Saracens suffered defeat at Kingsholm for the second time in a month but must be left wondering just what they have to do to secure an away victory over Gloucester.
This was very much a different display by an improved visiting side which had gone through the motions in the LV= Cup a fortnight ago but for large portions of this game Sarries were clearly the better side as the Cherry and Whites were forced to play second-fiddle and trailed for the majority of the match.
Gloucester hardly got in their opponents half during the opening half-hour and simply could not get their hands on the ball as Sarries executed virtual complete control.
Their young back line was only denied by a resolute defensive effort but winger James Short produced a fine turn of speed to skin Charlie Sharples for his second Premiership try in two weeks, having scored at the Wreck.
Outside-half Owen Farrell converted from wide out to add to his earlier penalty and provided an assured performance to keep the visitors going forward with a comfortable deserved 10-0 lead.
At last Gloucester began to get into the game but Alex Brown was sin-binned for an innocuous tackle adjudged to be late by referee Sean Davey but at last the hosts got some points on the board with a Nicky Robinson penalty before Farrell and Robinson exchanged further penalties.
Sarries somehow managed to miss out on what looked like a certain try by losing possession when the final pass went astray with the line at their mercy before their seasoned lock Hugh Vyvyan was yellow-carded to reduce them to 14 men but they had a let-off when the referee bottled-out in not awarding a second card for another blatant offence.
The half-time score of 13-6 to Sarries’ advantage was hardly a fair reflection of the play but Gloucester were somehow still in touch despite having conceded half a dozen early needless penalties in the first quarter.
The second half saw Gloucester become more competitive and began to put together some strong attacking moves as Robinson kicked a penalty following an earlier miss. 13-9.
Farrell was also off –target as the hosts raised their game with the indefatigable Andy Hazell absolutely outstanding, winning key turnovers to give Gloucester the go-forward.
David Strettle pulled off a try-saving tackle to deny the classy James Simpson-Daniel as the teams battled to claim the crucial try that was likely to secure ultimate victory.
The one vital break, set up replacement Henry Trinder to feed winger Charlie Sharples who despite an indifferent first half, outpaced the cover defence - however his unnecessary spectacular dive to score behind the posts prompted a forward scuffle as Sarries’ Ratuvou’s appeared to knee him in a clumsy attempt to prevent the try as they clashed and both players ended up clattering the advertising boards.
A prolonged stoppage ended with Sharples being helped off the field whilst the Fijian left on a stretcher.
Robinson added the simple conversion and a more difficult penalty as Gloucester got in front for the first time going into the final quarter.
With Sarries pounding away at the Gloucester line the drama was not over as the match entered its tense final few minutes. Sinbad pulled off a match saving tackle on Strettle but Nick Wood was yellow-carded as the tension mounted with more penalties against the home side.
A Sarries player collided with the referee after time had expired but there was yet another scrum for Sarries before they were denied by a determined defence as they spilled the ball.
Not a vintage performance from the Cherry and Whites but a good result, especially considering the fact that their opponents had plenty of chances to make the game safe but somehow missed out, unable to score in the second half.
After a wretched defeat at Newcastle, Gloucester now face a long trip up the M6 to Stockport another scene of all too regular losses to Sale.
If they give away as many penalties, Charlie Hodgson will again run the show and kick Gloucester to defeat.
Let’s hope the real Gloucester turn up on the night.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - Saracens Match Pix
The Glass Half Full Brigade will hail the result as a great Gloucester performance snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. The Glass Half Empty Squadron will be relieved that a win was obtained despite a very scrappy performance marred by ill discipline, sloppy play and a bizarre game plan.
Whichever group people subscribe to it is reasonable to suggest that Gloucester hung on by the skin of their teeth and Saracens must be kicking themselves that with the lion’s share of possession they did not win. The records will show a win for Gloucester but if Gloucester are to establish themselves as a title contender they have to up their game considerably. Silly penalties in non-threatening areas must be eradicated. They must learn how to build attacks and improve ball retention. Overall the accuracy of Gloucester’s kicking game whether from kick-off, restart, field position and goal kicking was poor.
It has to improve.
Individual performances varied. Fuimaono-Sapolu was probably Gloucester’s most dangerous player and Andy Hazell was once again the most destructive. Charlie Sharples showed great pace and fleetness of foot to score his try but will have learned that showboating comes with a price. He has a lot to learn in terms of reading and understanding the game.
Sean Davey, the referee, was as usual very accurate in his decisions but there were times when inconsistency crept in especially when it came to holding up a yellow card. I could not grumble on the occasions when he used it but I felt there were other times when he incorrectly avoided its use.
A poor performance but the right result.A game which Sarries management, players and supporters must be wondering why they only have a losing bonus point to show for their efforts. Sarries had all the possession and looked the likely and only winners for most of the afternoon. However that was not to be the case, and a superb Charlie Sharples try and a solid defensive performance in the last 10 minutes saw Glos snatch victory.
Better performances will be needed if the Cherry & Whites are; firstly to progress in the Amlin Cup and secondly if they are going to beat the current Premiership leaders Northampton on Boxing Day.
Charlie Sharples, Tim Molenaar, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, James Simpson-Daniel;
Nicky Robinson, Dave Lewis;
Nick Wood, Olivier Azam, Paul Doran-Jones,
Dave Attwood, Alex Brown;
Brett Deacon, Andy Hazell, Luke Narraway (capt)
Scott Lawson, Yann Thomas, Pierre Capdevielle, Will James, Matt Cox,
Jordi Pasqualin, Freddie Burns, Henry Trinder
Pen: Robinson (4)
Sin-bin - Nick Wood
Referee -Sean Davey
Attendance - 11,453
Last Season - Saturday 3 April 2010 - Gloucester 29 Saracens 28
Premiership Results versus Saracens
GLOUCESTER Matches - Glossary