Orrell's upward curve

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The Independent Online
Orrell 21

Gloucester 3

AT THIS point of the season, with just over a quarter of First Division games played, the difference between having four or two league points against one's name is the difference between lingering hope and growing desperation. And against prediction it was Orrell who climbed another couple of steps out of the cellar leaving Gloucester to the scuffling of the rats.

What made the situation all the more fraught was that each of these clubs knew that if it couldn't beat the other, then the chance of taking points off clubs at the top of the table was even more remote.

Perhaps this was what paralysed them both in the first hour and gave no hint that in the final 17 minutes Orrell would sail through from a 3-3 stalemate to a win by two tries, a conversion, a drop goal and two penalties to the reply of a single penalty from Gloucester.

The first half was pointless in every respect. Orrell, who at least tried to play constructively, were unable to score because they went offside with nervous excitement as soon as they got within striking distance of the Gloucester line.

Simon Mason's one chance of kicking a penalty, after Richard West was shown a yellow card for a stamping incident seen only by a touch-judge, was out of his range - at least in this direction. When the sides changed ends, he would show them

Gloucester, meanwhile, more intent on defence, revealed their old failing. They didn't score because they couldn't kick goals. From three good opportunities Martin Kimber managed only one vain contact with an upright.

When, 11 minutes into the second half, Simon Mason kicked Orrell into the lead with a penalty from the half-way line, it was as if the clouds of self-doubt had rolled back. And even though the rejoicing was short- lived - Tim Smith, who had taken over from Kimber, replied for Gloucester within five minutes - Orrell were suddenly confident that the game was theirs to win. Again they were almost destroyed by their anxiety to clinch it.

An apparent try by Mason was whistled back by the referee for a forward pass, and at the next attempt the backs threatened to confuse themselves into a stand-still until Paul Johnson impatiently threw a long pass out to the unmarked Graeme Smith, who proceeded to gallop across in the corner.

And Orrell, who had scored only two league tries previously, went on to double their score when the persistent Mason took a short pass from the wing, James Naylor, to cross beneath the posts.

Orrell may not have saved themselves from the threat of relegation, but they are undoubtedly improving. The hapless Gloucester side, meanwhile, are still sliding backwards.

Orrell: S Mason; J Naylor, P Johnson (capt), I Wynn, G Smith; P Hamer, A Healey; P Winstanley, M Scott, P Mitchell, C Cusani (S Hayter, 40), C Cooper, P Manley, J Huxley, S Bibby.

Gloucester: T Smith; P Holford, D Caskie, M Roberts, L Osborne; M Kimber, B Fenley; A Powles, J Hawker, A Deacon, D Sims (capt), R West, P Glanville, I Smith, C Raymond.

Referee: C Muir (Scotland).