Gloucester Rugby v Saracens – A blustery night

Having decided not to make the trip to Gloucester I promptly changed my mind when I listened to me fellow Saracens fans discussing their planned trip; it just had to be done!  Ticket bought and hotel booked I made my way to Gloucester, not a bad journey really from Essex, not in the middle of the day anyway.  My hotel stay for the Leicester Tigers v Bath game was a bit of a nightmare so I was pleased to find a really nice, really quiet Premierinn room.

An Indian restaurant opened early so a group of us could meet and have a curry before the game, its really nice to spend time with like minded people and I was looking forward to the game after a really good experience last season.  Unfortunately the experience wasn’t as it should have been and I’ve written more about that at debsknigsport.com but for here, the match report.

Having to watch this again isn’t going to be deep joy I imagine – but here goes.  Gloucester were coming into a home fixture on the back of a narrow win against Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park.  Saracens had beaten London Irish at home.  A late change for Saracens saw Alex Goode starting at Fly Half for the visitors.

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Saracens were again wearing their concussion monitors; it’ll be interesting to see how useful their introduction is.  The home team emerged to a great welcome from their crowd.  Goode started the game with a high, hanging kick.  Saracens went on the attack but Billy Twelvetrees put in a huge kick to give Gloucester good territory albeit on a Saracens throw in.  Another attempt moments later went bouncing out over the try line.

And so we had the 1st scrum, would they be successful or mind numbingly boring penalty/free kick machines; one reset an the ball was played amazingly!  Saracens were awarded a penalty and chose to kick to touch, the maul was collapsed as they approached and again Goode kicked for touch.  Much to the disgust of the home fans penalty try was awarded as Gloucester were penalised in the maul again.

Saracens won another penalty as Jonny May held the ball, but a wild throw in by Jamie George saw possession got to Gloucester; they won a penalty in return as Ben Ransom was penalised for holding the ball.  Gloucester followed Saracens lead and kicked to touch. However it was the turn of Gloucester to throw a long ball in the lineout and Saracens cleared the ball.

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Gloucester had a great attack after a very poor kick from Ransom, the ball was passed to Twelvetrees who for some very strange reason took the decision to hold the ball rather than pass to Jonny May.  There was a time when I was a big advocate of Twelvetrees but in more recent times his decision making is at times shocking!  This was no exception, although 3 points were scored by James Hook from a penalty awarded,  Twelvetrees failure to pass cost his team a try, most probably a converted one at that!

In the same way that a key pass was missed it seemed that Saracens had lost the ability to tackle, James Hook took a kick from David Strettle and did really well to evade him, I remain a fan of Hook, he stormed up the pitch with barely a hand laid on him, it was exciting to witness, but very worrying for Saracens.

Another penalty for James Hook closed the gap to a point.  Watching the game on the television it’s disappointing to see a couple of the Gloucester players disagreeing with JP Doyle.  Matt Kvesic being one such, he was penalised for not rolling away, Alex Goode scored 3 points.  Another penalty in a good kicking position for Saracens saw another chance for Goode extending the lead as he kicked successfully.

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Former Gloucester man Jim Hamilton was next to be penalised, in front of the posts he failed to roll away.  There was an awful lot of anger in the crowd at this point as 2 Saracens medical/water men were tending to players in front of the kick; they really took their time, watching on the TV that doesn’t look good at all.  Hook hit the posts with what should have been an easy kick.  Did the Saracens men or the baying crowd put him off?

Kelly Brown received a team warning as Saracens were again penalised in the danger area.  Jonny May again to himself into a great position to score, but Charlie Sharples slipped before he could get the pass away.  However Dan Robson scored a wonderful try as he took a ball from the base of a ruck.  He chipped the ball over the head of Billy Vunipola and pounced on the ball to score. Mr Doyle went to the TMO as he’s entitled to do so, I’m not so sure the boo’s were justified.  The kick was a hard one for Hook and he sent the ball wide of the posts.

Chris Ashton, not a popular man at Kingsholm had a go at a kick to touch, sending it over the line giving us the 2nd scrum of the evening.  The scrum worked after an initial reset, Gloucester attacked and David Strettle tried to intercept the ball, knocking on as he did so, the 1st yellow card of the evening was brandished.

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I am going to comment on the reaction of the crowd around me at this point.  And I do type this as someone who’s spent time with David, the venom thrown at him shocked me, a former and maybe future England player I can’t think why it was felt right to throw abuse at him?  If he’d deliberately gone out to hurt a fellow player, maybe, but that wasn’t the case at all, and he totally isn’t that kind of player, not many are!

Gloucester started the half with an one man advantage, but within 3 minutes Tom Savage joined Strettle on the naughty step as he was penalised for going in at the side of a maul.  Saracens rolled forward from the resulting lineout and Billy Vunipola scored the 2nd try for the visitors.  Goode missed the conversion.

A great passage of play for Gloucester was foiled when James Hook was held up over the line by Alex Goode, Mark Atkinson had flicked the ball out of the back of his hand to get the ball to Jonny May before he passed to Hook.  Again lots of boo’s – it was deserving of a try, no doubt, but the fact was the decision was the right one.

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Ben Morgan picked the ball from the base of the scrum, and in what is bad news for both Gloucester and England went down very awkwardly, he looked to be in total agony and the news is that he has broken his leg.  Credit is due to the players form both teams who very quickly saw the situation and moved away from him.

Saracens had the chance to clear their lines after Richard Hibbard was penalised for standing up in the scrum; Goode went for a quick tap and the ball was passed across  the line, Marcelo Bosch went for the kick but made a total mess of it, kicking the ball straight off.

Twelvetrees again being hesitant in his decision making had a clearing kick charged down by Duncan Taylor, he caught his Taylor’s arm as he was running through, preventing him from taking advantage.  Petrus Du Plessis who’s having a great season for Saracens spilled the ball as Saracens attacked taking the pressure off the home team.

A very odd thing happened after a Gloucester lineout as poor old Jonny May was floored as the ball was thrown back, the ball hit him square in the face!  he clearly wasn’t perturbed as he kept hold of a slippery ball moments later.

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Gloucester went further ahead with a penalty in front of the posts as Saracens were penalised for offside in the ruck o the 10th phase of attack for the home team.  Gloucester took the lead after Jonny May showed what he could d from his own half simply gliding through the Saracens defence.  Gareth Evans on for the injured Morgan showed he could do anything a back could do as he stormed up the pitch!  Saracens didn’t get anything that looked like a tackle on either man!  Evans passed to Callum Braley who scored the try.

Things went from bad to worse for the visitors when George Kruis got himself in a bad position as he tackled Tevita Halaifonua – the tackle was a spear tackle and dangerous, seeing it up close Kruis was very lucky not to see red.  He was saved by the fact that Halaifonua twisted and put his arm down. But, again no need for the abuse he received when he left the pitch.

Play switched from one end of the pitch to the other after Gloucester lost the ball in a ruck as Mako Vunipola spotted the ball to be free and available.  Saracens won a penalty as they attacked – a stat on 66 minutes – Saracens had missed 33 tackles by that point! We had another very worrying injury as Nick Wood went down with what looked like a head or neck injury; the medics were clearly being very careful but goodness it took them a while to decide on the best way to transport him from the field.

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Maro Itoje came onto the pitch as Wood was being helped – this is a young man we’re going to be seeing a whole lot more of both at club and international level, he’s a phenomenal player!

Saracens were awarded a penalty and Jonny May a yellow card as the maul was pulled down; with the same offence being committed during the next maul Elliot Stooke was lucky not to face the same predicament.  Mako Vunipola put Saracens back in front as he took the ball from a quick pass from Neil De Kock – he powered through 3 men as he did so.  Goode missed the conversion.

We had a prolonged scrum with less than 10 minutes remaining, that scenario is all that’s wrong with rugby, it is an incredibly boring spectacle for those in the stands,  it went on for well over 3 minutes! Something has to change!

Gloucester attacked wit intent seeking the points needed for the win, James Hook sat back waiting for the drop goal attempt and when it came he missed by a fair way.  It looked like Chris Ashton had scored when Neil De Kock kicked the ball forward but JP Doyle went to the TMO as rightly so Ashton was offside.

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Many Gloucester fans had left the ground at this point so missed the wonderful kick by James Hook who sent the ball over the posts to win the game for their team.  I for one had every faith in him, it was a kick deserving of the win.

Great things to take from the win for Gloucester, tackling practice for Saracens this week before they face the might of Munster!  As a Saracens fan I believe the team that deserved to win did so, but I must say I was very disappointed by the ‘welcome’ I received as a visiting fan from a minority of Gloucester fans, it’ll take some thought before I return to Kingsholm

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