Gloucester boss David Humphreys admitted it was a case of reflecting on what might have been after the Aviva Premiership club saw their hopes of European Champions Cup qualification ended in dramatic fashion.
Bordeaux-Begles fly-half Pierre Bernard dropped a goal with the game’s final kick to secure a 23-22 victory for the French Top 14 club at Sixways on Sunday evening.
Gloucester led the Champions Cup play-off clash 19-3 at one stage thanks to a Henry Purdy try and 14 points by scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, while Laidlaw’s 74th-minute penalty edged them back in front 22-20.
But a touchdown in each half by strong-running Bordeaux wing Metuisela Talebulamaijaina, plus two penalties and two conversions by Bernard before his drop-goal, had Gloucester sweating before they saw defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.
“Nobody likes to lose a game, especially of that importance, in that manner but I think you have to give credit to Bordeaux,” Gloucester rugby director Humphreys said.
“With 20 seconds or so left on the clock we were probably one ruck away from winning the game, and they managed to turn the ball over and took their opportunity.
“Of course we are disappointed, and when we reflect on the game the game should have been dead and buried at half-time,” added the former Ulster director of rugby.
“We had a great opportunity to score but we turned the ball over and they went 90 metres to score just before half-time and it’s a one-score game.
“That is part of the squad-building. It feels like almost every game for the last couple of months has been a one-score game.
“We were disappointed in the Connacht (play-off) game last weekend to have 15 unforced errors, so we talked about that all week. We knew the danger of their back-three and we knew we had to hold on to the ball, so that was the disappointing aspect.
“We made as many line-breaks today probably as we had made in any game throughout the course of the season. You hope to finish one or two of those but today we just didn’t do it.”
Gloucester suffered a blow just hours before kick-off when their England wing Jonny May was ruled out by illness, and they sorely missed his renowned attacking prowess.
Humphreys added: “We were keen to give him as much time as possible to be fit and available, but he was unwell this morning.
“It is easy to look at losing a player of his quality and a player in his form as a blow, but Henry Purdy has had a lot of game-time so it was not a difficult decision to put him in, and I thought he played well.”
There was, though, another outstanding display by back-row forward Ross Moriarty, who is expected to be named in Wales’ World Cup training squad on Monday.
Moriarty, whose father Paul and uncle Richard both played for Wales, looks set to join his Gloucester colleagues James Hook and Richard Hibbard among a group of more than 40 players.
“I thought Ross was outstanding. He worked hard, he carried well and tackled hard. He has just got better and better as the season went on,” Humphreys said.
“We believe we have a number of young players coming through who will go on to be top-quality Premiership players, European players and possibly international players.
“To get to that stage they need game-time, and due to the injuries we have had this season Ross and a number of others have taken their chance. Today he was outstanding.”
Asked if 21-year-old Moriarty was ready for Test rugby, Humphreys added: “It is hard to say.
“What you can say is you can judge a player on how they perform every time they step up a level.
“We have played a team going into Champions Cup rugby today, a top club, and he has played really well. That is how you judge it. Some players, the higher they go, the better they play.”
The 20 teams through to next season’s Champions Cup are confirmed as Toulon, Clermont Auvergne, Toulouse, Stade Francais, Racing Metro, Oyonnax, Bordeaux-Begles, Saracens, Bath, Northampton, Leicester, Exeter, Wasps, Glasgow, Munster, Ospreys, Ulster, Leinster, Scarlets and Treviso.