Fighting finish to festive season
Kingsholm Zurich Premiership Saturday 29 December 2001
Gloucester 29 Newcastle 25
A FURIOUS FRACAS which boiled over the touchline into the Gloucester dug-out, seemingly involving all the forwards, got the game off to a far more rousing start than anyone anticipated. On a raw cold winter’s afternoon the heat generated from the fisticuffs brought about an early finish for Ollie Azam and Newcastle’s Tongan Epi Taione as they received their marching orders within fifteen minutes of the start.LOST CONTROL
Referee Roy Maybank lost control at the very first scrum and thereafter some of his decisions were difficult for both the players and the capacity crowd to understand. With such officials in charge you can well understand the frustration of coaches when the outcome of key matches can hinge upon crucial decisions.
Christmas, the season of goodwill was forgotten in the melee but the Cherry and Whites pulled themselves together and set about the job in hand - winning the game - not just the pitched battle.
Newcastle for their part seemed to have had a game plan that involved spoiling and upsetting the Gloucester eight and left the impression that the combative Azam was one of a front row singled out for special treatment.
The home side’s forwards soon asserted their supremacy through sheer hard work as Gloucester began to dominate for long periods.
Jonny Wilkinson kicked an early penalty to put the Falcons into the lead but it was short lived. Adam Eustace stole a ball from a line out to charge over and put the home side in front. Henry Paul converted although he had earlier failed to match Wilkinson’s first penalty.
They each added further penalties but it was the England kicker who looked the more assured player.
Gloucester did cross the line through Joe Ewens but the final pass was strangely adjudged to be forward by Mr Maybank.
Daren O’Leary instigated a fine move from full back. A deft cross kick from Paul was collected by Andy Hazell for O’Leary to cross in the corner to give the home side an ideal start to the second half.
At 18-6 Gloucester were beginning to put together some excellent passing and Diego Albanese set up the unreliable Terry Fanolua for a good try. With the score 23-6 Gloucester seemed well set to strike for the bonus point.
BACK IN THE GAME
Alas it was not to be as talisman Wilkinson helped put the visitors back into contention.
Following the substitution of the cynical cheating Doddie Weir and his illegal tactics, Pat Lam and Inga Tuigamala brought Newcastle to life. Wilkinson then sent centre Jamie Noon in on the blindside.
A questionable triple substitution saw the introduction of Collazo, Fidler and Paramore for Woodman, Eustace and Boer but the Gloucester pack promptly lost their rhythm and momentum.
Paul kicked another penalty but then Gloucester suffered again at the hands of the referee as the Falcons were awarded a harsh penalty try. 26-18.
The Newcastle revival continued as a dreadful attempted clearance kick from Paul was seized upon for Wilkinson to score and convert from the touchline. 26-25.
Gloucester muscled their way back into Newcastle territory and secured a penalty which Paul duly kicked from close range.
BONUS POINT MISSED
At the final whistle it was the visitors who secured a bonus point and nearly a win, so Gloucester had to be content with deserved victory.
Henry Paul at fly half had a game of mixed fortunes. Perhaps we are expecting too much too soon but frustratingly the former rugby league star was inconsistent. Whilst his distribution was effective, his kicking certainly was not. He missed 5 kicks at goal, his restarts lacked height and his kicking out of hand was poor. He did not find a lengthy touch kick all afternoon and too often kicked away possession to the opposition.
The match will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. The brawl and post match allegations- rugby will be the real loser.
"Taione made a lasting impression on his debut after only twenty minutes. The Tongan was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle on Franck Schisano"
Rob Wildman - Newcastle v Gloucester
Daily Telegraph 6/9/2000