Zach Mercer’s bold claim after Gloucester’s Challenge Cup triumph over Ospreys

David Skippers
Zach Mercer in action for Gloucester.

Zach Mercer in action for Gloucester.

Number eight Zach Mercer believes if Gloucester go on to lift the Challenge Cup they can regard the 2023/24 season as a “decent” one.

The 26-year-old made his bold claim after the Cherry and Whites booked their spot in the semi-finals courtesy of a hard-fought 23-13 victory over the Ospreys at Kingsholm on Friday.

Mercer revealed that he was not 100 per cent fit in the build-up to the clash against the Welsh region but was motivated by the fact that the Challenge Cup is the only silverware which Gloucester can win this season as they are currently in second last spot on the Premiership table.

Had to play

“I have had a chest infection all week but I knew I had to get out there as it’s all we’ve got left to play for this season,” he said. “If we can win this competition to add to our Premiership Cup success then it will still be a decent season with two trophies despite what’s happened in the Premiership.

“We had a lot of injuries early on to key players, Adam Hastings, Ruan Ackermann and Val Rapava-Ruskin, so it took some time for us to click.

“Tonight we got the scoreboard ticking over but we need to be a lot better by taking our chances.”

Meanwhile, Gloucester director of rugby George Skivington hailed his team’s defensive efforts in the victory over the Ospreys.

Gloucester will face either Benetton or Connacht in their semi-final but they will have to deliver an improved overall performance if they want to advance to the final.

The English outfit were made to work hard for their win but eventually got the job done as Santiago Carreras led the way with an 18-point haul courtesy of six penalties while Seb Blake crossed for a try.

Santiago Carreras kicks Gloucester into Challenge Cup semi-final after hard-fought win over Ospreys

“After missing so many tackles in our league fixture against Bristol, we’ve had a big focus on our defence in the last two weeks so I’m really pleased at how we went in that area,” said Skivington.

“We knew Ospreys would go hard at the breakdown and they got into us early on and caught us on the counter with an excellent try.

“Despite it being only 14-13 at the interval, we were happy we were doing the right things but overall we weren’t accurate enough.

“We are lucky to have secured a number of knock-out games at home so far this season and the more we bring to Kingsholm the better.”

Frustrated Ospreys boss

In stark contrast, Ospreys head coach Toby Booth was frustrated with his team’s performance as a lack of discipline let them down at Kingsholm.

“Gloucester deserved to win but I’m bitterly disappointed and frustrated by elements of our performance,” he said.

“We didn’t stand up as well as we should as we had an opportunity to move forward in this competition and didn’t take it.

“We weren’t as good as we could have been and needed to control the environment better as some of our offsides were needless.

“They got seven to 10 points in front and when that happens it’s difficult to claw back as they continued to squeeze us and we couldn’t break it.”

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