London Welsh had to settle for a losing bonus point at the Kassam Stadium as Gloucester extended their unbeaten run to four games.
The Exiles, though, will reflect upon this Round 5 clash as one that got away, particularly having overturned a nine-point half-time deficit to lead going into the final quarter thanks to Franck Montanella’s debut try for the club.
Earlier, tries from Shane Monahan and Tom Savage had done the damage for Gloucester in the opening 40 – the former with Welsh winger Nick Scott in the sin bin – to see the Cherry and Whites lead 18-9.
But the Exiles could almost sniff a third consecutive Aviva Premiership win when fly half Gordon Ross followed up Montanella’s try with a penalty to give Welsh a 25-21 lead.
However, Shaun Knight’s try ensured that it was a winning debut for the Cherry and Whites at the Kassam Stadium.
Burns had earlier given Gloucester the lead only for Ross to level things up at the second time of asking. Ross would enjoy a good afternoon with the boot, but so to would his counterpart, and Burns stroked the visitors back in front.
Gloucester then took control as Burns broke the Welsh line and Scott was adjudged to have deliberately knocked on, as the Gloucester fly half tried to find his support runners.
Burns sent the resulting penalty into the corner and although Welsh held out against the initial drive, they were caught short of numbers down the blindside and Monahan was sent over in the corner.
Burns couldn’t add the extras, however, and Ross reduced the deficit with his second penalty.
Monahan was an increasing threat for the away side and only a try saving tackle by Welsh scrum half Tyson Keats denied the Gloucester wing a second try in the corner.
Scott returned with Welsh having restricted the damage on the scoreboard in his absence to just two points.
Gloucester, though, were firmly in the ascendancy and they added try number two through their forwards, who picked and drove their way up to the Welsh line with Savage eventually going over from close range.
This time Burns converted and the home side were looking down the barrel of a 14-point deficit.
Welsh were relying on the boot of Ross to keep them within touching distance and his third penalty went some way to doing that, and they might have ended the first half in an even far healthier position.
The Exiles looked like they’d take full advantage of Burns’ penalty miss as Matt Corker instigated a counter attack from inside his own half.
Dan George and Hudson Tonga’uiha combined to send Scott tearing down the left. The Welsh forwards them took over with the home side edging towards the Gloucester line.
A penalty under the posts was taken quickly by Keats but Welsh were denied on the line, and with the ball not coming back and the countdown clock on zero the Exiles had to settle for a nine point deficit at the break.
But the home side couldn’t have asked for a better start to the second half as Burns was yellow carded for a knock on as Ross tried to get the ball wide with numbers out wide and Gloucester short of cover.
The Welsh fly half took the three points on offer but Billy Twelvetrees replied for Gloucester and the away side would skilfully manage the remainder of their fly halves sinbinning without further alarm.
Ross’ fifth penalty reduced the Gloucester lead to six points and although the away side were now back to full strength the Exiles were building up a head of steam.
That culminated in their only try of the game as French prop forward Montanella forced his way over under the posts after a sustained period of pressure. Ross converted and Welsh led for the first time in the game in the 61st minute, 22-21.
Tails up, Ross added his sixth penalty and the home support could sense another upset on the horizon.
Burns bisected the uprights but Welsh looked like they might force their way over again as they inched closer and closer to the Gloucester tryline, only to be turned over just short. By such slender margins and three minutes later Gloucester were over for what would prove the decisive score.
Turnover ball left Welsh exposed and gave James Simpson-Daniel the chance to run at the Exiles’ defence. A desperate last ditch tackle denied Simpson-Daniel, but Gloucester would not be denied and Shaun Knight went over. Burns converted and Welsh had eight minutes to save their two match winning run.
They couldn’t engineer a winning score and indeed were left fighting for their lives to hang on to their losing bonus point. This they did, and how crucial could that prove come May.
Tries: Montanella; Cons: Ross; Pens: Ross (7).
Tries: Monahan, Savage, Knight; Cons: Burns (2); Pens: Burns (3), Twelvetrees.
Referee: Llyr Apgeraint-Roberts
Referee Assistants: Peter Huckle & Kevin Stewart