Rugby Union: Falcons shot down

Gloucester 31 Newcastle 16
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The Independent Online
THIS MAY be Premiership rugby without the stars, but it lacked for nothing in passion and aggression as Gloucester registered the first of the five wins their coach Philippe Saint-Andre has demanded from his team while the internationals are missing for the World Cup.

The anticipation for competitive rugby from the Kingsholm faithful was almost tangible, and they were rewarded for their pre-match cheering with an explosive Gloucester start. Stuart Legg was penalised for not releasing the ball after the chasing Gloucester forwards had isolated him as he caught a perfectly judged up-and-under by Simon Mannix, and from the ensuing line-out the Gloucester pack drove for the try-line.

The first test for both packs ended encouragingly for the Falcons, who held firm. Alas, Rob Andrew didn't as Elton Moncrieff picked up from the third scrum in succession and darted for the line unchallenged to open the scoring in the fifth minute. Mannix converted and added a try of his own three minutes later, again from an up-and-under. This time Tony Underwood let the ball bounce inside the 22 and his recovery kick was charged down, allowing Mannix to collect and touch down for a 12-point lead.

The Shed was in full voice, but Mannix and Legg traded penalties for the rest of the half and the Falcons were still in contention at the interval, the deficit being only nine points.

The second half started no less excitingly than the first, but the points scored were more physical than scoreboard-based. Both team captains, Richard Arnold and Kingsley Jones, were spoken to by the referee after the sniping that had occupied them for much of the first half manifested itself in a "handbags" brawl that others gate-crashed uninvited.

At least the flankers' showdown heralded a period of greater urgency. Marius Hurter touched down for the Falcons' only try but the game turned back towards the home team when Arnold was shown the entry card to the sin bin in the 56th minute for offside. He blatantly disrupted a good scoring opportunity after Rob Fidler, Trevor Woodman and Chris Catling had charged 40 yards to the Falcons' last line of defence.

Further scuffles distracted the Falcons' attention to defence while they were reduced to 14 men and Gloucester profited from their indiscipline by aggressive running of the ball. Moncrieff added his second score after the weakened Falcon scrum were pushed back on their own line.

Gloucester: C Catling; B Johnson, J Ewens, C Yates (R Tombs, 73), T Beim; S Mannix, E Moncrieff; T Woodman (Powles, 66), C Fortey, A Deacon (S Simon, 63), R Fidler, R Ward, A Eustace (P Glanville, 73), K Jones (capt, A Hazell, 63), S Ojomoh.

Newcastle: S Legg; J Naylor, M Shaw (J Noon, 49), T May, T Underwood; R Andrew, A Chilten; I Peel, R Horton, M Hurter, D Weir, H Pydyan, S O'Neill, R Arnold (capt, J Cartmell, 64), R Beattie.

Referee: S Piercy (Yarm)

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