Amilin Challeng Cup – Saturday 15 December, 2012
Gloucester 47 – London Irish 3
What set these two sides apart can be summarised in two words, commitment and character: Glaws had loads of both of those, and Irish had very little of either. I would unreservedly now have Irish as relegation favourites as they are truly a dreadful side at present – from what I’ve seen of Sale they are considerably better. That’s a scary thought, because what would they do if they ended up in the Championship? The Mad Jet Ski hosting second-tier games when they can hardly get a crowd for the Premiership – who’d bet against them heading for oblivion?
I mention this only because it puts Gloucester’s performance into context: for the first quarter of the game we were very poor, but Irish were even poorer, and I would read absolutely nothing into this win other than that Glaws continue to show encouraging signs.
We barely touched the ball in the first 20 minutes, and when we did get it we were daft. It’s all very well to want to play an attacking game, but the foundations for that need to be built – decent field position rather than headless chicken stuff and aimless kicks please!
However the two tries before half-time finished the game as any sort of a meaningful contest. Some lovely work from Tindall and K sent Monahan away and he wasn’t ever going to be stopped. Then K set up a try that showed just what a sound job (NOT!) Shaun Edwards is doing with Irish’s defence. The big Tongan took the ball and set off down the wing – a simple inside pass sent Monahan in for his second. Half-time, game over.
Irish went through the motions at the start of the second-half, but their hearts were no longer in it. When they got the ball they were very lateral, often being drive backwards as they attacked, and as for restarts – they simply didn’t fancy them. I’m afraid it was spineless and sad.
Rob Cook got our third, and from the South Stand it looked to be a wonder try, but I suspect that a head-on replay would show that, whilst he did really well, the Irish defence was dire.
Then Will James got a yellow right in front of me. I am open to being corrected, but I don’t think it was for the penalty offence of coming in from the side. It looked to me, and to those around me, that what made the ref’ go for yellow was whatever James said to him. If that’s the case, then shame on him as he really should know much better.
Three more ties followed, two for Monahan, and one for Dan Robson, and Koree Britton also got himself a yellow for an act of sheer stupidity.
Some comments on a few players:
Rob Cook was solid apart from making a total Horlicks of one high ball, and scored that try. Monahan got four tries and was good – against players that don’t fancy tackles he’s big enough and quick enough to shine – but Sharples on the other wing was, in my opinion, just as good. Tinds and Twelvetrees are a formidable centre pairing, and at half-back we’re world-class now. Yes, I know Freddie made a few mistakes kicking from hand and missed a couple off the tee, and Cowan made a few errors too, but overall the gulf between us and them at 9 and 10 was huge.
The pack did well, but it didn’t look to me as though Harden’s injury was just a knock – hopefully I’m wrong. Big Jim did well enough, but it’s not sour grapes to say that I think he won’t be too difficult to replace – hopefully with a lock who has the sort of leg drive to let him make ground. Will James, brainstorm apart, did OK, and our back row was solid.
Koree Britton worries me. Apart from the daft yellow, we lost the first three line-outs after he came on – we can get away with that against Irish, but on a different day it would have mattered.
That’s two wins in a row against Irish, this one a rout, and in both of them we were down to 14 men for 20 minutes. The messages from that are: Nigel, please sort out our discipline, and that’s how bad London Irish are at present.
The best bits of the game for me were the periods when we were down to 14 men, especially at the end of the game. With 47 points on the board it would have been easy to allow them a consolation score, but Nigel Davies’ Gloucester doesn’t think that way. The defensive effort was immense, just as it had been last week, and that was just as true when all the replacements were on – it’s about systems and them being understood across the squad. I’ve thought it for a few weeks, but this game confirmed it – this is the fittest and fastest Gloucester squad I’ve seen since the days of Mike Anthony.
Finally, around me there was a lot of talk about the shameful announcer at the Madjeski – I highlighted it in last week’s match report. Irish need to be very careful as they are becoming hugely disliked because of his antics. As the Gloucester tries rolled in, there was invariably a shout, in a cod Irish accent, of “Keep it going Oirish!” They should bring the announcer down to Kingsholm to hear how it should be done – Graham did it without ever having to stoop to the depths that we experienced last week. If I heard him correctly, he said that this was his last game with the mic’ – if that’s so he’ll be a huge loss, and let’s hope we don’t get the dodgy DJ back.
Back to proper rugby next weekend and we’ll have to play better than that against Exeter, but I’m confident that we can and will..