GLOUCESTER'S aim of finishing a mixed season with a second piece of silverware was ended with a crushing 36-22 defeat by the Sharks in the Challenge Cup final.

Apart from a dominant opening 10 minutes and lively finish, George Skivington’s side were conclusively outplayed in front of a 34,761 crowd at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Gloucester had lifted the Premiership Rugby Cup earlier this season and – after enduring a club record nine-successive Gallagher Premiership losses – Skivington chose to focus on Europe at the expense of the league.

That led to a weakened sided being fielded against Northampton earlier this month and a 90-0 demolition followed with Skivington hoping the juggling of playing resources would pay dividends.

But instead Gloucester were well beaten with late tries by Santiago Socino and Freddie Clarke giving the final scoreline a kinder sheen as Jonny May’s farewell match failed to produce a scripted ending.

The Sharks are the first South African side to win a European competition and the foundations for their victory were laid by the ‘Bomb Squad’ front-row combination of Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Vincent Koch.

Although they went on to dominate, they spent the opening 10 minutes defending their line with centre Chris Harris going closest to drawing first blood only to fall inches short with an outstretched hand.

Aphelele Fassi was sent to the sin-bin for offside as the South African side began to buckle but once the storm had been weathered, they advanced downfield and were off the mark through a Siya Masuku penalty.

A monster kick by scrum-half Caolan Englefield saw Gloucester draw level, but having matched the Sharks in the physicality stakes, they then waved through number eight Phepsi Buthelezi for a soft try.

Over went two more penalties from Masuku as his side took to squeezing their opponents and taking the points when they became available.

A dominant scrum early in the second-half gave Gloucester hope they could turn the tide but then as they looked to build pressure, Zach Mercer gave an intercept pass to Grant Williams to put the Sharks back on the offensive.

Williams’ break was the prelude to another spell of Sharks ascendency that was underscored by three more penalties and a try from Fassi that was the product of fluid attack.

Gloucester hit back with a maul try finished by Albert Tuisue but their failure to deal with a kick opened the door for Makazole Mapimpi to gather a pinpoint Masuku chip and touch down.

Late tries from Socino and Clarke gave the English club scoreboard respectability, but it had been a disappointing night.