Rugby Union: Fanolua injects some fizz into Gloucester

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The Independent Online
Gloucester 23

Bridgend 6

GLOUCESTER DROVE their way back to the top of Pool Six in the European Shield, a point ahead of Biarritz, but there were too many slack moments in a match that had threatened to fizz but eventually fizzled out as the weather and indiscipline took a grip on proceedings.

The Gloucester forwards were too well organised in the tight and the loose to allow their counterparts much room or time in which to work. The home team's backs were also sharper and speedier and a lot more exciting to watch.

Terry Fanolua, who started at full-back and ended up in his more familiar centre role, injected a few thrills, as did both Gloucester wings, Brian Johnson and Tai Glassie. Overall, though, the television cameras of Welsh station S4C, which had been forced to depart Kings-holm before the kick- off because they were treading on BBC toes, did not miss much.

Sporadic cross-border skirmishes punctuated play at pertinent moments throughout a lively and entertaining first half; referee Malcolm McEwan seemed the equal of it, though, and was able to dampen the fires before they became a damaging conflagration.

But the best of the action came with Gloucester's three tries, the first of which highlighted the efficiency of the Gloucester recycling. A series of drives culminated in the centre Joe Ewens picking up and picking his way through the statuesque Bridgend defence. And if they were not standing still, then the luckless Welsh were invariably in trouble with the referee and conceding penalties.

They certainly did not have the pace or invention of the home side's backs, and it was hard to appreciate that these two teams had ground out a 29-29 draw last weekend.

By the time Bridgend did make a fist of it, Gloucester had opened up a 20-point gap. Their flying wing Johnson had evaded everyone's clutches following a tap penalty and touched down in the right-hand corner. That score had followed a try from the lock Mark Cornwell. At a line-out by Gloucester, Pete Glanville took the ball and from the ensuing driving maul Cornwell touched down and Fanolua, the Western Samoan international, converted.

The half closed with yet another confrontation in the forwards. There was yet another brief chat between referee and captains before the two sides were sent in for the interval.

It was a more focused Bridgend who re-emerged, taking advantage of a Gloucester side who seemed to have gone off the boil. Their fly-half, Paul Williams, who had succeeded with a first-half penalty, added a second eight minutes after the interval as the Welsh side gave Gloucester a far harder time.

That spell of domination was broken when Fanolua suddenly burst through the midfield and a slick interchange of passes with Chris Catling took Gloucester deep into the opposition half. They did not stay there, but they were by then sufficiently wide awake to ensure that Bridgend would not be able to find a way back into the game.

Gloucester: T Fanolua; B Johnson, R Jewell (C Yates, 77), J Ewens (C Catling, 33), T Glassie; R Tombs, L Beck; A Powles (P Vickery, 65-70), N McCarthy, P Vickery (S Sanchez, 52), A Eustace, M Cornwell, P Glanville (capt), E Pearce (R Ward, 52), J Djoudi.

Bridgend: A Durston; O Thomas, J Funnell (L Davies, 59), J Devereux, D de Caux (A Jenkins, 79); P Williams, S Wake; D Francis, A Joy (G Thomas, 79), T Taumoupau (C Ferris, 59), O Lloyd (capt), P Clapham (C Bugen, 79), C Davies (R Webster, 41), A Williams, M Molitika.

Referee: M McEwan (Scotland).