Warriors booked a place in a first top flight domestic final with a dominant second half performance that that snuffed out Gloucester’s challenge in this rousing Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final.
Warriors will now face London Irish in the final at the Brentford Community Stadium on Tuesday May 17 with the chance to add to the minor cup honours – two North Midlands Cup successes and British & Irish Cup win in 2015 – already won in the professional era.
A brace of tries from Man of the Match Gareth Simpson – who also created one for Tom Howe with a brilliant chip and collect – and an outstanding contribution from Duhan van der Merwe set Warriors on their way to a win that silenced The Shed.
Van der Merwe made himself available for this match despite having only just recovered from a broken rib and he was a towering presence in attack.
But the British and Irish Lions also made a significant contribution in defence when he put in a brilliant smothering tackle to wrap up Alex Morgan which prevented the Gloucester wing from grounding the ball over the line when a try seemed certain.
Much was made by Gloucester supporters about van der Merwe’s selection for this game but it should be pointed out that they also had an international – Italy scrum-half Stephen Varney – in their ranks and they had gone fully-loaded for their first match in the competition against a weakened Bath team.
Warriors also used 44 players in their four group matches, they brought in six players on loan and another on trial in those fixtures and 14 of the semi-final squad had played in the pool games with 11 of them products of the Three Pears Warriors Academy.
Victory was not straightforward and Warriors had to dig deep against a fully committed Gloucester side. At one point Gloucester led 18-7 down but Simpson reduced the deficit to four points with a neat try just before the break.
Van der Merwe then set up Simpson for his second eight minutes into the second to give Warriors a lead that they did not relinquish.
Van der Merwe scored himself three minutes later, taking three defenders with him after Warriors kicked a penalty to the corner and won the lineout and that score was quickly followed by a penalty try which was awarded after Gloucester hooker Henry Walker collapsed a driving maul to prevent a certain try.
Warriors showed a pragmatic streak when they extended the lead with a penalty from Jamie Shillcock with 15 minutes to go which meant that a close range try from Rob Nixon was not as damaging as it might have been.
But there was no nervous finale as Warriors piled on the pressure again and Niall Annett powered over for the final score five minutes from time.
It took Warriors a while to settle in a febrile atmosphere and Gloucester led through an early penalty from George Barton which was swiftly cancelled out by Simpson’s touch of magic and an acrobatic finish from Howe.
Fin Smith add the conversion from the touchline but Barton added a second penalty followed by a conversion after Gloucester lock Cameron Jordan crashed over midway through the first half.
Gloucester added a second try when wing Jake Morris scored after a period of pressure but, after a series of near-misses, Warriors clicked when Simpson burst down the shortside, skipped out of a tackle and raced away for a try that helped to calm any nerves.
Warriors | 15 Noah Heward, 14 Tom Howe, 13 Alex Hearle, 12 Seb Atkinson, 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Venter 65), 10 Fin Smith (Shillcock 59), 9 Gareth Simpson (Wynn 65), 1 Ethan Waller (C) (Owen 65), 2 Isaac Miller (Annett 71), 3 Jack Owlett (Judge 71), 4 James Scott, 5 Andrew Kitchener (G Kitchener 71), 6 Jack Forsythe, 7 Sam Lewis, 8 Sione Vailanu.
Replacements | 16 Niall Annett, 17 Kai Owen, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Kyle Hatherell, 21 Ollie Wynn, 22 Jamie Shillcock, 23 Francois Venter.
11m | Barton pen 3-0
12m | Howe try 3-5
13m | Smith con 3-7
16m | Barton pen 6-7
20m | Jordan try 11-7
21m | Barton con 13-7
33m | Morris try 18-7
38m | Simpson try 18-12
39m | Smith con 18-14
48m | Simpson try 18-19
51m | van der Merwe try 18-24
58m | Penalty try 18-31
64m | Shillcock pen 18-34
70m | Nixon try 23-34
71m | Barton con 25-34
75m | Annett try 25-39