Rugby Union: Gloucester saved by Mapletoft

Gloucester 24 Richmond 24
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The Independent Online
RICHMOND'S DIRECTOR of rugby, John Kingston, can only dream that one day the cavernous Madejski stadium will become a cauldron like Kingsholm. Were it to become reality, then the Premiership leaders, Leicester, might be in a similar state of nervous uncertainty when they travel to Reading tomorrow, in the way Richmond were at the end of this throbbing match at Gloucester on Saturday.

"To come down here and play in front of this crowd," Kingston said, "you need something like a 10 to 12-point start. We never got it, but it is a great credit to our players that we stuck at it so well that the result was a disappointment. Frankly, I thought we were the better team. We were a yard quicker with the ball in hand, and our forwards were terrific."

So, too, were the Gloucester forwards. But then if the home team as a whole are not making any progress playing the game more expansively, one would expect them to be. Especially on their own midden, which soon cut up after the continuous rain it had received throughout the previous day.

In conditions like these, Gloucester rarely fail. Even though the late kick-off, to meet the demands of television, had trimmed the attendance to a mere 4,811, the Shed was in full voice throughout a match which lacked nothing in passion or commitment from either side but which, for both coaches and any purists present, remained ultimately unfulfilled. Strip away the intensifying excitement and palpitating finish, and you were left with the memory of a game which contained far too many errors and an absence of control.

Therein lay the rub for both teams. Neither had a player who could impose himself on the game and determine its direction. For all Mark Mapletoft's spark and bustle in broken play, he is no master tactician. Nor for that matter is Richmond's Earl Va'a. If either of the outside-halves could have run the game, in addition to contributing so fulsomely with their goal-kicking, the outcome may have been different.

It might have gone Gloucester's way, had the referee, Nigel Yates, spotted Ben Clarke failing to get any downward pressure on the ball in the act of scoring the opening try, or if Robbie Hutton had been sent off any earlier than the 78th minute. It was too soon for Gloucester to be worried about the Clarke score and too late for Hutton's dismissal for stamping to make any difference.

Not that Gloucester could complain. Their finishing was woeful and their defence as bad when they allowed Spencer Brown to begin the second half with a soft try. All they had created before then was a pushover try for Scott Benton while Dan McFarland was in the sin-bin. After the break, Gloucester increased their hold on the Richmond pack to gain a penalty try. Otherwise it was down to Mapletoft to ensure that they would share the points by kicking his fourth penalty after Richmond had led five times.

Gloucester: Tries Benton, penalty try. Conversion Mapletoft. Penalties Mapletoft 4. Richmond: Tries Clarke, Brown. Conversion Va'a. Penalties Va'a 4.

Gloucester: C Catling (S Mannix, 68); B Johnson, T Fanolua, R Tombs, P Saint-Andre; M Mapletoft, S Benton; T Woodman, N McCarthy (C Fortey, 68), A Deacon, R Fidler (capt; D Sims, h-t), M Cornwell, E Pearce (A Hazell, 68), N Carter, S Ojomoh.

Richmond: M Pini; N Walne, A Bateman, M Deane, S Brown; E Va'a, A Pichot; D McFarland, B Williams, J Davies, C Quinnell, C Gillies, R Hutton, A Vander, B Clarke (capt). Referee: N Yates (Bowdon, Cheshire).