Saturday 4 November2006

Keil double lifts Gloucester top

Gloucester 21 Saracens 12

A HARD FOUGHT BATTLE resulted in a win for an under-strength Gloucester team over a near full-strength Saracens side who had won their last three games, whereas the home side had lost their last two succesive matches.
The Cherry and Whites were without their England players to add to the growing injury list but in marked contrast Sarries have lost no players because of international duties.
Surely it is high time that no Guinness Premiership fixtures are scheduled on international dates.
The rugby season is plenty long enough to allow for a complete restructuring of the fixture list. If only Premier Rugby with the R.F.U, could get their act together and get rid of unwanted play-offs plus irrelevant cup matches and influence the Celtic nations to embrace change to the Six Nations’ dates.
On the pitch, despite losing three players to the sin-bin, Gloucester deserved their win over a Saracens’ side who rarely looked like scoring a try and if only the home side had applied a more ruthless clinical attitude the Watford side would have been buried by half time.
By way of a change Gloucester made an enterprising start and applied early pressure which enabled full back Willie Walker to slot a penalty as the visitors were pinned in their own half for long periods.
Although there were no fireworks on the pitch, Ryan Lamb did display his unique brand of inventiveness to go some way to make up for his disappointments against Agen last week and was on hand to set up the vastly improved Rudi Keil for the opening unconverted try.
Richard Haughton was the first to receive a yellow card as the visitors continued to infringe to the displeasure of referee David Rose and Walker duly kicked the penalty.
Glen Jackson did put a Sarries’ score on the board with a penalty before Lamb again showed his vision and awareness as he sent Keil through a misaligned defence for his second try which Walker added the conversion to take the lead to 18-3.
You sensed that if Gloucester could get another quick try that would put paid to the opposition but it was not to be.
Adam Eustace was sin-binned and Jackson kicked the resultant penalty before Gloucester’s troubles deepened when Keil was also yellow carded for taking out Dan Scarborough in the air and Jackson added another before the interval break with the score at 18-9.
Saracens were allowed to come back into the game as the second half progressed with more possession and the trusty boot of Jackson took them to within six points of the Gloucester score at 18-12.
Luke Narraway and Peter Buxton performed Herculean efforts but the game was not safe with such a narrow margin and Dean Ryan made some key changes.
With twenty minutes remaining Lamb was replaced by Ludovic Mercier as the home side battled to gain territory and possession.
Saracens were penalised wide out on the right and Ludo had the task of putting Gloucester more firmly in the lead and he made no mistake as he kicked the goal to ease the situation.
Somewhat belatedly Patrice Colllazo and Ollie Azam were introduced to the fray for the final ten minutes and Saracens never looked like scoring twice to steal the match.
However there was still time for James Bailey to end up in the bin but although former England international rugby league star Andy Farrell was introduced by Saracens the game was up for the men from Watford.
No bonus point but another welcome win with some encouraging signs for the Cherry and Whites for whom scrum half Rory Lawson had his best performance to date.
Considering the total number of top players missing it was almost a satisfactory show but Gloucester made hard work of it and it is good to learn that the experienced Mike Tindall is very close to regaining match fitness—his guiding hand is needed behind the scrum.

Pricey's Postscript
Another win and top of the league; the unbeaten run continues but Gloucester have yet to play for a full eighty minutes at above 50 % efficiency.
Make no mistake, they deserved the victory but once again they made hard work of it. Had they scored again when it was 18-3, Sarries would have disintegrated but Gloucester seem to lack that killer punch.
Perhaps that's the lesson still to be learnt from the two HC defeats in recent weeks?
Teams have to be ruthlessly put away at this level and if you don't go for the throat when the opportunity arises there will always be the danger of the opposition coming back at you.
Sarries couldn't turn it to their advantage but there are other teams in the Premiership who will.

J.G.P. 5/11/2006

Tries :-Keil (2) Con: Walker, Penalties: Walker(2) Mercier
H/T 18-9

J.Bailey, H.Keil, J.Adams, J.Simpson-Daniel
R.Lamb rep. L.Mercier, R.Lawson
N.Wood rep. P.Collazo, M.Davies (rep.O.Azam), C.Nieto
M.Bortolami (C), A.Eustace rep.J.Pendlebury,
P.Buxton , L.Narraway, A.Balding

Referee: - David Rose
Attendance - 10,052

Gloucester 19 Saracens 8 - Saturday 26 November 2005

Premiership League record versus Saracens