Rugby Union: Crisis looms over Hill: Gloucester 20 Harlequins 31

Click to follow
The Independent Online
GLOUCESTER have been finding it hard enough to win away from home, and losing at Fortress Kingsholm, as they did yesterday, served only to underline their plight in the Allied Dunbar Premiership.

A little bit of Irish fire from Keith Wood at just the right time late in the second half was enough to spark his side for one last effort and John Schuster's 16 points left the home side burned out. It also helped end a run of three league defeats on the trot for the London club.

Gloucester's owner, Tom Walkinshaw, is widely rumoured to have run out of patience with Richard Hill, his director of coaching, and the promised top-four finish is now out of the question. And yet there were spells when the Gloucester pack in particular excelled themselves and their good work had Quins on the back foot early on.

It has to be said though that Harlequins' cause was not helped by the departure of Thierry Lacroix with what appeared to be a hamstring injury in the fourth minute, and with Daren O'Leary forced to replace the crocked Jamie Williams at full-back and no Dan Luger, the backs looked decidedly lacking in pace.

There were wholesale changes in the forwards as well and it was as the result of the scrum twice collapsing, and Quins' front row being saddled with the blame, which cost them a total of 10 points. Didier Mene blew up first in the sixth minute, when fly-half Mark Mapletoft thumped over his first penalty goal. M Mene awarded a penalty try half an hour later when the Quins front three nose-dived into the soft Kingsholm turf and Mapletoft converted.

Tom Beim, in his third match back with Gloucester after returning from a three-year spell at Sale, had by then scored the first try of his second incarnation and only his third ever in a Gloucester shirt.

But in between Harlequins had dragged themselves back into contention through the astounding boot of Schuster, before slipping in front with a sharp try from O'Leary.

Considering Gloucester have not beaten Harlequins in aeons at Kingsholm - well, 11 December 1993 is the last recorded win in all competitions - there was not a great deal of surprise when Quins wrested the advantage back shortly after Beim's try when Chris Wright, with a lower centre of gravity than Snow White's companions, darted across the line. Schuster converted and added a penalty a few minutes later.

The Cherry and Whites threw everything at the opposition, but too often over-eager hands spilled vital passes or possession was turned over. Mapletoft's second penalty goal brought Gloucester tantalisingly close but Wood's break and scoring pass to Gareth Llewellyn followed by another Schuster penalty put paid to any lingering home side hopes.

Gloucester: A Lumsden; T Beim, S Mannix, R Tombs, P Saint-Andre (R Greenslade- Jones,78); M Mapletoft (R Greenslade-Jones, 19-28), S Benton; T Woodman, N McCarthy, A Powles (D Hinkins, 50), R Fidler, D Sims (capt; M Cornwell, 63), E Pearce (A Hazell, 72), S Ojomoh, N Carter.

Harlequins: D O'Leary (V Going, 80); J Keyter, P Mensah, J Schuster, D Officer; T Lacroix (C Wright, 4), H Harries; J Leonard, K Wood (capt), G Halpin (A Yates, 80), G Llewellyn, T Collier, B Davison, A Leach, R Jenkins (C Sheasby, 78).

Referee: D Mene (France).