Gloucester Matches


Back to List Next Page'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.
    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.

    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.
    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.
    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 forwards.
    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 Gloucester unit.
    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.
    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.


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