Memorial Ground
6 April 2001
Slipshod Gloucester found lacking again
Bristol 18 Gloucester 9

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 team effort.
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!