Rugby Union: Cracking for Catling

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The Independent Online
Gloucester 41

Newcastle 32

A HAT-TRICK of tries from the Gloucester full-back Chris Catling put a smile back on the face of The Shed as his club came through a serious test both on and off the field.

With the home crowd rapped over the knuckles for their behaviour during Wasps' win at Kingsholm a fortnight earlier and the players entering the game after three straight defeats there were plenty of points for both to prove.

The most important one was made on the field, as Gloucester withstood Newcastle revivals in both halves to secure an important win. And for Catling, an impressive attacking performance was well timed in front of the watching England coach Clive Woodward.

Catling's first try, scored at the left flag after good work from Richard Tombs and Terry Fanolua gave his team a 13-8 lead midway through the first half.

Philippe Saint-Andre had opened the scoring by touching down after an initial break from Catling, only for a close-range Peter Walton touchdown to level matters after an exchange of penalties.

Newcastle dominated the line-out throughout, with Doddie Weir towering over the opposition. Walton's score had come from another clean catch by the big Scot who then plundered a try of his own.

A change of emphasis, using the scrum as an attacking base, allowed Jim Naylor to dart over, Jonny Wilkinson's conversion giving Newcastle a 25-16 interval lead.

Gloucester responded with a blistering 20 minutes of running rugby. Simon Mannix, starting his first league game in his preferred stand-off position, hit two penalties before Catling grabbed his second try after a break through the middle by Tombs.

Almost from the re-start Gloucester extended their lead through a try from Fanolua and looked to have the game sewn up.

Newcastle refused to lie down and scored a breakaway try through Wilkinson, who converted to bring his side within two points.

But Gloucester and Catling had the final word, the full-back timing his run perfectly to take a pass from Ian Sanders and consign the 1997-98 champions to their third defeat of the season.

Gloucester: C Catling; A Lumsden, T Fanolua, R Tombs, P Saint-Andre; S Mannix, I Sanders; T Woodman, C Fortey, A Deacon, M Cornwell, D Sims, E Pearce, N Carter, S Ojomoh.

Newcastle: P Massey; J Naylor, V Tuigamala, R Andrew, T Underwood; J Wilkinson, G Armstrong; N Popplewell (G Graham, 44), R Nesdale, I Peel, R Beattie (R Horton, 64) D Weir, P Walton, R Arnold (S O'Neil, 55), D Ryan.

Referee: S Lander.

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