'Merci Bien'- as Ludo puts the boot in
Kingsholm Zurich Premiership Saturday 1 September 2001
Gloucester 22 Northampton 0
Itís been a funny old week for
Cherry and Whites supporters.
NINE NEW PLAYERS
A season for the Cherry and Whites which
heralds the arrival of no fewer than 9 new players. A cosmopolitan
outfit, mainly from a background of French league rugby, backed
up by more Gallic back-room staff - viewed by some as a detachment
of the Foreign Legion.
Any pre-season optimism suffered a body
blow with the shock departure of assistant coach Andy Keast. Rumours
were rife of disenchanted players at loggerheads - hardly a good
start for a key fixture - the first of the new Premiership season.
What a difference a day makes for Gloucester
fans. Even though the side had only appeared briefly together
in the Toulouse friendly fixture, all things considered they performed
with spirit and commitment in an encouraging start. Especially
for a team that is once again being written off by the media pundits.
At times there was nothing too friendly
about this encounter and although Junior finished up in the sin-bin
for a South Sea tackle, Gloucester always had the edge.
The Saints took an early lead thanks to a Paul Grayson penalty
but their lead was short lived as the metronomic Mercier began
to accumulate points.
In last seasonís Kingsholm encounter Grayson
kicked the visitors to victory as Gloucester missed goal kicks
and try scoring chances. This time the Cherry and Whites had a
player with a trusty boot.
LUDOíS GREAT KICKING
No. 10, Ludovic Mercier, the leading points
scorer in French rugby last season with Aurillac, has a terrific
left foot and duly kicked 17 points and gained much ground with
long touch kicks. For a player who it was said could only kick,
he produced a good display of half back play supplemented by strong
tackling and Ludo seems well on the way to becoming a Kingsholm
favourite. Is it too much to hope that at long last Gloucester
have a reliable goal kicker? Five League games were lost last
season by a margin of three points or less!
Young French scrum-half Dimitri Yachvilli
also impressed in his league debut and was instrumental in helping
to set up the only try of the match. With the help of Italian
prop Frederico Pucciarello he exploited the blind side for Junior
Parramore to score a well worked try. Northampton were allowed
few chances and were restricted to speculative kicks ahead from
Grayson and showed no signs of creative back play, whilst their
pack was unable to contain the driving strength of the home sideís
Saints played all their British Lions
and Matt Dawson got his customary Kingsholm welcome when he joined
the fray for the second half but made little difference. It was
only in the final quarter that Saints came into the game as the
home side eased up. One win does not constitute a successful season
but even allowing for a disappointingly poor Saints side, this
was a surprisingly efficient performance by a largely untried
There is patently work to be done to improve
the scrum and line out to compete with the stronger sides. Fortunately
this season there appears to be the basis for a better balanced
side with depth in key positions and competition for all places.
HENRY PAUL TO COME
OíLeary and Albanese looked lively on
the wings with strong runs. Italian international Stoica looks
a powerful centre and with Henry Paul yet to arrive for once Gloucester
seem to have genuine pace and strength behind the scrum It is
early days but perhaps things will not be quite as bad for Gloucester
as we first feared.