Rugby Union: Mannix fashions Saracens' downfall

Gloucester 28 Saracens 27
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The Independent Online
SARACENS STILL have nightmares about having their title-winning ambitions beaten out of shape on the Kingsholm anvil. When they were last here, in March, they were neck and neck with Newcastle, having lost just one match in the Premiership. That 38-15 defeat by the Cherry and Whites, was Saracens' heaviest of the season, putting the skids under their championship chances.

Saturday was different, and the result might not be terminal. But having climbed to second place, winning at Bedford with a weakened side last Sunday, Saracens threw away the chance to build on that with some amateurish tackling in the first half, allowing Gloucester to race into a 25-6 lead.

It was no consolation to Saracens' director of rugby, Mark Evans, that his side recovered their composure and their defensive resolve after the break, or that they nearly stole the points. "Nearly isn't good enough," said a disappointed Evans. "This was a match we should have won. We always knew these games on international weekends would be difficult. But the players who came into the side are professionals. In the final analysis, they didn't deliver."

Steve Ravenscroft's try in the sixth minute of injury time, when Saracens were 28-20 adrift, plus Gavin Johnson's third conversion, came too late.

For much of the first half Saracens were run ragged by the ebullient Gloucester backs and given a rigorous physical examination by the home forwards. Providing a deft link was Simon Mannix, who was the inspiration for both of the tries scored by Richard Tombs. Gloucester's third went to Terry Fanolua, after a lovely run by Phillipe Saint-Andre.

Gloucester: Tries Tombs 2, Fanolua; Conversions Mannix 2; Penalties Mannix 3. Saracens: Tries Sorrell, Ogilvie, Ravenscroft; Conversions Johnson 3; Penalties Johnson 2.

Gloucester: A Lumsden; B Johnson,T Fanolua, R Tombs (capt), P Saint-Andre; S Mannix, I Sanders; A Windo (T Woodman, 72), C Fortey (N McCarthy, 55), A Deacon, R Fidler, M Cornwell (D Sims, 75), E Pearce, N Carter, S Ojomoh.

Saracens: G Johnson; B Taylor (B Daniel, 56), K Sorrell, S Ravenscroft, R Wallace; A Penaud (M Singer, 27), B Free; B Reidy, G Chuter, W de Jonge (A Olver, 40), K Chesney, C Yandell, P Ogilvie (B Cole, 73), F Pienaar, A Diprose (capt).

Referee: E Morrison (Bristol).