London Irish 25-10 Gloucester (20th November 2005)

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London Irish 25-10 Gloucester (20th November 2005)

by OxonRob on Tue Nov 22, 2005 1:12 am

Gloucester out-Gloucestered

London Irish 25-10 Gloucester
20th November 2005

This was no game for the casual spectator weaned on the delicate skills of summer Sevens or the Super 12 on TV. It had nothing to do with bone-dry pitches, over which the speed-merchants seem to float as they sprint for the line.

The backs came off as grubby as the forwards, but saw rather less of a greasy ball than did the donkeys up front. This was what we used to call ‘tuck it up yer jumper’ rugby, the traditional fare at Castle Grim, our opponents’ home ground. Pick and drive. Kick and rush. A ten man game in which the backs are mainly useful in defence, for occasionally undertaking individual forays, and even less frequently conning the opposition into believing that we’ll undertake a genuine three-quarter movement, with passing and all that. Pressure, pressure, pressure all the time, and force mistakes from the opposition. This was something in which all 21 LI players used participated.

Our rush defence in the backs combined wonderfully well with some bloodthirsty tackling by the big men in the pack. The LI defence has long been respected in the game. On Sunday it really came of age, as time and again it was used with great success as an offensive weapon – behind the Gloucester gain-line.

Image
Photos by Cormac.

Then of course, there was the line-out, an area in which messrs Casey, Kennedy, Roche and Murphy all took ball from Gloucester throughout the afternoon.

In all truth, it wasn’t a pretty game, and anyone watching this as their first experience of rugby union might well have been put off for life. However, it was a fascinating spectacle for rugby die-hards with an understanding of what they were watching.

The LI script became clear within minutes of Barry Everitt’s kick-off. We were going to take the part of the west country landowners, and they were going to pretend to be LI of old, so often a soft touch, mentally if not physically. The plan was vindicated. London Irish out-Gloucestered Gloucester. We beat them at their own game. Horses for courses and all that. Totally pragmatic, and totally justified by the points which kept creeping onto the scoreboard.

Indeed, had it not been for the charge-down of Barry Everitt’s second half clearance kick, which was then hacked over the Irish try-line for the softest try in memory, Gloucester would not have had more than six points at most. (Mercier missed a sitter, just as Everitt missed two sitters.)

Let it be said: it was a cold day, one on which no under-used back should be criticised for dropping the one pass which comes the way of numbed fingers. Amazing then, that so few Exiles did drop it without good reason.

80 minutes to go

Everitt’s kick-off was taken by the onrushing Bishop. Possession passed to Catt, who sliced his attempted Garryowen. (Echoes of Eddie Waring and his up-and-under.) Flutey took the ball well and off-loaded to Armitage, advancing inside him at speed. Trapped in traffic, Delon instinctively chipped to the line, but was easily beaten to the touch-down by a defender. The drop-out was returned by Catt to touch in the Gloucester 22, where Kennedy routinely stole the Gloucester throw-in, a ruck was forced on the 22, and the defenders were caught with their hands where they should not have been.

With but four minutes gone it was 3-0

We noted that the Gloucester lineout call of "6524" went to Buxton (No6) standing at 2 in the lineout. JFK was doubtless listening as well, for only minutes later, young Mr Kennedy stole his second line-out of the afternoon. He had started a habit that would last all game. It should also be said that he and his chum Bob Casey terrorised the unfortunate Gloucester scrum-half, Haydn Thomas, throughout the first half, when Thomas attempted to collect his team’s tap-backs from the line-out.

Image
Photos by Cormac

On seven minutes we saw the first of a number of similar first-half incidents, where Willis, the Exiles scrum half, was ‘robbed’ at the base of a scrum, seemingly while he and Murphy looked on. Indeed, it should be said that Willis may not have had his finest game in a green jersey during the first 40 minutes. Too many of his passes went straight to his receiver instead of in front of him, causing both Catt and Everitt to take it standing still, and to have to rush their inevitable kick. Other passes went along the deck, not a nice place from which to collect, when the extremely competitive Gloucester back row is bearing down on you at speed.

During the first 20 minutes Armitage received medical attention and strapping three times, while LI old boy Jake Boer was forced from the field with an injury after 10, being replaced by Balding, whose extra pace seemed to strengthen our visitors in their play - although Jake's leadership was missed.

Following a short Gloucester raid on our ‘red zone’ the visitors’ full back, Morgan, fumbled an Irish kick in his 22, and poor defence saw the ball passed and grounded in-goal, giving Irish a 5 metre scrum. A front row offence gave us a second chance at the posts bang on 16 minutes. Everitt obliged. 6-0.

Four minutes later Simpson-Daniel did the same as Morgan. Play stayed up that end for all of a minute before Wood (who had replaced Collazo only minutes earlier) was pinged for coming into a ruck from the side.

20 minutes gone. 9-0. The formula seems to be working, slowly but surely!

The second quarter

Mr Rowden must then have lost his senses, for in the 22nd minute he penalised Irish for hands in a ruck inside the home 22! Well I never! Mercier couldn’t miss. He didn’t. 9-3. An unworthy thought made me wonder whether we were racking up points sufficiently quickly to prevent a Gloucester come-back in the third quarter. I really must top up my half-empty glass at half time.

Just on 25 minutes Gloucester had a line-out. The call was "1240" to a 6 man lineout. This involved a dummy jump by the front pod (covered by Casey), followed by an (underthrown?) ball to the rear pod which was picked off by Murphy, who managed to jump in front of intended receiver.
One minute later, Catt charged at Mercier head-on and knocked him flat about five yards back from where he started!

My notes remind me that Gloucester were crowding our 9, 10, 12 axis in this period, and that we were doing a lot of kicking, not all of it to good effect. However, it must also be said that Flutey and Armitage were catching and sometimes marking everything that came their way at the back. Their security, sometimes in very tight situations, must have given great confidence to their forwards. However, nerves are not helped by the thought that so much Irish possession is yielding so few points.

Then Mr Davids seemed to come to our rescue, flooring Everitt way off the ball from behind, and causing the touch judge to intervene. Barry attempted the kick from inside the Irish half, but it fell short. However, Rautenbach restored Springbok pride in fair play four minutes later, when he dumped Davids unceremoniously. Not even by invoking the spirit of Stanley Baker at Rorke's Drift could one have called it a spear tackle, however.

With two minutes left before the oranges, Barry had another gift-wrapped opportunity at goal, thanks to some dodgy Glaws line out work. 12-3. However, with seconds left on the nice new RFU clock Gloucester transgressed in the tackle area.

Half time. 15-3. Might it be enough?

The third quarter

The first thing we noticed about the second half was that Gloucester had three scrum halves, all called Peter Richards. Replacing Thomas, he was everywhere, applying his bulk, and speed of thought and action like a whirling dervish. For twenty minutes or so he threatened to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Sadly for them, Gloucester had no one else with his force of rugby personality, and eventually his effort ‘petered’ out. (I apologise, but it was too good to miss.)

However, while the storm raged, it raged big time. Everyone was tackling hard, but I especially noted Catt and Kennedy making big hits at this time, a traditionally worrying period for the London Irish buff. The Gloucester back row in particular were peeling off the back in true Kingsholm fashion, and some towering kicks were receiving rapt attention from my new best friends Riki and Delon.

Nine minutes in, a bout of handbags in a line-out on the Gloucester East stand 22, sees Eustace yellowed. Everitt kicks a good goal. 18-3. Surely they cannot come back now? Well yes they can, but perhaps, so can we. It’s that kind of game.

Image
Photos by Cormac

Barry Everitt makes a half break over the visitors’ ten metre line and reminds us of that first try at Bath. Gloucester have seen the video, however, and he is eventually tackled. Then Willis is literally engulfed by enemy jerseys and justifiably knocks on in contact. Oh dear! The LI scrum comes to the rescue. They have been increasingly putting the Gloucester eight under the cosh in the tight, and now of course it is the Gloucester seven. On 13 minutes, a huge LI scrum shoves Gloucester back to their 22, at which point Gloucester No8 (Forrester) picks up going backwards, losing another 3-4 metres, before the ball is scrambled to Mercier for clearance.

Minutes later Rautenbach drives a Gloucester ball-carrier back three yards and then he and Coetzee link up to dump him unceremoniously further back still. Flutey follows a trade-mark up-and-under, and it is hand to hand combat at every turn. Feisty stuff.

We seem to have survived the dreaded third quarter when on nineteen minutes gone, Gloucester get a convertible penalty which they opt to kick to touch. That nice man Kennedy pinches their possession at the ensuing line-out - of course!

The last chapter

Then, on 20 minutes gone, Skuse replaces Rautenbach, Gustard comes on for Murphy and Gloucester take off Terry “crash-ball” Fanolua, bringing on 19 year-old Antony Allen, their find of the season, and the guy who regularly sets up Simpson-Daniel. Well, someone needs to, because he has disappeared without trace.

Have we got away with it? Not quite. Following a forward pass in a Gloucester attack, Irish have a scrum on their 22 line. The ball comes back to Everitt, as oft-times before. No worries. However, his kick ricochets back over his shoulder, off the lively Richards who follows up for the score, converted by Mercier.

Seventeen minutes left and it is now a tight 18-10. Oh please, no, not again!

On 25 minutes Everitt misses an easy kick at the posts, awarded when a rather tasty rolling maul is pulled down. On 29 minutes, Hodgson and Russell replace Willis and Coetzee (who doesn’t look ‘right’).

With seven minutes left a LI deliberate knock-down of the ball allows Mercier to have a pot at goal for the losing bonus point. However he misses a sitter. He is having that kind of day!

Gloucester’s Garwey having gone off for Davies, and Catt for Mordt, both in the 35th minute, the for once fallible Everitt misses a second easy pot at the posts, and Ryan Strudwick replaces Bob Casey in the Irish second row.

Flutey puts on a masterclass on the West stand touchline, chipping intentionally to Richards, then following up and bundling Richards into touch before he can dispose of the ball. Line-out to London Irish on the Gloucester ten metre line!

Strudwick takes a clean catch and makes ground himeslf. The ball goes down the line to Skuse, playing in Rob Hardwick’s old kingdom at centre. Skusey, of course drops it. Scrum to Gloucester. A mistake? Not on your nelly. This was clearly the most cunning of cunning plans. Messrs Hatley, Russell and Skuse splinter the Gloucester pack with a little help from their friends behind them. The Gloucester scrum disintegrates and the LI behemoth thunders onwards, to a point where Strudwick is able to pluck the ball from beneath his feet and to cross the line, ably carried by members of his back row. Barry Everitt converts.

25-10, and that’s it folks. London Irish have just managed to totally destroy a Gloucester scrummage, against the head, too.

Many have dreamt of such a day. We saw it. Go home quietly if you can.

London Irish: R Flutey, D Armitage, R Penney, M Catt (captain, rep: N Mordt, 75)), J Bishop, B Everitt, B Willis (rep: P Hodgson, 69), N Hatley, D Coetzee (rep: R Russell, 61), F Rautenbach (rep: R Skuse, 60), B Casey (rep: R Strudwick, 77), N Kennedy, K Roche, D Danaher, P Murphy (rep: P Gustard, 60).

Gloucester: O Morgan, R Thirlby, J Simpson-Daniel, T Fanolua (rep: A Allen, 60), M Garvey (B Davies, 74), L Mercier, H Thomas (rep: P Richards, 40), P Collazo (rep: N Wood, 15), J Parkes, G Powell, A Eustace (sin-bin, 50-60), Q Davids, P Buxton (captain, sin-bin: 77- ), J Boer (rep: A Balding, 10), J Forrester.
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Gloucester report

by FrTed on Tue Nov 22, 2005 11:42 am

Good report Rob. Only one issue. The sofest try was Horak's charged down kick at Sale. Barry's was a poor copy!
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by dom_pedro on Tue Nov 22, 2005 5:48 pm

Thanks for the report Rob ... I've added a few of Cormac's photos too and will move this to the Reports area.
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