Gloucester 24 Harlequins 20: Richards reacts to Quins setback by accusing rival of influencing referee

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The Independent Online

The experimental Law Variations are taking their toll, on players, coaches and referees. Particularly the coaches. They are finding it difficult to keep a civil tongue in their heads. After this close encounter Dean Richards, Harlequins' director of rugby, accused his Gloucester counterpart, Dean Ryan, of influencing the referee.

"When you come in at half-time and you see that their head coach is lambasting the referee and you go out in the second half and lose the penalty count 8-0 it begs the question: what is going on?" Richards ranted.

"It cost us here last year and I would imagine that it costs a lot of people when they come to Kingsholm because in the second half the referee would bottle it. I've talked with refs in the past, but not any more because protocols have been put in place. But if that is what it takes then I'm going to start doing it."

Ryan denied it all. "I didn't have a go at the referee, I simply asked him for clarity over the ruck law. The interpretations are vastly different and it's very difficult to compare with previous games. There is no level of consistency."

Rob Debney, the Leicestershire official in the middle of all this, had a very different version of events. "As I walked to my dressing room at half-time," the referee said, "both coaches politely came up to me. When they do that I'm not just going to put my fingers in my ears."

Quins, who had been top of the Premiership, led 13-5 at the interval after tries from Mike Brown and Danny Care but were under the cosh in the second half. Willie Walker's penalty and drop goal made it 11-13 and it took Gloucester the best part of an hour to hit the front. Will Skinner, the Quins captain, was deemed to have entered a ruck on the wrong side - he denied it - and was harshly shown a yellow card. Walker kicked the penalty and a few minutes later they were 21-13 up.

Quins' defence was not alert enough to Rory Lawson's tap penalty and Luke Narraway sent Alasdair Strokosch through a gap to score from about 50 yards. It was a sucker punch but then Gloucester took one on the chin, allowing Chris Malone, who had had a wretched time with the boot, to narrow the gap to a point. Olly Barkley, on his Gloucester debut, responded with a penalty, his first points for the club.

Gloucester: Tries Morgan, Strokosch; Conversion Walker; Penalties Walker 2, Barkley; Drop Goal Walker. Harlequins: Tries Brown, Care, Malone; Conversion Malone; Penalty Malone.

Gloucester: O Morgan; M Watkins, M Tindall (capt), O Barkley, L Vainikolo; W Walker (Lamg, 65), G Cooper (R Lawson, 54); N Wood, O Azam, C Nieto, W James, (A Titterell, 70), A Brown (Bortolami, 65), A Strokosch, A Hazell (P Buxton, 54), L Narraway.

Harlequins: M Brown; D Strettle, G Tiese, J Turner-Hall, U Monye; C Malone, D Care; C Jones, T Fuga (G Botha, 56), M Ross, O Kohn (J Evans, 56), G Robson, C Robshaw (T Guest, 56) W Skinner (capt), N Easter.

Referee: R Debney (Leicester).