Edgeley Park
Saturday 8 April 2006

Gloucester miss an unlikely chance to topple league leaders

Sale get kick from the last drop
Sale 18 Gloucester 15

Gloucester slipped to their fourth successive Premiership defeat this season at Edgeley Park, where league leaders Sale came from behind to snatch a narrow victory in a try-less contest.
Conditions dictated a scrappy game, with heavy showers, hail storms and a swirling wind throughout the match but Gloucester had managed to take advantage of the adverse elements to build up a 12-3 lead at half time thanks to the accuracy of the boot of young Ryan Lamb who slotted four penalty kicks with the wind behind him.
A further second half Lamb penalty eased the visitors further ahead and it seemed as if an unlikely and unexpected victory might be on the cards for Gloucesterís youngsters. However Sale secured the vast majority of the second half possession, plus territory and duly kicked their penalties before Jason Robinson kicked a late drop goal to with three minutes left to go to edge the home side in front.
Gloucester did have one last chance to make a draw of it but replacement fly-half Ludovic Mercier missed his injury-time attempt with a dreadful kick and the chance was lost.
Gloucesterís cause was not helped by the fact that they had a player sin-binned in each half, so effectively played twenty minutes with just fourteen men to make their task doubly difficult against such top opposition as Sale.
The Gloucester hopes were buoyed at the kick-off when it was learned that the talismanic Sebastian Chabal was not playing and Ryan Lamb made an impressive Premiership debut kicking an early penalty.
Sale soon upped their efforts and following a yellow card to prop Gary Powell, dominated the next 15 minutes spent camped on the Gloucester line following a sustained period of driving mauls. Heroics from the impressive Andy Hazell in particular, backed up by his team-mates, pulled off numerous try saving tackles in a stirring defensive effort to deny the home side a try.
Charlie Hodgson did kick a penalty for the hosts but missed another whereas Lamb was bang on target to stretch Gloucesterís lead to 12-3 at half time.
With the strong gusty wind behind the home side in the second half, it was very much a question of whether the lead was enough, especially as Sale brought their heavy-weights off the bench, Bruno, Lobbe and Turner but Gloucester did get the first points of the second period with another penalty from Lamb.
The Cherry and Whites were under increasing pressure as Hodgson duly slotted his kicks to put Sale back in the game.
The Gloucester pack were always competitive but never strong enough to dominate and lost a scrum against the head as the Sale forwards exerted increasing influence to also deny the visitors any decent line-out ball as Gloucester were confined to their own half.
After Hodgson had missed out with a kick at goal, Richard Wigglesworth levelled the scores as Mike Tindall became the second Cherry and White to be sin-binned.
The force and momentum was clearly with Sale, who had very much the lionís share of possession but although most of the game was played deep in the Gloucester half, the home side are not now convincing as a try scoring threat but with time running out, Jason Robinson eventually put them in the lead for the first time with a close range drop goal from in front of the posts.
Gloucester did manage to force play to the other end and gain a penalty but Ludoís scuffed attempt was a woeful effort and the chance was gone.
Ryan Lamb took the honours and the points for Gloucester as once again Andy Hazell was absolutely outstanding throughout.
Yet again the Cherry and Whites had to settle for the solitary bonus point and consequently the prospect of Heineken Cup rugby at Kingsholm next season is looking more and more remote.
Northampton are steadily working their way up the Premiership table and at this stage of the European Challenge Cup, on-form London Irish look to be too strong for any of the opposition.
Gloucester may be able to boast the meanest defence in the Premiership and prevent the table topping Sale side scoring a try but have not been able to win the close league tussles when it matters.
Games against Irish, Bath Northampton, Bristol, and now Sale have all been matches which could and should have been won if we are to succeed consistently at the highest level.

Pricey's Postscript
Hope is the killer.
You go to some games knowing you are going to get beaten and hope that it is not a stuffing.
Sale away was one of those games. As it turned out the losing wasn't so bad but it was the fact that we very nearly won that really hurts.
Although on reflection Sale were the better team especially in the second half, Gloucester and their bevy of youngsters tried to play some innovative rugby in poor weather conditions and they almost earned the full dividend for their efforts.
Much has happened and evolved since the first game of the season at Worcester; there were only 6 starting yesterday who started at Sixways.
You know that one day everything will click and a winning formula will be found. I'm not sure whether it is going to happen this season but it will certainly happen next term. Hope will always be the killer but as the saying goes it springs eternal.

J.G.P. 9/4/2005

Penalties : Lamb 5

M.Foster, A.Allen, M.Tindall, J.Simpson-Daniel
R.Lamb rep, L.Mercier, P.Richards
G.Powell rep.J.Forster, M.Davies, P.Collazo
A.Brown, J.Pendlebury rep.A.Eustace
P.Buxton,.rep L.Narraway, J.Forrester, A.Hazell

Referee - D.Pearson

Attendance :- 10,140