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Madejkski Stadium Reading         Powergen Cup - Quarter Final                          Sunday 20 January 2002
London Irish 25 Gloucester 10

ITíS a job to know which was the worst, the wretched wet weather or Gloucesterís poor performance.
A dank, drizzly afternoon was matched by a dire display by the Cherry and Whites who bowed out of the Powergen Cup at the quarter-final stage, with their biggest away defeat of the season. The visitors didnít perform to their true potential and never built up any continuity or momentum.
It was always going to be a difficult encounter for Gloucester without their first choice front row and an experimental back row in a makeshift pack but surely not an impossible task.
Unfortunately in the professional era the winners of the domestic cup competition no longer have the status of entry into the lucrative Heineken European Cup competition but most teams and their fans fancy a trip to Twickenham. However the Powergen Cup did not feature as one of Gloucesterís targets this season and was plainly not treated with same seriousness and enthusiasm as other competitions.
A second quarter-final later in the week - Ebbw Vale at Kingsholm in the Parker Pen European Shield - where the competition winners do qualify for the Heineken Cup, is now understandably deemed of higher priority.
That said, it was a lack lustre performance from Gloucester. Quite which was the worst aspect of their game is open to conjecture.
The general consensus amongst many of the Gloucester fans who had made the trip to Reading was that Henry Paul had a particularly poor game at fly half. On a day when some spark and penetrative flair were needed the team just didnít function as at Bristol in the previous round.
The shambles that masqueraded as a line out was truly amateurish. As one wag remarked ĎDonít they practice in the weekí? I lost count of the times Gloucester lost out on their own throw.
Referee Steve Lander did Gloucester no favours. Too often dubious decisions were awarded to the home side, whilst obvious London Irish infringements went unpunished as the touch judges were found wanting - just like Gloucester!
Henry Paul had an uncomfortable afternoon, he lacked vision and too often gave away possession with a variety of poorly directed kicks. In marked contrast Irish fly-half Barry Everitt not only gained huge chunks of territory with his kicking out of hand but had 100% accuracy with his goal kicks to inspire Irish confidence.
The London Irish game plan was simple. Take advantage of the wet conditions by kicking behind the opposition backs into the Gloucester half and then drive forward to secure the almost inevitable penalty. Needless to say Barry Everitt never looked like missing straightforward kicks at goal.
Ludovic Mercier at full back for Gloucester, had only two long distance penalty attempts from inside his own half which were just outside his range. Everittís penalties set Irish on their way before being presented with a gift try by Gloucester.
A lousy loose pass from Henry Paul was too high for the handling skills of Terry Fanolua to take and Irish winger Paul Sackey was alert and quick enough to seize the bouncing ball and set the home side on their way.
Gloucester did exert something like pressure just before the break when Pierre Callet and Jake Boer drove to the line before Andy Gomarsall darted over from close range.
With the interval score at 16-7 Gloucester were not quite out of contention but all they had to show from their second half efforts was a solitary penalty. Joe Ewens went close in the corner but Everitt added 3 simple kicks for a tally of 20 points.
London Irish deserved their semi-final place for a workmanlike display in the wet. Gloucester got what they deserved. Rugby is a team game and the stronger side usually wins. It is to be hoped that the talented Henry Paul and the coaches will all have learned from this experience

Was I on my own in wondering if Ludo should have been at 10 in the second-half with Toddy at full back and H.P in the centre ?


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