Gloucester do it by halves to reach last four
Kingsholm Parker Pen SHIELD Friday 25 January 2002
Gloucester 46 Ebbw Vale 11
IT really was a game of two halves.
Gloucesterís half back pairing of Andy Gomarsall and Ludovic Mercier exerted the critical influence that carried the home side through to the semi-final stage of the Parker Pen Shield.
The Cherry and Whites were behind at the end of the first half 9-11, as they struggled to cope with the sodden conditions and the interpretation of the Italian referee but in the second half they came into their own.
A wet week with hours of continual rain had turned Kingsholm into a morass as the rain increased as play got under way.
The home side got off to the worst possible start as lock forward Adam Eustace was seriously injured at the line-out after just a few minutes to be stretchered off with a suspected broken leg which will undoubtedly rule him out for the rest of the season.
The adverse weather did not stop Gloucester taking the lead thanks to the trusty left boot of Ludo who despite the treacherous surface duly slotted three penalties. Then the home side lost their grip.
A speculative kick to the corner by Ebbw Vale scrum half Kevin Ellis skidded over the try line. Darren OíLeary and James Simpson-Daniel seemed to have the ball covered but as they slipped winger Andrew Wagstaff dived over to claim the try. The visitors then added a penalty to end the first half in the lead at 9-11.
The second half was very much a different story as the Cherry and Whites came into their own. Although the heavens opened and the rain lashed down the home side seized control.
Ebbw Vale had plenty of vocal support and were valiant in defence but were very much up against it as Gloucester took full advantage of the driving rain behind them in the second half with their own brand of driving forward play.
Although the Steelmen tackled resolutely they were forced into a string of offences which ended with three of their players in the sin-bin.
Scrum half Andy Gomarsall was truly outstanding and inspirational for Gloucester and set up tries for Darren OíLeary and James Simpson Daniel with smart blind-side moves.
A well judged chip ahead from Gomarsall was all full back Darren OíLeary needed to set the Cherry and Whites on their way.
The scrum half then sent the visitors defence the wrong way to open up the way for James Simpson-Daniel to secure the second try.
Gomarsall was the victim of a high tackle from his opposite number who ended up in the bin as Gloucester kept up the pressure when skipper Jake Boer plunged over from a Gloucester line-out.
Ludo, Gloucesterís other star half back of the night, then got in on the act of opening up the Ebbw Vale defence as he threaded his way through for England Sevens squad member James Forrester to score the final try.
Ludo converted all the tries and despite the extremely muddy conditions and heavy rain continued to slot the penalties.
He supplied 26 points - six penalties and all four conversions with an almost perfect display.
Gomarsall was replaced minutes from the end and the sound of the ovation he received must have been music to his ears. I donít expect he noticed the wet and mud, after what must have been his best ever display for Gloucester.
Thanks to a dominant pack the Gloucester half backs completely controlled the game in the second period with a mixture of kicking to the corners and kicking for territory and then exploiting the blind side options.
The errors of the previous game were eliminated as Gloucester adopted basic wet weather tactics. No long throws to the rear of the line-out or fancy handling inside their own 25 meant more control and long touch kicks. In the opponents 25, no kicking away possession but forward drives to set up the backs.
Elementary stuff, basic but very effective.