|Cherry and Whites lose home record at the death|
|Gloucester pay the penalty|
| Gloucester 17 Saracens 19
Kingsholm. Saturday 29 October 2011
Frustratingly, Gloucester surrendered their 22 match unbeaten home record in yet another game which they should have won.
After slipping up at Northampton and Sale, this time round it was Premiership Champions Saracens who were the benefactors and made the Cherry and Whites pay with a dramatic late score four minutes from time, to nick the points from a game which they had trailed behind throughout.
The hosts had led 11-3 at half-time but then proceeded to lose their discipline, their shape and the match in the final quarter.
Part of playing and winning in any competitive contest is to curb mistakes, get the basics right and play the referee as well. Gloucester failed on all counts, particularly in the second half when the visitors were allowed back into the game.
Admittedly the referee Tim Wigglesworth made some decisions which were difficult to comprehend but too many of the actions of the home side were just plain silly and were duly punished accordingly especially in the final quarter when dumb decisions were spotted by the officials and penalised accordingly much to the wrath of the Kingsholm crowd.
There was plenty of niggle throughout in a feisty encounter starting at the outset when Jim Hamilton charged a Saracens’ kick down and a heated scuffle broke out. Thereafter the referee was hard put to exert his authority and keep control of the mach.
Matters were not helped when Saracens centre Owen Farrell took out Henry Trinder with a high late tackle. He was let off with a warning as the officials were not strong enough to issue a card before Freddie Burns kicked the penalty. Professional players at his level know full well what are doing and should be punished accordingly.
Handling errors were plentiful but Gloucester did create a first class try thanks to a piece of magic from Olly Morgan when he linked up with Trinder to dive over in the corner.
Burns and Saracens’ Charlie Hodgson each missed kicks at goal but converted other chances to take the score to 11-3 at the break with the hosts having the better of proceedings.
Saracens improved, made less errors and worked their way back into the game in the second period and Farrell kicked two penalties as Gloucester infringed all too often.
Freddie Burns made a searing break which took play close to the visitors’ line but the chance was wasted as blows were exchanged at the ensuing play resulting in both props Nick Wood and Rhys Gill being sin-binned and Gloucester penalised..
Replacement fly half Tim Taylor kicked two penalties to give Gloucester a 17-9 lead before they went to pieces as the pressure mounted. Jonny May was injured and more mistakes by the home side cost them dear.
Luke Narraway had a poor time, twice losing possession from kicks ahead and was made to pay for his subsequent infringements as Farrell narrowed the gap with another penalty.
Saracens sensed they had the chance to rescue the game and when another kick was spilled replacement Dave Lewis gave away the ultimate costly penalty with an offside schoolboy error.
Although it was in a kickable position Sarries gambled and with just five minutes remaining elected to go for the line-out option. It paid off as they won possession enabling Farrell to thread a grubber kick through the Gloucester defensive line and despite the efforts of Rory Lawson, centre Brad Barritt dived on the ball between the posts.
After an agonising lengthy delay the T.M.O. eventually awarded the dubious score. The conversion was a formality and the Cherry and Whites had contrived to lose a match that was there for the taking.
Saracens’ brand of rugby may not win them many friends away from Watford but their organised physical approach, based on gaining possession and territory from a kicking game whilst limiting their own mistakes eventually puts their opponents under pressure and produces points. It may not always be exciting or entertaining but it gets the winning results.
Next week’s trip to Exeter will doubtless yield the now customary away result but a defeat at Kingsholm is not expected or acceptable. Gloucester are now at the wrong end of the Premiership table and as the headmaster’s report used to say ‘Must do better’.
It was always going to be tight against a form team like Saracens and on such testosterone charged occasions you have got to keep your cool and your discipline. Sadly Gloucester failed to do so and effectively gift wrapped the game as an early Christmas present for “The Men In Black”. Good positions were sacrificed time and time again as Gloucester conceded dumb penalties in non threatening areas of the pitch which allowed Saracens to gain valuable yardage. All too often high balls were fumbled by Gloucester in their own 22 and indeed the final nail in the proverbial coffin was a combination of a bad fumble followed immediately by a stupid penalty for off-side.
The eighty minutes passed in a flash and whilst the rugby was not of the highest quality the tempo and excitement was at the top level. Sarries played their well rehearsed game of kicking high and chasing whilst Gloucester tried to inject pace and bite. Gloucester’s defence was excellent and despite Sarries prowess at ball retention they made little headway in the first half. Indeed they made their fair share of stupid mistakes and Schalk Brits had a nightmare of a match in all aspects of his game. The Gloucester forwards however collectively outdid him when it came to dumb play. They made not releasing “the ball” and “the player” their own throughout the match and in the end it was their undoing.
Burns & May picked up what appeared to be soft tissue injuries and when the latter limped off there was no qualified replacement available. Qera tackled hard and his work rate was matched by Dawiduik and Morgan. Nobody shirked their duty but all that hard work counts for nothing when you get on the wrong side of the ref and your basic skills do not stand muster.
Charlie Sharples, Henry Trinder, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, Jonny May;
Freddie Burns, Rory Lawson;
Nick Wood, Darren Dawidiuk, Rupert Harden;
Will James, Jim Hamilton;
Alasdair Strokosch, Akapusi Qera, Luke Narraway (capt)
Scott Lawson, Dan Murphy, Dario Chistolini, Tom Savage, Peter Buxton,
Dave Lewis, Tim Taylor, Mike Tindall
Gloucester: - Try: Morgan
Pen: Burns (2), Taylor (2)
Referee - Tim Wigglesworth