Absent friend bolsters Sims

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The Independent Online
Gloucester 22 Wasps 9

Gloucester have invested in the services of a sports psychologist this season, but on Saturday one phone call was all the Cherry and Whites needed to lift them to a Pilkington Cup quarter final victory over Wasps.

It came from Wandsworth Prison, where Simon Devereux had begun his nine- month jail sentence after being found guilty at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court of grievous bodily harm following an incident in a Second XV match at Rosslyn Park last season.

Devereux was on cleaning duties on Saturday and managed to get in a good- luck phone call to the club 15 minutes before the kick off at Kingsholm. It was relayed via two club officials to the captain, Dave Sims, who went straight into the dressing room to tell the boys. As a pep talk it worked perfectly.

"The message from Simon was very important to all of us," Sims said. "We knew we had to perform for him." And perform they did, particularly the forwards. Sims, like the rest of the Gloucester side and indeed the city, is clearly shaken by Devereux's punishment. "I think what has happened to him is extremely harsh. None of us really slept when we found out he'd been sent down on Wednesday. I said to my wife, 'that could be me.'

"It is not as if Simon is an aggressive or violent player. I've known him since we started playing rugby for Longlevens in our teens. He's taken a few shots, he's given a few shots, the same as everyone else, it's part and parcel of the game. If this sort of thing is going to happen, it will kill the game off. Players will become afraid of any form of physical contact. If you break someone's leg in a tackle, are you going to get sued for it?"

The Gloucester faithful made a collection for Devereux during the game, support for his plight was voiced in their fanzine Shed Head and Sims promised: "We will welcome him back with open arms and we'll have a big party." Devereux will miss out on the players' annual pilgrimage up the road to the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival next month. Sims briefly flirted with the notion that they might forego the trip.

"He always comes along on that," Sims, who scored his side's first try, said. "Last year nine of us piled into his wife's car to come home. I can't really see us going on that." But after a brief moment of reflection Sims grinned and said: "I think we will go. He would want us to. We'll drink to absent friends."

Devereux would also want Gloucester to go to Twickenham in May for a fifth appearance in the Pilkington Cup final. It is not beyond an improving side, but they need to sharpen up in the backs. On this evidence they lack a cutting edge in attack. As stoutly as the threequarters defended, and at times they were brilliant in parrying the thrusts of their opponents, they did not threaten the Wasps line as frequently as they might. Perhaps Devereux will prove to be the spur.

Gloucester: Tries Sims, Lloyd; Penalties Fenwick 2; Drop goals Kimber 2. Wasps: Penalties Gregory 3.

Gloucester: G Fenwick; P Holford (L Osborne, 38-41), D Caskie, M Roberts, M Lloys; M Kimber, S Benton; T Windo, P Greening, A Deacon, R Fidler, D Sims (capt), P Glanville, A Stanley, C Raymond.

Wasps: J Ufton; P Hopley, D Hopley, A James, S Roiser; G Gregory, A Gomarsall; D Molloy, K Dunn, I Dunstan, C Bickle, R Kinsey, M White, C Wilkins, L Dallaglio (capt).

Referee: A Spreadbury (Longwell Green, Bristol).