Fanolua pounces to leave Cardiff broken hearted

Gloucester 23 - Cardiff 19

Kingsholm has been the scene of many a murky deed over the years, but the gloom last night could be put down to two things - the weather and the home side's erratic performance.

Kingsholm has been the scene of many a murky deed over the years, but the gloom last night could be put down to two things - the weather and the home side's erratic performance.

There were few echoes of Anglo-Welsh confrontations of the past between these two sides. Cardiff are the lowest of the Welsh teams in the Celtic League, lying eighth out of 11, whereas Gloucester sit in fifth place in the Zurich Premiership. On paper a home banker, on the Kingsholm turf not a bit of it. Not with the missed kicks and opportunities and the growing self-belief of a sharp Cardiff side.

Although the ease with which Terry Fanolua crossed for Gloucester's opening try in the fourth minute did suggest that the home side were going to run through an inexperienced Cardiff team.

But after Henry Paul had put Fanolua into space for that first try Cardiff rallied well. Paul missed his first kick of the night when he pulled a fairly straight forward penalty wide and Lee Thomas then countered with a goal of his own. That shifted the balance.

Maybe it was the descending fog, but Gloucester suddenly could not seem to find a pathway to the Cardiff line. Worse, the Welsh side decided to launch counter strikes, which culminated in Martyn Williams, feeding his namesake Rhys, who then sent Tom Shanklin over.

When Cardiff lost Kort Schubert to the sin bin for killing the ball it did not look too good for them. Paul had landed his first penalty by then to level the scores. But Gloucester failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority and instead found themselves falling behind again when Lee Thomas knocked over his second penalty and capped a fine first half with a 40m drop goal.

The loss of James Simpson-Daniel at half-time did not help Gloucester, but when Schubert found himself isolated after a scrum the home side pounced ruthlessly.

They swung the ball down the line until it reached speedster James Bailey, Simpson-Daniel's replacement, and he scorched around what was left of the Cardiff defence to touch down in the right hand corner for an unconverted try.

Gloucester had already re-shuffled their back line once and were forced into further changes on the hour when Jon Goodridge limped off. His replacement Alex Page, a scrum-half, found himself out on the right wing and Bailey dropped to full-back.

At least Paul found his radar in the fog that was rolling ever more thickly and countered Lee Thomas's third goal with his second success to drag Gloucester to within a point.

Then came Fanolua's second big moment, when he chased and gathered Paul's neat chip to dive over in the right hand corner with Rhys Williams hanging on his back. Cardiff by then had been reduced to 14 men for the second time when Shaun James was sent to the sin bin for taking out a man off the ball in an offside position. Thereafter Gloucester managed to hold on to their slender lead.

Gloucester: J Goodridge (A Page, 60); M Garvey (J Bailey, 20), N Mauger, T Fanolua, J Simpson-Daniel (B Davies, h-t); H Paul, A Gomarsall; C Bezuidenhout, J Parkes (R Elloway, 80), G Powell, A Eustace, P Buxton (M Cornwell, 80), J Boer (capt), A Balding, A Hazell (J Forrester, 54).

Cardiff: R Williams; F Tuilagi, S James, T Shanklin, C Morgan; L Thomas, D Dewdney; J Yapp (M Jones, 77), R Thomas, G Jenkins, D Jones, R Sidoli, N Thomas (R Sowden-Taylor, 71), K Schubert, M Williams (capt).

Referee: D Courtney (Ireland).

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