Pitch-side Piece -
The four and half hour trek up the M6 was not the best of starts to the evening’s rugby at Edgeley Park neither was the kick-off which Gloucester characteristically spilled and conceded a penalty for offside at the knock-on after no more than 5 seconds.
13 further penalties followed during the game from which Sale obtained 21 easy points. The first line-out was spilled, too, but to Gloucester's credit they only lost another 2 lineouts in the rest of the game.
To the many who “watched” the game on the radio that fact and that Gloucester only lost by 5 points provided cause for great celebration.
The stark reality, however, was that Gloucester at the top of their game (the last 15 minutes) were no more than average against a poor Sale side that were allowed to take the game and 4 points.
Sale were let off the hook when the game was for there for the winning but time after time when Gloucester slowly gained a strong hold on the shape of the game they managed to concede a stupid penalty in the middle of the short Stockport pitch.
Even the losing bonus point was nearly lost due to 2 penalties in the last 10 minutes that took Sale to a 28-18 lead before a try by Somerville reined the score back to 28-23.
There were some signs of improvement but in my position sitting high up behind the posts many Gloucester moves resembled a pendulum swinging back and fro across the pitch.
The ploy of using a forward to suck in defenders appears to be well known to the opposing defences as they quickly took up covering positions whenever a Gloucester second row/prop took the ball at inside centre.
It was not until the last 15 minutes that the Gloucester backs were given first bite of the cherry as they attacked with pace from a deeper alignment. Indeed, but for poor handling, two tries could and should have been scored following promising moves.
The Gloucester cause was hindered by Mike Tindall's 16th minute departure with a hamstring tweak and by his replacement, Charlie Sharples being rightly dismissed under a red card for a dangerous and reckless tackle on his opposite number 5 minutes before half time.
The loss of the winger resulted in a roving role for Lesley Vainikolo who covered both wing positions in defence and attack.
Perhaps the most promising aspect of the Gloucester performance was that they did not give up. They conceded a soft try in the first half from a first-phase Sale move. The Sale forwards deftly turned a scrum that put the Gloucester back row out of the defending area and Dwayne Peel attacked an empty openside to open up the Gloucester defence as if it was a can of sardines waiting to be eaten. It duly was by Lee Thomas who had a simple run in under the posts.
Gloucester managed three tries in response but the manner in which they scored was far more attritional using forward drive to batter and smash through a yielding Sale defence.
That Gloucester lost by only 5 points will no doubt give some respite to Bryan Redpath and his motley crew of coaches who are clinging on to their jobs by the skin of their teeth.
No doubt they will leave press cuttings of the match reports on their desks next to their photos of their wives and children which they might cleverly use to implore - "Don't sack me!"
John Price 25/10/2009
|Tries : Voyce, James, Somerville|
Pen: Robinson (2
Ref: Wayne Barnes
|Hodgson puts the boot in again|
|Gloucester pay the penalty once more|
Sale 28 Gloucester 23
Edgeley Park, Stockport - Friday October 30 2009
Attendance - 11,846