Back to List Next PageLudo and Azam lift the gloom

Kingsholm                             Zurich Premiership                              Saturday 9 February 2002
Gloucester 29 London Irish 22

IT GOES without saying that recent times have not been the happiest times for some of the French contingent at Kingsholm.
    The prodigious kicker Ludovic Mercier has missed out on several games with a leg injury. Then the combative Olivier Azam collected a red card in the infamous fixture with Newcastle and a five-week ban.
    Add to this, the well publicised on-going Saint André soap opera saga. Will he, or wonít he - is he stopping, or is he going back to France? If Philippe stays, will Phil go?

After four weeks of rain, and yet another depressingly wet mud bath match day, complete with the customary downpour, perhaps spirits were lifted when a faultless display of place kicking from the left-footed Ludo set Gloucester well on the way to victory. Azam was at his belligerent best and marked a happy return with a try early in the second half as a Gloucester rolling maul was driven over the Irish line. This was a crucial score and gave the home side the cushion of a two score lead.
    After having lost the previous two encounters with London Irish at the Madejski with performances very much short of their best, Gloucester needed a victory over their visitors, who were just one place behind in the Premiership table, in third position. On this occasion Gloucesterís well organised lines of defence really came up trumps with an outstanding effort.
    The early exchanges were much as expected with Ludo and Irishís prolific scorer fly-half Barry Everitt trading penalty kicks.
    Everitt had kicked Gloucester out of the Powergen Cup at Reading in the rain just a couple of weeks ago but this time he was not as accurate and the home side played the wet and muddy conditions much better.
    Handling the greasy ball was difficult in slippery conditions but the Cherry and Whites did get a try just before half time when Andy Gomarsall disrupted an Irish scrum. The impressive James Forrester hacked on up-field before winger Terry Fanolua followed up to score. Ludo duly converted from the touchline as his place kicking dominated the first half.
    Gloucesterís Robert Todd was sent to the sin-bin and Chris Sheasby also had a ten minute break before Everitt produced a great long range second drop goal to keep Irish in the hunt.
    The home side got their second try when Azam was driven over to much acclaim from The Shed for a 26-12 lead. Ludo then notched up 19 points with his fifth penalty.
The Exiles had their share of possession and their ball retention and backing up were excellent throughout but the Gloucester cover defence tackled well before mistakes let the visitors back into the game.
    Although not quite throwing the game away at the end, Gloucester conceded two tries in the final five minutes.
    Irish stormed back in injury time and took advantage of poor lineout cover by Gloucester before Chris Sheasby burrowed over from close range.
    Irish prop Mike Worsley then added a second unconverted consolation try at no side. The final efforts by the well-drilled Irish owed much to their never say die spirit. They took their chances and although the Cherry and Whites didnít look like losing, it was enough to jangle the nerves of the home supporters and give Irish a bonus point.
    A welcome win for Gloucester but will it help bring an end to the contractual wrangling?


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