Gloucester 9-13 London Irish (28th January 2006)

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Gloucester 9-13 London Irish (28th January 2006)

by GWaGG on Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:47 pm

Outfought and out sung!

From your correspondent at Kingsholm.

A beautiful cold, clear Cotswold day greeted the large and noisy contingent of Irish supporters. As usual Castle Grim was packed and finding a vantage point was not easy. My guest, a Llanelli supporter, and I settled for a point standing close to the half-way line directly across the pitch from the (in)famous Shed. The teams were as announced and the Cherry and Whites (sorry Lions) kicked off playing with the slope and wind in the first-half. An early penalty miss from each side – Riki Flutey’s miss followed by a chorus of ‘hee-hawing’ from the shed – summed up a scrappy early period. The large Irish pack were however dominating possession and territory, grinding through the phases of play and starving Gloucester of possession. After 19 minutes Irish were penalised for collapsing a scrum – a penalty called by the shed thirty seconds before Mr Kaplan gave the decision. Ludovic Mercier duly converted the penalty and rather against the run of play Gloucester led 3-0. Two minutes later Irish were level with former Exiles’ favourite Jake Boer being penalised for playing the ball when on the ground. More Irish pressure followed and Riki Flutey went over the whitewash in the corner but Mr Kaplan had spotted an earlier knock-on and called play back for a Gloucester scrum. A further Irish attack was relieved as Gloucester managed to turn over the ball and a resulting superb break from another Irish old-boy Peter Richards. Having done the hard-work, however Richards’ woeful pass deep in the Irish 22 wasted a three man overlap. Richards slammed his fist into the turf in frustration and I half expected the shed into to break into a further, and much deserved, rendition of ‘hee-haw’.

The Irish backs were not completely ignored as the forwards did allow the ball to be released from time to time. A good break by Horak, including a cut inside and hand off on HRH Mr Tindall, set up good field position for Irish. The ensuing scrum deep in the Gloucester 22 was deemed to have been collapsed by the increasingly unpopular Mr Kaplan and Riki Flutey kicked to the corner. The resultant line-out was caught by Bob Casey and the pack rumbled over for a deserved try attributed to Leguizamon. The resulting conversion attempt from the touchline, on the wrong side for a left footer and right in front of the ‘unsympathetic’ shed was a test well-passed by Mr ‘Magic’ Flutey. The silence from the shed was deafening. In fact I was surprised how quiet the shed was for long periods of the match in contrast to the vociferous green wigged and cassocked group hidden away in the corner of the Buildbase stand. The shed did break into a fairly loud chorus of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ but I was unsure whether this was directed at Mr Kaplan or the players after a particularly poor period of play from both sides. Soon after the restart Irish launched an attacking move through the backs from deep in their own half. Mr Leguizamon popped up in the centre and showed a superb turn of speed as he raced into the Gloucester half pursued by Mike Tindall who struggled to keep pace but had the ‘sense’ to throw his arms up as he made contact with Mike Catt and a penalty to Gloucester for ‘obstruction’ was duly suggested by the touch judge. A BAFTA should be winging its way to Kingsholm for Mr Tindall ( and I suspect that I have just ruled myself out of the New Years Honours list for the next ten years!). Further Irish pressure was relieved by Gloucester when Powell, the home side prop, peeled of a maul and broke free. He was without support and rightly just put his head down and charged 20 yards up field in the direction of young Mr Ojo. Topsy’s life must have flashed before him but he, with a little help from the outstanding Leguizamon, brought the prop down (who was probably knackered after that much running). Gloucester cleared quick ball (for probably the only time in the match) and released the ball to their backs. James Simpson-Daniel made a lovely break in the centre before eventually being caught in the Irish 22 having run out of support. Gloucester knocked on at the ensuing break-down and half time was called to give Irish a deserved 10-3 lead. Leguizamon had been injured in tackle on Powell and, after a lengthy delay, looked very groggy as he got back to his feet. He was substituted by Paul Gustard who, I thought, had another excellent match.

I had a chance to chat with a couple of the locals at half-time who felt Gloucester were in trouble and commented that our team really looked ‘up for it!’ The general concensus was that the Irish pack were dominating the match.

Now, I didn’t make many notes for the second-half, not because of a state of intoxication (honest), but because the game-plans for both sides were very simple for the second half. Irish were going to use the slope and the wind and kick deep to keep Gloucester pinned down in their territory whilst attempting to continue the domination upfront. This plan had an early reward as Flutey slotted an early penalty to give Irish a 10 point advantage. The plan seemed to be working as, for the early part of the half, Gloucester were kept pinned back in their own 22 through excellent kicking from Dodge, Flutey, Catt and Horak although one visit into the Irish half resulted in penalty (offside in the backs) duly kicked by Mercier (6-13). One piece of sublime skill by Mike Catt was virtually worth the journey itself. He received a poor pass on the half-way line causing him to twist and check as he took the ball. He continued the pirouette and with the outside of his right foot chipped the ball over the Gloucester backs deep into touch in the home-side 22. I thought Mike Catt had an excellent game (despite having have a roll of toilet paper up his nose) and I’m sure that he would have particularly enjoyed a win at Castle Grim.

When Gloucester came to the Madstad earlier this year I felt that they had two plans to try and beat us – Plan A was for Mercier to hoof the ball up the pitch (largely nullified by our complete domination of the lineout) and Plan B was for Fanolua to find the nearest point of contact with our centres/backrow. The Gloucester plan this half seemed to be a variation of the former such that Mercier would punt the ball up the middle of the pitch (I can’t believe a kicker of his quality could miss touch so frequently and by such a margin) hoping that an error would allow Gloucester good field position. Ironically this tactic nearly allowed the Lions to snatch an unlikely victory, Mercier, from deep in his 22 punted the ball up the field landing half-way between Delon and Mike Horak. The ball took a vicious bounce back towards the chasing Gloucester players and straight into the hands of the pacey Bailey who cut through the retreating Irish defence and, from where I stood, looked certain to score in the far corner before Topsy Ojo appeared from nowhere to make a magnificent try-saving tackle. I believe that Topsy lay all over the ball preventing a quick release and hence a penalty to Gloucester and a (fully deserved) yellow card to the young winger. Penalty converted – 9-13 and the shed awoke. The next period of play was probably Gloucester’s best in the match and whilst they made ground with their backs they never really looked like scoring a try as Irish continued the plan of keeping them on the back foot forcing them to attack from deep. Two penalties in the last ten minutes allowed Mercier to give attacking lineouts to Gloucester in the Irish 22 but on both occasions Irish won the ball through Nick Kennedy and Bob Casey. The second of these lineout steals allowed Dodge to launch a huge clearance kick into the home side 22. Gloucester through the ball around for the last 2 minutes without making much headway against the excellent Irish defence before Mr Kaplan blew the whistle prompting jubilant scenes from the Irish support and players.

Why did we win? Simply, the pack out muscled the home pack either denying the Gloucester backs possession or only allowing slow ball. The first up defence was excellent and Nick and Bob caused the Gloucester line-out a real headache. The second half plan of keeping Gloucester on the back foot was very effective. It wasn’t pretty but it was successful and I felt that the final score flattered Gloucester if anyone. A view shared by the many magnanimous Gloucester supporters who came up to me after the match to congratulate me and other Irish supporters. A big hand for the coaching/managing staff for the game plan and for the players for carrying it out so effectively. We also did the simple things well. We had one good attacking line-out from which we scored whereas we stole the Gloucester attacking lineouts late in the second half. As I left Kingsholm the sounds of the ‘Fields of Athenry’ could be heard coming from the Tavern across the road. The Irish support had been excellent all day and cheered and sang well above their ‘weight’ all through the match. A great day to be an Irish supporter in Gloucester and a great Monday to be going to work as an Irish supporter working in Gloucester!
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by OxonRob on Mon Jan 30, 2006 2:17 pm

I am SO grateful to you for that report, Dermot.

Absolutely on the button, with the insights we all crave.

A first-class job.
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by gabriel on Mon Jan 30, 2006 7:47 pm

Very good report indceed. We are in your debt.
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by dom_pedro on Mon Jan 30, 2006 9:47 pm

GWaGG, many thanks for the report.
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by AlecW on Tue Jan 31, 2006 8:00 am

Thanks Dermot!
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by SwanieBoy on Tue Jan 31, 2006 12:56 pm

Fantastic report Dermot! :D
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by GWaGG on Wed Feb 01, 2006 11:25 am

Thank you for your kind words!
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