Cherry and Whites scrape lucky win
Inept Gloucester struggle
Gloucester 23 Connacht 19
Kingsholm. Saturday 17 December 2011







There is a saying in soccer circles that if a side can win when they are playing badly that they are potential champions.
Well if that is correct, on their showing against Connacht, the poor relations of Irish rugby, Gloucester must be close to greatness but the reality is that they were absolutely dreadful.
This has been a disappointing season at Kingsholm and this particular fixture must rate as one of the worst.
As one regular female Gloucester supporter commented to me ‘Absolute crap’ and that just about sums it up!
Out-of-sorts, out-of-form, call it what you like but the Cherry and Whites are effectively out of contention in this season’s Heineken Cup and on this current form quite unlikely to qualify for next season.
Unfortunately too many of the small current squad are not up to Premiership standard and are only there to make up the numbers. Doubtless much of this is determined by budgetary constraints but it has become increasingly clear that this season’s recruits are quite simply not in the same class as those that they have replaced.
What is also obvious is that the type of game that they are expected to play as dictated by the coaches is fundamentally flawed and exposes limitations.
Too much ball is kicked away aimlessly with a hoof and hope and all too often forwards clutter up the mid-field or appear out of position on the wing with the result that play is slowed down and momentum lost. The present back row is anonymous and changes should be made. The coaches set the wrong game-plan and team selection and the players under-performed with the wrong attitude.
Connacht must wonder how they managed to lose a match which they had dominated for long periods and looked the better side leading 19-16 with only five minutes remaining. However one missed tackle was just enough for replacement Jonny May to grasp the opportunity and cross in the corner and get lack-lustre Gloucester out of jail. After being in front for much of the game, a bitter pill for the Irishmen to swallow — not much luck for the Irish.

Despite an exhilarating run from James Simpson-Daniel the visitors had the better of the early exchanges scoring the first try with their impressive fly-half O’Connor kicking astutely whereas the home sides’ kicks invariably went straight to hand and surrendered territory plus possession.
Gloucester handed Connacht their first try when a pass from E.F.s was intercepted for the visitors to get the deserved score whilst the hosts looked on.

Charlie Sharples was denied a score by the T.M.O. when he dived on a kick ahead but Gloucester did get a try when Tim Taylor forced his way over as the Connacht defence bought Sharples’ dummy run. 10-7.

O’Connor kicked two more penalties to give the visitors a well-earned 13-10 interval lead which sadly led to a chorus of boos from frustrated Kingsholm fans. Supporters?
O’Connor extended the Connacht with another penalty after the break before replacement Freddie Burns put the hosts back in contention with a couple of penalties of his own before O’Connor missed out with an attempted drop goal which may have cost the visitors the game.
Burns’ boot levelled the scores at 16 all but true to form Gloucester infringed and O’Connor made no mistake with the penalty. 16-19.
Connacht had defended well throughout before a missed tackle allowed Jonny May to score in the corner. Freddie Burns landed the conversion from the touchline so the visitors were finally and somewhat cruelly denied despite having playing good rugby throughout.
As for Fortress Kingsholm it is more like Mattress Kingsholm - a place where players go to rest !
T.R.H. 18/12/2011

Pricey's Postscript -

What a shambles! Thankfully Gloucester managed to get it together in the end to steal the win but did they really deserve it? No, they did not. When you have a mediocre game plan and good players you just about manage to scrape through but when you have only mediocre players you are always struggling and the latter applied today.
We will no doubt be told by Redpath & Co in the press next week where it all went wrong – Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday are contrition days in the Citizen and Thursday & Friday churn out the usual promises of the “season starting here”.
But I don’t have to be told – I witnessed it and first and foremost it is down to a flawed style of playing which lies firmly with the coaching team. Secondly it is down to some very poor performances by too many in the starting XV. Gloucester have a back row in name only on top of a perverse structure of tight forwards who all too often line up in the three-quarters. The game I was taught was that forwards won the ball and backs ran it. At Gloucester you see backs clearing out rucks and forwards popping up at first and second receiver and quite a lot of the time on the wing. We have probably two of the best wingers in the country but do they get any half decent ball for them to cast their spells? Again the answer is no. Gloucester swing left to right and right to left in pretty passing movements but no one seems able to straighten the line other than Scott Lawson, the hooker and he usually goes straight to ground in contact.
Over worked players were rested today but their replacements are quite simply not good enough. At premiership level every player must have all the armaments for their position but Gloucester appear to have props who can’t scrummage and outside halves who cannot kick with any degree of distance from their hands. It is not their fault however they find themselves out of their depth, it is the responsibility of the recruiters and perhaps those who provide the funding.
At the death Jonny May scored a great individual try using strength, pace and power to break through the Connacht defence yet he was not first choice and made his cameo performance from the bench. His entrance into the game was far too late and it should have been at the expense of Tindall or EFS, who at several times were seen wandering around away from the action. That said such are Gloucester’s bizarre tactics they may have been following orders.

Radical change is necessary but I fear we will only hear platitudes from those who it is in their gift to take action!

J.G.P. 17/12/2011

There are many quotes from players and managers alike when their teams do not perform well but win, and they are repeatable both verbally and in print, but yesterdays performance and how I would describe it do not fall into either category
.In the Shogun Bar before the game Alasdair Strokosch was being interviewed and he said he would prefer to win and not play well than play well and lose; well yesterday was certainly the former. At the moment Gloucester are a side lacking confidence and simple basic skills and despite the rhetoric coming from the management and players about a top 4 finish, they are struggling, and currently I cannot see then finishing in the top 10.
There are players who are not fit to play Championship Rugby, let alone Premiership and why oh why did we pick a scrum half who is really the 4th choice in that position and far to slow at getting the ball from a ruck, insists on box kicking when he gets the ball from a scrum and generally is not up to Premiership standard.
Connacht must have thought Christmas had come early as they led 19-16 with 3 minutes to go and they had played well enough to win the game, and despite Olly Morgan winning the Man of The Match Award, had the best player on the park in their fly half Nialll O'Connor.
Overall a poor display all round but 3 points in the bag, not that will help us much with Harlequins away and Toulouse at home the remaining group fixtures.
Bring on Wasps on Boxing Day, Fortress Grim is slowly becoming Fortress Whimp.

Gloucester -
Olly Morgan;
Charlie Sharples, Mike Tindall, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, James Simpson-Daniel;
Tim Taylor, Nick Runciman;
Dan Murphy, Scott Lawson, Rupert Harden;
Peter Buxton, Jim Hamilton;
Brett Deacon, Andy Hazell, Luke Narraway (capt)
Matias Cortese, Nick Wood, Shaun Knight, Will James, Akapusi Qera,
Rory Lawson, Freddie Burns, Jonny May
Gloucester: -
Try: Taylor, May
Taylor, Burns
Pen: Taylor, Burns (2)

Referee - L.Hodges. Wales

Attendance - 10,786

Gloucester Match Reports. 2001- 2011

Heineken Cup Record + Reports - 2000-2011

Euro Attendances - Kingsholm - 1997-2011

Glos Players. Arrival & Departures