Tears for souvenirs for sad Saint André
Kingsholm Zurich Premiership Saturday 23 February 2002
Harlequins 6 Gloucester 18
THE END OF AN ERA was played out at The Stoop as Philippe Saint Andre´ completed his final match in charge of Gloucester.GLOUCESTER PACK IN CONTROL
With the cold piercing wind behind them in the second half Gloucester kept going forward as they know how - a strong pack fully in control at the set pieces and combative in all phases of their game.
The highly charged atmosphere off the pitch did not seem to affect the Gloucester players as they duly completed the double over their Harlequin hosts.
It may not have been one of the Cherry and White’s better performances of the season but in essence they never looked like losing the match against a poor Harlequins side.
Doubtless the Londoners were expecting their visitors to want to give Philippe a winning send off but sadly ‘Quins were rarely in contention.
Before the match started Philippe went over to the massed ranks of Gloucester fans behind the posts with tears streaming down his face to be greeted with rapturous applause. The emotion of the day seemed too much for the Frenchman.
By a strange twist of fate Philippe had played his first game for Gloucester on the 23 August 1997 at Kingsholm. That day he scored two tries against Bristol with a memorable exhibition of classic wing play.
23 February 2002 at the Stoop was another memorable day for Philippe and Gloucester. The end of the road for the Frenchman as far as Gloucester rugby is concerned.
Another strange coincidence. The player who collected 69 caps for France, bowed out after 69 wins for Gloucester as Director of Rugby.
‘Quins did win the toss but that was all they looked like winning, although they did start well with a Paul Burke penalty for an early lead.
Ludo hit the post with his first attempt before he equalised. Burke added another but that was the end of ‘Quins scoring.
Gloucester gradually got on top and took control with ten minutes of intense forward pressure on the ‘Quins line although they were unable to score.
The breakthrough for Gloucester eventually came when James Forester made a strong drive before Henry Paul sent Diego Albanese on his weaving way with a fine reverse pass for Ludo to convert.
An air of increased desperation crept into the ‘Quins game and they duly suffered.
Scrum half Nick Duncombe, one of Clive Woodward’s wonders, received a lesson from Andy Gomarsall. Not quite the same experience as playing behind an England pack with a thirty point advantage!
A loose pass from the hapless Duncombe was seized upon by Ludovic Mercier who broke away. Terry Fanolua was on hand to take the ball on before he was tackled. He passed to Olivier Azam who brushed aside two would be tacklers to score beneath the posts to give Ludo an easy conversion.
Ludo then delivered a hammer blow to the ‘Quins when he kicked a penalty from inside the Gloucester half to increase the lead to 12 points.
WELL ORGANISED DEFENCE
All Gloucester’s replacements came on and for once it made no difference. The home side did try to raise their game near the end but they were unable to breach a strong well organised defence.
Gloucester deserved to win to put Harlequins in serious relegation trouble. For a side boasting an array of internationals they suffered their 8th defeat in a row. The noose is now firmly round the jester’s neck and on current form the trap door is soon to open.
‘Quins never looked like scoring a try, let alone winning the match and their supporters were streaming out of the ground long before the end.
After the game the chant ‘Philippe, Philippe’ echoed round the Stoop as he was mobbed by the travelling fans. A pity it was not Kingsholm but thanks to him Gloucester have a very capable competitive squad - at least for now.
Philippe is now in France. Will players from his squad will follow him? Top men Ludo and Azam would be sorely missed.