RUGBY UNION: Mapletoft is guiding light

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The Independent Online
West Hartlepool 14 Gloucester 23

It is said that television exerts a more powerful hold on the people of the North-east than anywhere else in Britain. If so, it is understandable that the discerning viewers in the region choose the privacy of their own homes in which to watch talent contests. They are not bad judges.

There was so little talent on view for this Division One relegation bash at Brierton Lane that only 1,853 bothered to attend. Those that did were able to witness the latest episode in Mark Ring's palpable failure to resurrect West's hopes of survival after their unexpected defeat of Saracens in September.

That victory was West's first league success in 23 matches. On the evidence of this flawed display, it maybe another 23 before they win again. Ring, West's player-coach, was as much at fault as his team-mates in a performance of lingering ineptitude as they collapsed from a 6-0 lead to trail Gloucester by 14 points going into the final quarter.

As West frittered away the few chances they created, Gloucester played with a passion and cohesiveness that earned Richard Hill's side a second successive league victory. With a discernible improvement in their self- belief, Gloucester can afford to be more sanguine about facing the next step on the way to recovery, at Edgehall Road next Saturday, against beleaguered Orrell, who are still without a league victory.

"Orrell has never been an easy place for us to win," said Hill, Gloucester's director of coaching. "But today has given us a big lift and, if we get the psychology right and don't attempt any fancy rugby, we might just keep our run going."

There was hardly any fancy rugby to entertain the crowd. But, importantly, Gloucester played the more productive rugby, especially either side of the break, when they effectively put the game beyond West's reach.

Mark Mapletoft and Chris John had each kicked two penalty goals before Audley Lumsden crossed in the corner after Ring had rashly attempted to run West out of trouble from under their own posts. Mapletoft converted. Growing in authority, Gloucester kept up the pressure and launched Maplecroft on a diagonal run for their second try.

The conversion and a third penalty goal by Mapletoft completed Gloucester's scoring. Although John slotted another penalty and Michael Wood claimed an injury-time try, the only legitimate claim to the two league points belonged to Gloucester.

West Hartlepool: Try Wood; Penalties C John. Gloucester: Tries Lumsden, Mapletoft; Conversions Mapletoft 2; Penalties Mapletoft 3.

West Hartlepool: M Silva; M Wood, S John, C John, G Truelove (J Connolly, 40); M Ring, D Kamo; W de Jonge, A Peacock, V Hartland (P Whitelock, 74), C Murphy, K Moseley (capt), A Ramus, J Ions, I Morgan.

Gloucester: C Catling; M Peters, A Saverimutto, M Roberts, A Lumsden; M Mapletoft, S Benton; T Windo, P Greening, A Deacon, R Fidler, D Sims (capt), P Glanville, N Carter, E Pearce.

Referee: N Cousins.