is not a particularly attractive place to visit. Vicarage Road is not
a venue that springs to mind as providing a warm welcome, especially
on a gloomy, cold and dank afternoon in November when Gloucester supporters
arrived at the Saracens ground to learn that influential skipper Jake
Boer was the latest player to be added to the growing list of absentees
and injured squad players which now tops the dozen mark.
Effectively it meant
that the Gloucester team was at half-strength up against a Saracens’
side close to full-strength but still smarting from being turned over
the previous week by London rivals Harlequins.
To their credit, although depleted, Gloucester played with much spirit
and character and never gave up trying but for once finished up try-less,
as the home side scored the only try of the game which proved to be
the key difference between the two sides.
Only two players got on the score-sheet Robbie Kydd, a discard from
Bath, for Saracens with three easy penalties and a try, up against three
penalties from Simon Amor. He missed with two ambitious long-range kicks
from close to the half-way line and a dropped goal attempt but generally
he had a pretty sound game at outside half.
Nevertheless once again Gloucester struggled behind the scrum. The continued
absence of Andy Gomarsall, Duncan McRae and Henry Paul was most keenly
felt with the lack of invention, creativity or flair to produce penetration
in mid-field that left the thought that if only Gloucester had been
anything like near full strength they would have proved too much for
the Londoners. Frustrating maybe, but ‘what ifs’ count for
Gloucester’s centres had only a minimal repertoire. Everybody
has a pretty fair idea that Terry Fanolua has limited invention and
relies on his direct approach whilst Nathan Mauger seems a one speed
operator with no pace or acceleration.
whole game was a dour affair and not pretty to watch with little spark
to lift the gloom and although Gloucester probably had the better of
the first half, thanks to their pack, all they had to show for it was
a couple of successful penalty kicks from Simon Amor.
Adam Balding worked his socks off at No.8, whilst Adam Eustace and Mark
Cornwell had the better of the line out exchanges but an undistinguished
opening period ended with the scores level at 6-6.
At the start of the second half Gloucester stole a Saracens’ line
out but the ball was lost in mid-field for their fly half Mark Bartholomeusz
to kick a long low diagonal kick to the corner and although winger Tevita
Vaikona was tackled he managed to squeeze an off-load to centre Ben
Johnston who provided the scoring pass to full back Robbie Kydd who
scored in the corner.
Simon Amor did kick another penalty for Gloucester but that was cancelled
out as Saracens did exactly the same.
Seti Kiole came on for the final twenty minutes but looked most inexperienced
in defence and had few chances with the ball but his direct style of
battering ram attack was easily contained by the home side who had clearly
done their homework and marked him out of contention.
There was a further worry for Gloucester, as Gary Powell took a knock
but in general the front row performed well enough.
Following on from the Heineken Cup win over Ulster it is clear that
victory did come at a cost—the loss of key players, Alex Brown,
Ollie Azam and Duncan McRae from serious injuries sustained as a direct
result of that encounter.
Now a third defeat in a row in the Zurich Premiership, this time to
a very ordinary Saracens outfit, it is a frustrating time for the Cherry
and Whites with so many players not being available and another slip
down the table, in a game which under normal circumstances Gloucester
should have won. At the end of the season such results may cost them
very dear when it comes to qualification for the Heineken European Cup
as teams close up together in the mid-table log-jam. One point was better
than nothing away from home against Saracens but if we'd have won?
Friday’s forthcoming fixture with fellow sufferers Sale, who are
also reeling from the lack of key performers caused by international
calls and injuries, takes on additional significance for both clubs—at
least we are both in the same plight but tries and league points are
of paramount importance.