Rugby Union: Gloucester's away-day blues remain

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Harlequins 36 Gloucester 16

THERE IS no doubt about it. Gloucester are a bunch of home boys. Their solitary away win in the Allied Dunbar Premiership this season was against bottom-of-the-table Bristol. Yesterday, at The Stoop, they allowed Harlequins, the only team to have won in the league at fortress Kingsholm this year, to complete a well-deserved double and get Zinzan Brooke's coaching reign off to a fine start.

The former All Black was prudent with his after-match comments. "I thought the guys played the first half pretty solidly and altogether I thought it was a complete performance. It is a good start but we have to keep it in perspective. All the good work could be undone next match."

The first half belonged to Gloucester as they took control up front and built up a substantial cushion. But in the second half they allowed Quins to unpick all the stitching and then rip the stuffing out of that lead.

By the end it became an embarrassing parade of tries as Harlequins players queued up to pick them off. The turnaround was remarkable. All five of Quins tries came after the interval, and with Rob Liley finding the target with his boot the West Country side found themselves on the back foot.

Chris Sheasby's return to Quins looks fortuitous. He was a veritable inspiration in the back row and in addition to his own try set up other scoring situations.

There were pluses for Gloucester, although Richard Hill, their director of rugby, said: "Our priority now has to be getting shot of this away problem.

"We have to win either at Richmond or Northampton. That has to be a priority."

The Gloucester scrummage had struck two telling blows in the opening half, the first coming when they won one against the head after quarter of an hour and the second should have floored Harlequins. Their front row was penalised for dropping the scrum, Quins' tight-head Alan Yates was even shown a yellow card (one of three cautions in the game) and when the subsequent scrum collapsed in the face of a mighty shove, the referee Iain Ramage awarded a penalty try.

But Gloucester failed to capitalise on their apparent advantage and back came Quins after the interval, Gareth Llewellyn scoring the first try but leaving the field instantly after a bout of sickness, to be followed by touchdowns from Nick Walshe, Sheasby, O'Leary and the admirable Peter Mensah.

Harlequins: Tries Llewellyn, Walshe, Sheasby, O'Leary, Mensah; Conversions Liley 4; Penalty Liley. Gloucester: Try Penalty try; Conversion Mapletoft; Penalties Mapletoft 3.

Harlequins: S Stewart (S Bromley, 77); D O'Leary, J Ngauamo (J Keyter, 66), P Mensah, D Luger; R Liley, N Walshe (H Harries, 80); M Cuttitta (R Nebbett, 69), K Wood (capt; T Billups, 59), A Yates, G Llewellyn (T Collier, 53), B Davison, R Jenkins, C Sheasby, L Cabannes.

Gloucester: A Lumsden; R Jewell, T Fanolua, R Tombs, P Saint-Andre; M Mapletoft, S Benton; A Windo (A Powles, 39-74), C Fortey (N McCarthy, 74), A Deacon, R Fidler, D Sims (M Cornwell, 75), P Glanville (capt), S Ojomoh, N Carter (S Devereux, 37-44).

Referee: I Ramage (Berwick-upon-Tweed).