Gloucester flattened by Ngwenya's Biarritz blitz

Biarritz 42 Gloucester 15
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The Independent Online

There is no silence, it was once written, like the silence at Kingsholm when the opposition scores. But even the most curmudgeonly of Gloucester supporters could not have failed to salute the hat-trick of tries scored against them in France yesterday by the remarkable Takudzwa Ngwenya in what became another festival of Heineken Cup rugby.

With spring in the sky but an autumn nip in the air, conditions were perfect for running rugby. Biarritz's Australian coach, Jack Isaac, made no bones about it. There had been three training sessions devoted to attack. Defence was deemed to need no further attention. The objective was a win and a bonus point for four tries.

Ayoola Erinle, a former Wasp, was on the bench to allow the nippier Arnaud Mignardi to partner Damien Traille in the centres. The speed of Ngwenya on the right wing was established when the American famously left South Africa's Bryan Habana for dead at the last World Cup.

Biarritz had scraped an away win in Glasgow last week, some resolute defence making up for conceding 70 per cent of the possession. Gloucester had come out on the right side of an even tighter affair at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons. Seventh in the Guinness Premiership and coping with the usual raft of injuries as well as Olivier Azam's suspension, they needed to come out firing.

In the first half-hour, Biarritz looked like a side struggling to sing to the management's new tune. But that man Ngwenya is a natural attacker and he was to bring the game to life. There had been the usual exchange of penalties, between Dimitri Yachvili and Nicky Robinson, and Gloucester could have hoped that they would turn around just 9-3 down at half-time, if they could survive 10 minutes without the flanker Andy Hazell. The whole pack and all of the backs were throwing back everything that Biarritz threw at them. But Traille was running the tactical show in midfield and, while not enjoying a feast of possession, he had more than enough to give the backs a run. The Basque club's forwards were also picking up pace.

Enter Ngwenya, with three minutes left of Hazell's sojourn in the sin-bin. The wing's first run had been stopped by Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, but his second left James Simpson-Daniel grasping air and the full-back, Tom Voyce, could not lay a finger on him.

Yachvili missed that conversion but not the second, on half-time. Ngwenya set off down his right wing, chipped, caught the ball without a break in his stride and scampered round to the posts. His hat-trick try came less than 10 minutes into the second half and the bonus-point try came from Erinle, shortly after he had been sent on to replace Nicolas Brusque. Ngwenya thought he had scored a fourth, from an interception, but the Irish referee, Alan Lewis, brought everyone back for a Gloucester scrum. Biarritz's fifth try was instead scored by their replacement stand-off, Laurent Courrent, with three minutes to go.

For Gloucester, Voyce burrowed over after the pack had been pressing the home line and a similar feat was achieved by Jake Boer, the former club captain who has been brought back from Western Province to bolster Gloucester's depleted playing resources in a time of considerable difficulty.

Isaacs said that Ngwenya's first try had lifted the whole Biarritz side. "They then played with more confidence," he said. "Maybe this match will boost the progress of the last two weeks, but we have a big game against Toulouse next weekend."

Gloucester's coach, Bryan Redpath, said: "We cannot give away soft tries. Defensive errors were to blame. The Gloucester back row played very well, but it is hard to solve individual mistakes, mistakes that are killing us. It is not a team structure sort of thing."

Biarritz M Bosch; T Ngwenya, A Mignardi, D Traille (L Tranier, 68), N Brusque (A Erinle, 59); J Peyrelongue (V Courrent, 53), D Yachvili; F Barcella (E Coetzee, 61), B August (R Terrain, 62), C Johnstone (M Moala, 59), J Thion (capt; M Carizza, 62), P Taele, M Lund (L Wenceslas, 53), I Harinordoquy, S Vahafolau.

Gloucester T Voyce; C Sharples, J Simpson-Daniel, E Fuimaono-Sapolo, L Vainikolo; N Robinson (F Burns, 53), D Lewis (R Lawson, 40); A Dickinson (P Doran-Jones, 51), S Lawson (D Dawiduik, 73), G Somerville, D Attwood, W James, A Qera (J Boer, 53), G Delve (capt), A Hazell.

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).