Inspirational Little lifts Gloucesterto priceless away victory
7 October 2000
JASON LITTLE took another significant step towards justifying his six-figure salary as Gloucester made a winning Heineken Cup debut at Stradey Park last night.
The double Australian World Cup winner scored Gloucester's opening try - a defence-splitting 25-metre break - after switching from centre to stand-off when Simon Mannix suffered a suspected fractured wrist. And it proved significant towards securing a priceless away win, confirmed when Andy Hazell galloped over 15 minutes from time.
Mannix's departure, with barely half an hour gone, looked a severe blow to Gloucester. The New Zealander had landed three long-range penalties for a 9-0 lead inside 25 minutes, but his exit meant the England international Andy Gomarsall took over kicking duties, and he missed four successive shots at goal before converting Hazell's touchdown.
The Samoan Terry Fanolua then kicked a 70th-minute penalty, and added an injury-time goal and Gloucester were home and dry at the expense of last season's semi-finalists.
Llanelli's Wales lock Chris Wyatt crashed over deep into stoppage time, but Gloucester had already done enough. Llanelli had their moments, highlighted when wing Mark Jones finished off a well-worked move during first-half injury-time, but they conceded 10 points without reply after the break. With three home games to come, Gloucester are now well-placed for quarter-final berth.
Little, who scored two tries on his debut against Bristol last weekend, effortlessly filled the void created by Mannix, and with Gloucester's forwards relishing the physical exchanges, Llanelli often found themselves nullified at source.
Mannix landed his first penalty from 45 metres after just eight minutes, then found the target from similar range to double Gloucester's advantage. By contrast, Llanelli's Wales stand-off Stephen Jones struggled to find the target, and finished with an average return of four kicks from seven attempts.
Although Jones kicked two penalties to reduce Llanelli's early arrears, Little wrong-footed the home defence, combining pace with power to smash his way over.
Llanelli's most creative moment of the match produced the try, half-backs Guy Easterby and Jones combining to send Mark Jones through.
Trailing by a point at the break, Llanelli needed to take control, but Gloucester were able to dominate by combining solid defence with committed set-piece work. Hazell had only been on the pitch for eight minutes when he pounced for a vital try, rounding off impressive approach work by the outstanding Gloucester centre Chris Yates, whose aggressive midfield running stretched Llanelli.
That score gave Gloucester breathing space, and whatever Llanelli produced after that, it was always going to be too little too late.
Llanelli - Tries M Jones, Wyatt; Conversions S Jones 2; Penalties S Jones 2. Gloucester - Tries: Little, Hazell; Conversions Gomarsall; Penalties Fanolua 2, Mannix 3.
Llanelli: M Cardey; M Jones, D James, S Finau, G Evans; S Jones, G Easterby (R Moon, 75); P Booth, R McBryde (M Thomas, 75), J Davies, C Wyatt, C Gillies, D Rees-Jones, I Boobyer, S Quinnell (capt).
Gloucester: C Catling; T Fanolua, J Little, C Yates, T Beim; S Mannix (F Schisano, 29), A Gomarsall (E Moncrieff, 72); S Simon, 0 Azam, P Vickery, A Eustace (R Fidler, 72), I Jones, S Ojomoh (A Hazell, 56), K Jones, capt, J Boer, 80), J Paramore.
Referee: G Morandin (Italy).
* Edinburgh Reivers got their European Cup campaign off to a strong start at Myreside as they outgunned Leinster 29-21 With the powerful Irish province threatening the line, centre Kevin Utterson dived over for the late try which sealed the victory.
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