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Kingsholm ZURICH Premiership Saturday 14 February 2004 Gloucester 38 Sale 12

STRENGTH IN DEPTH is the current term used in connection with anything to do with Zurich Premiership rugby at the moment. Absentees are talked about more than those players actually selected to play for their regular teams. The contingent of top players missing from the ranks of the Gloucester and Sale sides, either enforced by injury or international call-up, seriously depleted both teams for this league fixture.
     Indeed it could be argued that the quality of the Zurich Premiership has been devalued by sharing fixture dates with internationals for both the spectator and the sponsor but nevertheless there was plenty of incident and interest at Kingsholm.
     On this showing, despite being without ten squad members, Gloucester do have a very fair contingent of forwards to stand in for their more illustrious counterparts. As a test of strength Gloucester certainly came up to the mark.


     Gloucesterís win was based on their classic strengths of a solid pack for a sound scrummage and a competitive line-out, aided by a lively challenging back row. They certainly had all these qualities in plenty.
     In contrast, for all their fierce physical presence, below strength Sale were out-muscled up front and were well beaten on the day and the final score and winning margin did not flatter Gloucester.
     The home side pack was in fine form consistently taking line-out ball from a Sale pack who clearly missed England squad member, the athletic Chris Jones and were made to pay as Gloucester drove over from a typical line-out catch and drive for Jake Boer.
     Duncan MacRae, entrusted with the kicking duties in the absence of Henry Paul, added the extra points with a conversion from wide out to get the first score.


     Saleís Alex Sanderson was sent to the sin-bin for a cynical foul in tripping MacRae and from the resultant penalty and line-out, it was more of the same, as another catch and drive from the home pack saw Rodrigo Roncero score from an efficient and effective piece of forward play.
     Despite missing far too many touch kicks and surrendering too much turn-over ball, the foundations for a Gloucester win were in place with a 14-0 lead after 35 minutes play.
     Thanks to MacRae, Gloucester got the ideal start to the second half when he kicked an early penalty but Sale did grab a try when former Gloucester scrum half Scott Benton profited from a turn-over ball to score in the corner. American fly half Marcus Hercus added the conversion from wide out but it did not prove to spark a serious Sale revival.
     Another deliberate offence by Sale put the Cherry and Whites further in the lead when Terry Fanolua executed a deft chip kick ahead but with the line at his mercy was taken out without the ball and referee Tony Spreadbury immediately awarded a penalty try.
     With fly half MacRae orchestrating affairs behind the scrum, Gloucester were very much in the ascendancy and the bonus point was now a distinct possibility.
     It came in the 72nd minute as Junior Paramore was on hand to collect from Robert Todd and barge over under the posts from close range to take the score to 31-7 after the conversion.
     Although the home side were without Sinbad, (injured with damaged ribs) there was a Simpson-Daniel on the pitch, his younger and smaller brother Mark who came on at scrum half as a lively replacement for Scott Benton. Sale did get a second try through Chris Mayor but it was something of a consolation effort.


     However Gloucester had the last word when Argentine prop Roncero intercepted just inside the visitorís half and raced away to cross by the posts for his second score and the try of the evening.
     Gloucesterís rookie wingers Foster and Frape, coped well with Saleís high scoring big wingers Cueto and Hanley, as centres Toddy and Terry controlled the mid-field but it was the pack which set up the well earned win.
     Gloucester have now edged up into the higher echelons of the Premiership, with the distinct chance of a play-off place very much in prospect but with the break for internationals, the next league game at Kingsholm is the middle of April. There is still an awful long way to go until the end of the season in May.


     Points         Tries: Boer, Roncero 2    Penalty Try: Paramore
                        Cons: MacRae 5     Pens: MacRae


Gloucester 44 Sale 8