Coaches - Past and Present (2) Gary Gold

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Coaches - Past and Present (2) Gary Gold

by JonnyC on Wed Jan 18, 2006 1:36 am

In the second article we remember our recently departed Head Coach Gary Gold.
We will look at Gary's time with London Irish from 2003 to 2005.


Gary Gold
Gary joined London Irish with Brendan Venter on the crest of a wave of optimism in the summer of 2001.
Brendan Venter held the position of Player/Coach with Gary as his Technical Coach concentrating on our forward players.Conor O'Shea was still club captain.
Gary had played in the front row for the South African Defence Force during his time in the army; False Bay, Hamiltons RFC, Villagers and took the opportunity to join in tours with a South African development team. Coaching various teams for the Villagers club was the next step after an injury curtailed his playing career.

The 2003/2004 season was going to be a tough one.
The lack of a main shirt sponsor would restrict the budget.
Six forward players had left in the summer;Jimmy Cockle (flanker), Glenn Delaney (lock), Simon Halford (tight-head prop), Richard Kirke (hooker), John Lake (flanker) and the very promising loose-head prop Mike Worsley to Harlequins! Hentie Martens (scrum half) went west.

Recruitment wasn't the top priority it seemed. Phil Murphy was the highest profile player to sign. Nick Greenstock joined on a part-time contract but most of the gaps left by those knarled professionals were filled from the ranks of Irish's academy players; Adam Halsey, Ollie Hoad and Adrian Flavin.The backs elevated to the senior squad included Nils Mordt and Ed Thrower.
Irish's pack was still a force with Neal Hatley, Naka Drotske and Rob Hardwick in the front row but there was no strength in depth. Injuries just weren't allowed even with a forwards orientated game plan relying on the reliable kicking of Barry Everitt and Mark Mapletoft to keep the scoreboard operator busy.

Leicester showed what a task Gary had when Irish came back from Welford road on the wrong side of a 29-19 result.
But hope springs eternal. Gloucester took the M4 homeward with a 16-10 loss to mull over when Irish hosted their first home match of the season. Irish were to spend the first half of the season in an elevated position. From mid November to mid January Gary and his team had managed to drive Irish into third place or thereabouts!

The altitude must have got to the squad. Saracens ended Irish hopes of a Wildcard Playoff place for a backdoor route into the Heineken Cup in the last match leaving The Exiles in eighth place.

Notable victories in Gary's first season in charge were a rare victory over Gloucester at Kingsholm in the Powergen Cup 29-35 and another surprising away win at Sale 26-28 in the Zurich Premiership.
Probably the worst match of the season strangely enough was a win at Rotherham 10-15 in sheets of rain, but others may argue the 24-12 snow affected reverse at Newcastle in the Powergen Cup where Irish just weren't on their game.

This season could be a record season for Irish but not for the right reasons.
The amount of tries scored during the 22 matches in the Premiership was a concern. The only blip came with a 4-try bonus point win against Saracens at Vicarage Road in February 2005.

It looked so promising for London Irish with Mr Gold's summer recruits; Mike Catt, Robbie Russell, Scott Staniforth, Peter Polous, Paul Hodgson, Rodd Penney, Tony Roques, Richard Skuse and in November Roland Reid.
Three stalwarts left Irish, Chris Sheasby, Naka Drotske and Paul Sackey who acrimoniously transferred to London Wasps in February 2005.

How great our season was to be. Tries would be scored and back play would be transformed by the ex-Bristol scrum half linking with the Webb Ellis Cup winner from Bath and Super 12 star Scott Staniforth on the wing. Mike Catt started the season playing at No 12 with Barry Everitt at fly half. Harlequins let in two tries at the first Twickenham London Double Header in front of 51000 rugby supporters. Irish were scoring tries and Gary's change in squad and tactics was working!
It lasted for a while at least but the squad either couldn't get used to the new way of working or luck wasn't on their side.
From late October to early December Catty moved to fly-half with Mark Mapletoft going out to No12. The tactics had reverted back to the previous season and was not a joy to watch. But Gary Gold had tried to change the tactics.
Injuries definately played their part, that's where the luck thing comes in.
Peter Polous suffered from a bad shoulder during a pre-season match against London Welsh and was never to start a Premiership match for his new team. Richard Skuse and Adrian Flavin were both out of action for 5 months, Robbie Russell, Doug Wheatley and Neal Hatley all endured operations to their hands. Rob Hardwick soldiered on playing with injuries throught the season and probably deserves to be bought a pint by every London Irish supporter for his effort.

Irish reached their peak in January 2005 holding on to sixth position in the league table. It was all downhill from there on.
By mid spring Gary Gold was receiving lots of criticism from some supporters about the style of play and poor results. He could only do his best with a limited injury infested squad.

But come the day of reckoning Harlequins got beaten by Irish at The Stoop two games from the end of the season. This result probably saved The Exiles from the dreaded drop to Division 1, but a defeat to Bath at Reading dropped Irish back into the relegation scrap. A must win game away to Newcastle was a nightmare to watch.
One team from a possible four of Worcester, Leeds, Harlequins and Irish were facing life in Division 1. The supporters who braved the trip to Kingston Park had one eye on the match and the other on their mobile 'phones checking results.

In the end Gary Gold did a good job keeping London Irish in the Zurich Premiership with the squad he had left after injuries / transfers, and please remember the good times Gary bought us when as Technical Coach alongside Bendan Venter he engineered the brilliant Powergen Cup win over Northampton and a Heineken Cup place, at least for one season.

Gary is now coaching for Western Province.
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by AlecW on Wed Jan 18, 2006 8:29 am

Jonny - that is bloody good - many, many thanks, for my part...!

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by Loobs on Wed Jan 18, 2006 2:11 pm

Much appreciated, mate.
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by OxonRob on Wed Jan 18, 2006 2:20 pm

A couple of small corrections

Ollie Hoad should read Rob Hoadley
You have omitted Nick Burrows (and his injury)
You have omitted Pierre Durant (and his injury)
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by JonnyC on Wed Jan 18, 2006 2:42 pm

Hello Rob, I saw Ollie Hoad listed as a squad member in most of the programs for that season, it implied he'd moved into the senior squad but did not start a match or sit on the bench as a sub.

Rob Hoadley had been playing off and on when Brendan Venter was player/coach, so I haven't mentioned him so far.

Same goes for Ed Thrower who played more matches under DrV than GG.
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