26 November 2005
Spirited Gloucester earn victory
Gloucester 19 Saracens 8
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A WEEK MAKES.
The roller-coaster ride that goes with being a seasoned Cherry and Whites supporter should prepare us for the peaks and troughs, from ecstasy to bitter disappointment but last week was particularly difficult to endure.
After a dismal trip to Leicester, followed by the dregs of a display against London Irish, this week Gloucester confounded the critics with an energetic spirited display to overcome a strong Saracens side.
The build-up to this Premiership encounter was anything but confidence building, with international calls and injuries decimating the normal squad numbers and throwing young experienced players into the front-line. In marked contrast confident Saracens had a virtual full compliment to select from and were very much fancied to add to their seven match winning run with an easy win.
How wrong you can be for Gloucester produced a truly lively display that put the visitors completely out of their stride from the opening minutes until late in the game when the visitors produced a few belated moves but by then it was too little too late for Saracens.
A strong first half performance by Gloucester put down a marker from the home side early on as the home pack established supremacy over the usual physical Saracens side.
Phil Vickery back in the side after England duty, led the home side with a typically un-compromising display in the loose and the rest of the side responded to the challenge in the most positive fashion.
Unlike in the previous two weekís matches Gloucesterís pack did generate genuine forward momentum, when allowed to by pernickety referee Sean Davey, and accordingly conceded less penalties.
Ludovic Mercier got the first points of the afternoon when he kicked a snap drop goal but his opposite number Sarriesí Glen Jackson levelled the scores with a penalty kick.
The home side gained the early ascendancy and the subsequent possession led to an excellent first try when young right wing Mark Foster carved his way through the Saracens mid-field defence to score in the left hand corner for a first rate score which was not converted.
The early question mark over the line-outs faded as the game settled down and Eustace and Cornwell stamped their authority on proceedings whilst behind the scrum the distribution and running was much improved, as was the discipline.
Ludo added a penalty before the second try came when he seized on a Glen Jackson pass to intercept and raced away from the Gloucester twentfive to off-load to the other young winger James Bailey who accelerated away to score in the corner. 16-3.
Before the game Gloucesterís young wingers were thought to be the Achilles Heel of the home side but both acquitted themselves competently in defence.
The second half was a tighter affair with few chances on offer but after hitting the upright with a penalty kick Ludo was on target with his next effort to put the home side 19-3 in front.
Saracens had showed little creativity, being content to try and bludgeon their way up-field but did manage to put some moves together as the game entered the final quarter.
Gloucesterís defence initially held firm with Bailey pulling off a try saving tackle on Jackson but full back Dan Scarborough made a break before hooker Matt Cairns crossed wide out.
Although the final minutes were nervy for the home fans, Saracens didnít really look like scoring and it ended with a well deserved win for the Cherry and Whites.
Once again Andy Hazell produced Herculean non-stop efforts from start to finish and all in all it was a much more encouraging showing from the home side after the recent events, especially from the youngsters in the side.
We now have a break from Premiership action with Powergen and European Challenge Cup activities to look forward to.
Not quite so daunting as league encounters but interesting games ahead with Bath next at the Wreck.
They wore the same shirts and most of the personnel was the same as last week but they managed to produce a totally different performance.
Andy Hazell made a massive impact on his return to the side and Mark Cornwell produced one of his best performances for a considerable time but the rest of the team played with pace and committment that was just not seen at London Irish.
Ollie Morgan has made the shirt his own and Messrs Tindall and Simpson Daniel will have to be in top form at training this week if they are to feature next Saturday night.
Mind you a week is a long time at Gloucester and you must wonder what metamorphosis will occur in the next 6 days!
Tries:Foster , Bailey Drop Goal: Mercier Penalty: Mercier (2)
M.Foster, T.Fanolua, A.Allen rep. B.Davis, J.Bailey
L.Mercier, H.Thomas rep. S.Amor
N.Wood rep. G.Powell, R.Elloway rep. J.Parkes, P.Vickery
M.Cornwell, A.Eustace rep.Q.Davids
P.Buxton, A.Balding rep. L.Narraway, A.Hazell
Referee - S.Davey
Attendance - 10,516
LAST SEASON'S REPORT
Gloucester13 Saracens 14 - Saturday 30 April 2005