest he entertains the idea of looking for employment elsewhere, as his talent is being wasted at present.
Tries: Harinordoquy, Yachvili, Peyrelongue
Cons: Yachvili 3
Yellow card: Satala (Gloucester, 20th minute - hands in the ruck), Traille (Biarritz, 34th minute - professional foul), Thion (Biarritz, 75th minute - punching).
Biarritz: 15 Nicolas Brusque, 14 Philippe Bidabe, 13 Romain Cabannes, 12 Damien Traille, 11 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 10 Julien Peyrelongue, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Trevor Hall, 6 Samiu Vahafolau, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 CÚsar Damiani, 3 Campbell Johnstone, 2 Benoit August, 1 Fabien Barcella.
Replacements: 16 Eduard Coetzee, 17 Benoit Bourrust, 18 JÚr˘me Thion, 19 Pe´o Som, 20 Andrea Masi, 21 Laurent Tranier, 22 Ilikena Bolakoro.
Gloucester: 15 Olly Morgan, 14 Iain Balshaw, 13 Matthew Watkins, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 James Simpson-Daniel, 10 Willie Walker, 9 Gareth Cooper, 8 Luke Narraway, 7 Apo Satala, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Alex Brown, 4 Will James, 3 Carlos Nieto, 2 Olivier Azam, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Nick Wood, 17 Andy Titterrell, 18 Marco Bortolami, 19 Adam Eustace, 20 Rory Lawson, 21 Anthony Allen, 22 Jack Forster.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Touch judges: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales), Jonathan Mason (Wales)