THE body language
of the Gloucester team as they took the field for the second half
at Bristol said it all. There was no sign of commitment or enthusiasm—could
just as easily have been a training stint at Oxstalls on a cold
wet and winter’s night, rather than a vital Premiership
match. With no disrespect to Bristol, although they have recently
beaten Leicester, Newcastle and Bath at the Memorial Stadium, on this
showing they are by no means a top quality side. Never the less they
were still the better of two poor sides, a Gloucester side that was
inefficient and uninspired.
It is bad enough to lose to good sides but for the Cherry and Whites
to lose to a side of such limited ability is disheartening.
Gloucester have now won only one of their last five league fixtures.
Qualification for next season’s European Cup competition now seems
very much less likely after such dismal Premiership performances.
In the past couple of weeks Gloucester seem to have gone back two
or three years. As the decline in form and morale continues it is
not easy to see when the Premiership success is coming, with the next
opponents high flying Wasps and trips to ‘Quins and Bath.
The more immediate concern is for the next fixture, the Heineken Cup
match against Llanelli. Whilst the Welshmen may themselves be struggling
to find their best form there was no evidence at Bristol that better
times are just around the corner after yet another poor Gloucester
As has so often been the case this season Gloucester made a decent
start with the front five in good shape, winning more than their share
of line out ball and putting the Bristol pack under some pressure
in the set pieces. Unfortunately thereafter it was the same old story.
More cases of the knack for giving away too many penalties, allied
to basic handling errors and the customary lack of ball retention.
If you cannot catch or pass the ball you’ve got serious problems playing
rugby at any level! Gloucester’s half backs failed to impose any authority
on the game.
At outside half Simon Mannix had a disappointing afternoon as once
again the back line failed to function as an attacking force. No variety,
no space or pace were generated and the predictable moves with Chris
Yates gained very little as most of the opposing sides have now worked
out defensive strategies to contain the centre’s strength.
The handling of the Gloucester backs was slipshod and although overlaps
were created in the first half no tries were forthcoming. The only
back to show any sign of enterprise was Terry Fanolua but all too
often he became isolated and chances were lost.
Gloucester may have been the stronger side in the first half but after
the interval it became a very different story. Gloucester’s back row
faded as Contepomi kicked his penalties to ease Bristol into the lead.
In stark contrast Mannix missed the simplest of kicks from in front
of the posts and it was downhill all the way from then on as Gloucester
subsided and Bristol finished well on top.
If only Gloucester could manage to score tries as easily as they give
away penalties - 33 points conceded in their last two matches - they
could be top of the Premiership table.
Another mediocre match which had all the quality of a school house
match but none of the eager passion of schoolboy rugby.
Time for a few changes I think!