Gloucester 31 Sale 12: Qera impact not enough to satisfy Ryan

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The Independent Online

Anyone would have thought Gloucester had lost this match the way the door to the home dressing room was closed immediately after the match.

The Cherry and Whites had just preserved their unbeaten record with their fifth consecutive victory which further consolidated their lead at the top of the Guinness Premiership. But they missed out on a try-scoring bonus point and in a poor first half let in Sale for their two tries.

So head coach Dean Ryan shared his thoughts with his charges. "That was our poorest performance of the season," said Ryan later.

It was not for want of trying. Gloucester hammered away like crazed carpenters trying to breach a Sale defence that had already been pierced three times for second-half touchdowns, but they just could not nail that fourth try.

They did get close after the introduction of the brilliant and potent Fijian flanker Akapusi Qera, one of the brighter stars of the World Cup.

Qera had been on for seconds when he exploded upfield through the middle of the Sale pack. It was like watching an enraged moose: it took four men to bring him down, but even so he was able to off-load.

Anthony Allen took it on, but his pass to Iain Balshaw, who crossed the line, was ruled to have been forward.

In the midst of this increasingly desperate quest Sale suddenly decided to spend a protracted spell deep in the second half just outside the Gloucester 22. Gloucester were not found wanting. The Sale push finished where it started a couple of hundred tackles and 10 minutes later.

It further underlined the contrast between Gloucester before and after the interval. Sale's two tries came in the first half and were the only other blemishes on the Gloucester performance. The first try came after the Gloucester team stepped back from a ruck seemingly waiting for a whistle. The second try owed much to a fine break by full-back Ben Foden.

But overall Gloucester were far superior. The forwards were immense, not only in the set piece, but also in the driving mauls, which saw them motoring anywhere they wanted in the second half.

Leon Lloyd continued his run of form with two tries, the second of which was sparked by another Allen break, and full-back Olly Morgan was put through for the third.

Gloucester: Tries Lloyd 2, Morgan; Conversions Lamb 2; Penalties Lamb 4.

Sale: Tries Bourrust, Ripol; Conversion Hodgson.

Gloucester: O Morgan (W Walker, 68); L Lloyd (I Balshaw, 64), M Tindall (A Qera, 74), A Allen, J Bailey; R Lamb, R Lawson; N Wood (C Califano 40+2-ht & 68), A Titterrell (O Azam, 64), C Nieto, W James (M Bortolami, 70), A Brown, P Buxton, A Strokosch, L Narraway.

Sale: B Foden (R Jones, 75); J Laharrague, R Keil (C Bell, 68), E Seveali'I, O Ripol; C Hodgson, S Martens (R Wigglesworth, 45); L Faure, M Jones (S Lawson, 40+1), B Bourrust (B Evans, 36), D Schofield (capt; D Tait, 58), S Cox, C Jones, M Lund, G Fessia (J White, 49).

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire)

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