Kingsholm   10 February 2001
Keast sees a try feast
Gloucester 50 Rotherham 17

CELEBRATED comic Ken Dodd used to quip to rapturous applause, ‘By God I needed that’. Following on from five successive Zurich Premiership League defeats, I am sure the Gloucester crowd’s sentiments were very much the same at the end of the match at Kingsholm.
After being comprehensively outplayed by Wasps and suffering the biggest ever home League defeat and then being thumped at Bath and conceding fifty points in the process, to say that the victory was more than welcome was very much an understatement.
Rotherham have become the whipping boys of the Premiership in their first season and despite showing plenty of spirit and hard work were defensively still in a lower division, which is probably where they will end up at the end of the season.
What of the Cherry and Whites? To say that the form this season has been a bit of a roller coaster is perhaps a bit generous, as all too often players have under performed.
On the face of it, with Kingsholm confidence at an all time low, this fixture against the bottom of the table team was a potential banana skin and there was touch of trepidation in the air.
The arrival of Andy Keast at Gloucester, a coach with proven top class experience should help to galvanise the players and give the coaching staff of Philippe and John Brain a bit more breathing space. Hopefully the input of fresh ideas, especially for the sluggish back division, could ease some of the end of season pressure and provide time to plan ahead.
It has become increasingly obvious this season that a coaching staff of one full timer and a part timer, was never going to work in the rarefied atmosphere of present day top professional rugby. I doubt if any other Premiership has had such a shoe string coaching set-up.
The first win of 2001 will not be enough on its own to restore confidence and self-belief but it could be a step in the right direction and perhaps a turning point. in what has been a disappointing season.
Although Gloucester scored early on, thanks to some fine handling with prop Phil Vickery turning up on the wing to set up Tom Beim for a smart try, it was not all plain sailing as he left the field shortly afterwards with an injury.
This brought on the young 18 year old James Simpson-Daniel. Highly rated by all and sundry, ‘Sinbad’ proceeded to show just why he is held in such high regard with a show of talent and skilful enterprise with real pace. He was the victim of a high tackle from the Yorkshire team’s skipper Mike Umaga but it did nothing to diminish his obvious skills. He contrived to create a scoring pass for Chris Catling before he got a brilliant individual try just before half-time. No wonder the Shed were in good voice with their new found hero in such good form.
Jake Boer and Ollie Azam made powerful runs into the visitor’s territory before Mark Cornwell got a try, benefiting with the scoring pass from guess who?
After the break Rotherham made a spirited brief fight-back and scored a couple of simple tries before the home side pulled themselves together to regain control.
A penalty try followed before Jason Little showed a touch of individual class, sadly lacking for much of the season, to add to the try tally.
Gloucester have had more than their fair share of injuries this season so it was good to see Robert Todd come on for his first league action of the season after his horrific pre-season injury. Although not yet match fit he marked his League debut scoring the seventh try, finishing off a strong run from Terry Fanolua.
The biggest win of the season does not disguise the fact that Gloucester are still some way short of the finished article—the genuine collective.
At least we could smile this week.