London Irish missed a golden opportunity to pick up their first victory of the season as they dominated Gloucester for most of the match but the visitors dug in to come away with an undeserved 25-25 draw.
Irish had not managed a win in their opening four matches but their first-half efforts should have ensured they were out of sight at the interval. As it was they were only eight points ahead and the visitors were able to stage a comeback.
Gloucester scored three tries in less than 15 minutes. Ben Morgan scored two of them and Louis Rees-Zammit the other, with Adam Hastings kicking two penalties and two conversions.
Agustin Creevy, Isaac Curtis-Harris and Matt Rogerson scored tries for Irish, with Paddy Jackson adding two conversions and two penalties.
The London Irish director of rugby, Declan Kidney, said: “There is no doubt we had plenty of opportunities and if we had taken them we would have won the match.
“We dominated for long periods of time, so the dressing room is disappointed and frustrated by the result. We needed to be smarter on one or two occasions but we’ll take credit for fighting back after giving Gloucester the upper hand.”
Lewis Ludlow led out Gloucester on his 150th appearance for the club but the hosts had much the better of the opening period to deservedly take a 12th-minute lead.
Irish exerted huge pressure on the visitors’ line and eventually a stubborn defence cracked when Creevy forced his way over from close range.
The home side should have scored again shortly afterwards. The Gloucester forwards Jack Singleton and Matías Alemanno were both receiving treatment when Rob Simmonds burst through the opposition ranks only for Jackson to carelessly throw forward the scoring pass to Ben Loader.
Singleton departed for an assessment before Irish bagged their second try when Curtis-Harris brushed aside a weak tackle from Val Rapava-Ruskin to score.
With their first excursion into the opposition 22 in the 23rd minute, Gloucester picked up their first points with a simple penalty from Hastings with the fly-half soon adding another.
Irish then resumed their dominance of a one-sided first half but they could not add to their tally so the visitors were extremely fortunate to be only 14-6 adrift at the interval.
There was early drama in the second half as Curtis Rona seized on a loose ball and set sail for the line. The centre was tip-tackled by Freddie Clarke but Mark Atkinson dived in to prevent a recycle. Atkinson was promptly sent to the sin-bin, with Jackson kicking the resulting penalty.
Gloucester’s woes continued when the replacement prop Harry Elrington – a former Irish player – was forced to leave the field with an injury, with Rapava-Ruskin returning to replace him.
The Irish lock Steve Mafi received a yellow card for dragging down a maul and Gloucester immediately capitalised when Morgan finished off a lineout drive before Jackson succeeded with a superb strike from inside his own half.
Atkinson returned from the sin-bin in time to see his side score their second try – a replica of the first and again scored by Morgan. Irish looked in trouble when Rees-Zammit picked off a pass from the home scrum-half Nick Phipps to run 75 metres and score, but the hosts drew level when Rogerson forced his way over after an elusive run from Ollie Hassell-Collins, with Jackson’s touchline conversion crucially sailing wide.
Gloucester’s head coach, George Skivington, said: “Irish came out firing and we were slow out of the blocks being sloppy in conceding two early tries. We didn’t execute a five-metre lineout just before the interval and that summed up our first-half performance.
“We did just enough not to let it get totally away from us as our defence was heroic. We had warriors out there, with it being a day for rolling up your sleeves. Lewis Ludlow worked tirelessly throughout the game but cramped up towards the end.”