Aviva Premiership – 22 December, 2012
Gloucester 18 – Exteter Chiefs 16
This was a huge win for Gloucester. Exeter were the better side for much of the game, but a dogged Glaws performance meant that they head into the Xmas period with momentum on their side.
Exeter are a very decent side – they may lack big names, but their work ethic is a joy to behold, and their basic skills are excellent. The sustained pressure leading up to their try was very classy stuff in the dreadful prevailing conditions, and for Glaws to come through and win says a lot about the fitness, commitment, and desire that Nigel Davies has instilled in the squad. Had Exeter won I’d have struggled to say that it wasn’t deserved, but equally, it’s hard to say that Glaws were lucky – this was just a wonderful, old-fashioned battle.
The main positive for me, apart from the Glaws ‘dog’, was the well-organised defence. Make no mistake, many teams would have cracked under the pressure that Exeter applied , but, the one try apart, Glaws did the business. I haven’t seen the penalty count, but I was delighted that in the run-up to the try, Glaws avoided conceding one that would surely have earned a yellow card.
The other thing that shone out was the way that Glaws retained the ball in the game’s final five minutes. In such situations referees tend to be looking for an excuse to penalise the side holding onto the ball, but Glaws didn’t give the Yorkshireman with the Welsh name that option!
The one serious criticism of the Glaws performance, and I’m sure that the coaches will be working on, was that we rarely looked like cracking the Ex defence, and to be frank, we looked limited in the way we went about it. It seemed obvious to me after the first quarter, that trying to bash through simply wasn’t going to work – the defence was well organised, and their drift was excellent. Whenever we went wide we were being shepherded into touch. The trouble was that we didn’t seem to have a Plan B! Freddie tried a couple of chips through, but those apart we were devoid of ideas. That’s a worry. That said, not too many teams can execute those wet-weather tactics as well as the visitors did, and the conditions were tailor-made for their game.
Some observations on individual players: Charlie is, I think, trying too hard, and a couple of his runs from deep in his own 22 were just plain daft in the conditions – better to have hoofed it off the park. For me, Rob Cook tried too many up-and-unders: if that’s the tactic then you’ve got to get there with a chance of winning the ball, and most of the time that didn’t happen. Huai Edmonds is, in my view, our first-choice hooker, and must surely start against the Tigers. The Cowan / Burns axis continues to develop and is going to be good for us – I love the way Cowan niggles away at his opposite number, and ‘helps’ the referee make the right decisions!
As for the ref’, I’m sure that there will be Glaws fans who are on his case (aren’t there always?), and Rob Baxter thought his boys got the rough end of the stick, but I thought he did OK in really tough conditions – it would have been easy for this one to boil over, and it’s to his credit that didn’t happen.
Welford Road next week, and a losing BP would be great, with a defeat far from the end of the world, but we’ll travel in hope as this Glaws team has the capacity to grind out a result.