Back to List Next PageA slow start and Gloucester pay the penalty

Vicarage Road                         Zurich Premiership                              Saturday 8 September 2001
Saracens 34 Gloucester 30

Before the match it was generally agreed that with Saracens being deprived of several key players because of injury, Gloucester had a decent chance of getting their first ever win at Vicarage Road.
    Alas for the Cherry and Whites fans, who once again turned up in force, full of hope, it was not to be. For the first half hour Gloucester produced what must have been their worst ever starts to any game.
    They conceded five easy penalties and a soft try to the home side who racked up a 25-9 lead at half time.
    Perhaps it was the fact that the kick off had been brought forward to 2 o’clock but Gloucester seemed strangely out of touch and disjointed for most of the opening stages.

    Gloucester were not helped by the illogical interpretations of referee Ashley Rowden which flummoxed the fans and perplexed the players but no side can afford to concede so many penalties and expect to win.
    Before Saturday the League record for the most penalty goals kicked was 9, shared by Simon Mannix for Gloucester against ‘Quins last season and Thierry Lacroix for Saracens against Wasps.
    Last week Luke Smith missed seven kicks out of eight for Sarries at Wasps.
    This week he was successful with ten out of ten, nine penalties and one conversion! It took less than ten minutes for him to land his first three penalties. Then horror of horrors for Gloucester. Sarrie’s slippery scrum half Kyran Bracken exploited a lack of blind side cover through a gap as wide as a London bus. A pass to Scott Murray set up Tim Horan for the easiest try he’s had in ages.
    More penalties stretched the home side’s lead to 25-9 by the interval, with token Gloucester responses from the boot of Ludovic Mercier.
    Last season at Vicarage Road the Cherry and Whites had a thirty points hiding from Saracens and at half time the omens did not look too good again this time.
    After the break Gloucester came right back into the game as the pack took charge. The addition of Ollie Azam and Trevor Woodman added the vital cohesive impetus which had been sadly lacking in the first session.
    Gloucester even managed to get a share of the growing penalty count - Ludo duly obliged . A driving maul ended with Azam getting a try and Sarries were beginning to look vulnerable but were held together by French lock Abdel Benazzi. But whilst he was off for treatment Gloucester scored the best try of the day.
    Gloucester scrum half Dimitri Yachvili enjoyed a better second half. He set up Andy Hazell who linked with Ludo and Diego Albanese before Daren O’Leary crossed in the corner.
    This try made the score 28-27 but the Cherry and White fans were denied a fairy tale ending.
    At the restart Mr Rowden deemed that Gloucester had again infringed. No one seemed to know how or why. 31-27.
    Then came a classic opportunity for Gloucester. A penalty. Ludo kicked the goal. 31-30. But with the benefit of hindsight would it have been better to have kicked to the corner and go for a try?
    Another poor restart, another penalty awarded to Sarries. And another. Mr Rowden was clearly a law unto himself. It was that sort of game. Much promise but spoilt by too much whistle.


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