welcome win but Gloucester fail to impress
Vicarage Road ZURICH Premiership Saturday 3 April 2004
Saracens 8 Gloucester 16
IT WASNíT pretty but after the slump at Sale at least it was a welcome win. A win is a win but by any standard this was not a good win from what was a poor game.
GLOUCESTER FIRST TO SCORE
Gloucester were not at all convincing. For long periods in the second half they struggled to gain possession as the authority of the first half ebbed away and in the end it was the defence and continuing rich vein of 100% kicking form of Henry Paul that proved to be the vital difference between the two sides.
It was good to see the England contingent back in Cherry and White colours again in action in a Zurich Premiership match for the first time since early January but it didnít go all their way.
Duggie Woodman, the subject of much speculation, collected an eye injury and took no part in the second half. Vicks put himself about but doesnít seem completely on top of his game. Sinbad hardly received a pass but tackled well. Garvey got a sharp try and Gommars was as industrious as ever behind a struggling scrum.
Gloucester were first to get on the scoreboard with a well struck penalty from Henry Paul but the opening exchanges had seen Sarriesí Kris Chesney earn a spell in the bin for taking out Marcel as the winger chased a Gommarsí kick ahead to the line. Gloucester were unable to make the subsequent catch and drives count and the pressure fizzled out when Duncan MacRae took the wrong option with a poor attempt at a drop goal.
DEFENCE EQUAL TO THE TASK
Gommars was penalised for being off-side at a scrum in what looked like a very dubious decision by referee Dave Pearson but Nicky Little pulled the simple chance wide in the first of his missed kicks.
Gloucester got the important first try as Jake Boer made ground before the ball was fed out wide. Full back Riaan der Bergh made the break for Marcel to finish of the move with a try. Henry did the rest with a conversion from wide out and added another successful penalty to put the visitors firmly in the lead at 13Ė0.
However Saracens hit back just before the break when centre Kevin Sorrell broke through between MacRae and Paul. He was stopped just short of the line by Terry Fanolua and Sinbad but Canadian scrum half Morgan Williams was on hand to scramble over for the try. Little once again managed to miss the straightforward conversion attempt.
Gloucesterís comfortable lead was dented and in the second half the home side gradually established more territory as their scummage began to gain the ascendancy. Englandís Richard Hill was very much to the fore and as usual suffered the inevitable crop of stitches to a head wound but still led from the front before Little did eventually kick a penalty to take the score to 13ó8.
Possession was in short supply for the Cherry and Whites in the second period but thankfully the defence was equal to their task and Sarries were denied any further tries.
Thank goodness defensive coach Dave Ellis is back on board with his expert detailed analysis after his spell with the Six Nations Champions France . Another coach in evidence at Vicarage Road was former Kiwi John Mitchell.
Junior Paramore was carded for an ill judged hay-maker that failed to connect, before Henry Paul, Englandís forgotten 15 a side man, had the last word for Gloucester as he kicked an injury time penalty to assure the visitorís win denied Saracens a bonus point.
Saracens did not have sufficient skill or class to turn their second half improvement into points but a better side would doubtless have made much more of the chances. A watching Warren Gatland was probably not too much concerned by what he saw offered up by Gloucester. Clearly it will need a major effort and improvement to make any impression at High Wycombe against Wasps in the Heineken Cup.
In addition to the absence of key players, Gloucester must rue some sub-standard performances away from Kingsholm, which have cost the club dear during this fragmented season. The win at Watford was only the fourth league success of the season in the Zurich Premiership.
Not good enough for absolute success at the highest level.
Paul Pens: Paul 3
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