Cherry and Whites on a high
Gloucester edge out leaders
Gloucester 28 Saracens 23
Kingsholm - Saturday 20 April, 2013
Being a Gloucester supporter is like being on an emotional roller-coaster experiencing the elation of victory one week and the depressing depths of despair from defeat the next.
After the depressing debacle at the hands of lowly Sale many were dreading a similar fate from visiting league leaders Saracens, a team with one of the meanest defences in the Aviva Premiership but this time round the Cherry and Whites turned up in a positive frame of mind, put their bodies on the line to take the fight to the opposition in a match that was a credit to both sides.
Consistency has never been the strong point with Gloucester and is still their Achilles’ heel away from Kingsholm but this performance was a highlight of this frustrating season.
The visitors chose to rest players before their Heineken Cup clash with Toulon but unlike Gloucester, have a greater depth of quality and numbers in their squad to extend their style of play which has brought them success on the pitch.
However Gloucester do have a collection of players who on their day can test any defence and this time round they turned up with their big back row ball carriers punching holes in the opposition whilst behind the scrum the backs were quick and sharp in thought and deed as they all contributed to a true tussle that was gripping from start to finish.
The host got off to a flying start with a Freddie Burns long distance penalty which was followed up by an impressive try from Jonny May who left Sarries’ full back Alex Goode floundering . Freddie missed the conversion and a penalty as fears that the misses might prove costly were raised as Owen Farrell slotted a simple penalty.
The visitors then took the lead with a try when the Gloucester defence was caught napping waiting for the whistle enabling Joel Tomkins to cross for a simple try converted by Farrell. 8-10.
Another penalty from Farrell increased Sarries’ lead but Gloucester hit back when full back Rob Cook broke through from deep before Freddie supplied a well-judged kick into space to expose the defence and May pounced to collect and score. This time the try was converted before Burns added another penalty just before the interval to increase the lead.18-13.
The free-flowing rugby continued in the second half but although Billy Twelvetrees was only stopped by a desperate last ditch tackle Gloucester were unable to add to their score as the scrums, the problem area of modern-day rugby, increased and decisions seemed to go against the home side allowing Farrell to narrow the gap..
Then came what proved to be the defining moment of the game when Gloucester No.8 Ben Morgan made his considerable presence felt with a terrific diagonal run as he shredded the rivals’ defence leaving a handful of would-be tacklers in his wake to score under the posts. Freddie converted. 25-16.
The nine-point Gloucester lead did not last too long as Sarries increased their mounting pressure before Dan Robson was yellow-carded which allowed Tomkins space for his second try. Farrell’s straight-forward conversion cut the difference to just two points at 25-23.
The league-leaders' momentum was sustained and with time running out it was backs to the wall stuff from Gloucester but with nerves jangling as the tension mounted the hosts’ defence managed to hold out when it seemed Saracens would claim a late winner in the final minutes.
However salvation was at hand as Gloucester broke out and then won a penalty for Freddie to settle the issue with injury time penalty kick. Normal breathing could be resumed.
A terrific game that played hell with the nerves but provided a great spectacle and advert for Premiership rugby.
So the suffering at Kingsholm is over for this season. A season that at times has frustratingly plumbed the depths and at others raised hopes of better times to come.
Gloucester’s back row has been truly outstanding whilst the front–five clearly needs bolstering, let us hope there are signings to be announced. As for the threes, on their day they can be sublime, no wonder they are attracting interest from across the Channel.
The final Premiership league match of the season is at Exeter.
Which Cherry and Whites team will turn up?
They break your heart one week and then take you to Paradise the next week. If Gloucester had put in one fifth of the effort we saw today into last week’s performance at Sale they would have won by 30 points. But that’s Gloucester for you.
Magnificent from start to finish they pulverised Saracens with passion, blood, sweat and tears. Every player deserved the “Man of the Match” award and had the luck of the bounce gone their way there were at least two other tries in the offing. The front row was outstanding and the lineout was at its best – they had to be because Saracens had only lost three games before today.
Both sides provided a magnificent display of rugby that leaves the Six Nations Championship a tournament for those who want a quiet life. My only disappointment today was dear old J P Doyle the Referee – he’s praised by the TV pundits for letting the game flow but he totally ignores page after page of the Law Book. Matt Stevens failed to bind correctly at any scrum. The Saracens back line was continually offside and time and time again their players failed to retreat at the kick. I’m sure Gloucester was as illegal, too but of course that’s another story!!
Next up Exeter away – I wonder which Gloucester side will turn up; heart breakers or The Starlight Express?
Referee - J.P.Doyle