Rugby Union: Saint-Andre rekindles Kingsholm's fire

Gloucester 15 Harlequins 13
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SOMEHOW YOU knew this was going to be Gloucester's day when just before the kick-off the band struck up the Marseillaise and at the same time a rainbow with the stature of the Arc de Triomphe appeared over Kingsholm. But 100 minutes later Gloucester had moved a step nearer, if not a crock of gold, then the Tetley's Bitter Cup with an improbable but emotional victory over Harlequins in the quarter-finals.

The reason the West Country club elevated Philippe Saint-Andre to the role of player-coach two weeks ago in place of the unfortunate Richard Hill is that not only were Gloucester unable to win away from home but they had also misplaced the passion that often enabled them at home to overcome slicker, more sophisticated outfits.

This is precisely what happened here yesterday. Saint-Andre rekindled home fires to a sufficient temperature for Harlequins to get their fingers burnt. The London club, who scored the only try of a typical dog-eat-dog Cup tie, were heading for the semi-finals, having played most, if not all, of the more dangerous, expansive rugby when Chris Sheasby was penalised for holding on to the ball on the ground in the fourth minute of injury time.

Mark Mapletoft, who had already kicked four penalties, landed the fifth from close range to turn a 12-13 deficit into a 15-13 triumph.

The fact that Gloucester hardly threatened the Quins line will count for nothing. This was more like the good old days at Kingsholm and this was what the Gloucester faithful live for, particularly against a club that had won here on their last five visits.

"I wouldn't like to say that the referee was awful," John Gallagher, the Harlequins director of rugby, said. "In any case Gloucester may feel the same." Nevertheless, although Saint-Andre, whose nickname is Le Goret (the piglet) behaved like the man who found the truffles, Harlequins were pig-sick.

Gloucester owed everything to the tenacity of the forwards, the goal- kicking of Mapletoft and their fanatical support. If they had little to offer at three-quarter, it was partly understandable, losing their scrum- half, Scott Benton, in the pre-match warm-up and the centre, Richard Tombs, in the 10th minute. In a staccato first-half, the Shed did not have a great deal to shout about although they were satisfied with the outcome: two penalties to Mapletoft, one to John Schuster.

The wind of change blowing around Kingsholm was so capricious that Mapletoft's first penalty attempt, from no more than 25 yards and only slightly to the left of the post, was initially on target until the ball suddenly veered violently to the right of the uprights and nearly ended up in the right-hand corner. This had followed Gloucester's first concerted drive and the first serious exercise of the larynxes of the Shed's occupants since the mention of Will Carling's name as a replacement during the team announcements.

There were frequent cameo roles from Saint-Andre and Keith Wood, the Harlequins captain and the most versatile hooker this side of Soho.

Mapletoft kicked Gloucester ahead with a fairly simple goal after 26 minutes. With the referee obsessed with offside, Schuster was on target in the 30th minute before Mapletoft restored Gloucester's lead after 39 minutes. When Ian Sanders had a grubber-kick blocked by Rob Liley, the Gloucester defence infringed near their 22 but, in the sixth minute of first-half injury time, Schuster's kick sailed left of the post.

Quins, beginning the second half in impressive style, gained a deserved reward. From a line-out deep in the Gloucester half, Sheasby, Gareth Llewellyn and Rory Jenkins made deep inroads and when the ball came back the Gloucester defence was distracted enough for Hugh Harries to dummy Mark Cornwell to go over at the posts. Schuster's conversion put Quins 10-6 ahead and they still held a four-point advantage after Mapletoft and Schuster had exchanged penalties.

The Gloucester stand-off kicked his fourth penalty to cut the deficit to one point in the 72nd minute but when he missed a drop goal attempt five minutes later it seemed that the cherry and whites were heading for yet another intolerable defeat by the club they love to hate. Mapletoft, however, had a second bite at the cherry.

Gloucester: C Catling; B Johnson, S Mannix, R Tombs (R Greenslade-Jones, 10), P Saint-Andre; M Mapletoft, S Benton; T Woodman (T Windo, 74), N McCarthy (C Fortey, 62), A Deacon, R Fidler (capt, D Sims, 53), M Cornwell, E Pearce (A Hazell, 69), S Ojomoh, N Carter.

Harlequins: D O'Leary; J Keyter, P Mensah (W Carling, 72), J Schuster, D Luger; R Liley, H Harries; D Barnes, K Wood (capt), G Halpin, G Llewellyn, B Davison (G Morgan, 60), R Jenkins, C Sheasby, A Leach (T Murphy, 85).

Referee: G Hughes (Manchester).