Forrester's injury deepens sense of gloom at Gloucester

Gloucester 15 Leeds 33
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Working from the bottom up, this was a fantastic victory for Leeds, and a kick in the teeth of Gloucester supporters who did not fill Kingsholm but cheered the confirmation that capacity will be raised for next season by the redevelopment of the main stand.

Working from the bottom up, this was a fantastic victory for Leeds, and a kick in the teeth of Gloucester supporters who did not fill Kingsholm but cheered the confirmation that capacity will be raised for next season by the redevelopment of the main stand.

Gloucester's chairman, Tom Walkinshaw, strode up to the Shed to announce the £8m project which, by allowing accommodation for 17,500 spectators, will establish the biggest rugby-only club ground in the country. As an example of Gloucester playing to the crowd, it was as good as it got. Save for a galloping try by James Forrester at the end of the first half, and the selfless thrusts of James Simpson-Daniel, the home side were thoroughly outplayed and lost a third successive match at home for the first time since 1995.

Leeds worked their combinations efficiently and tirelessly, to earn first-half tries by Mike Shelley, Chris Bell and Richard Parks, and a bonus point in the 74th point when Gavin Kerr rumbled over. They have gone from favourites for relegation just over a fortnight ago to beating the leaders, Leicester, and making the Heineken Cup if they win the Powergen Cup against Bath at Twickenham on Saturday. What a send-off that would be for their assistant coach, Jon Callard, once of Bath, who is soon to join the Rugby Football Union's National Academy.

Poor Forrester, hopeful of a Churchill Cup tour in June with England A, aggravated an impact injury to his left wrist - specifically, the scaphoid-lunate ligament - and will seek further medical opinion today. Gloucester already have five front-line forwards injured - Andy Hazell, Phil Vickery, Adam Balding, Mark Cornwell and Chris Fortey - and are short of confidence for the run-in to Heineken Cup qualification.

Still, Nigel Melville and Dean Ryan, almost the only English coaches left not to be in the RFU's employ, must be concerned at how Gloucester's remaining forwards coughed up their first five line-out throws. Notwithstanding some success in the scrum, they failed to show the same drive as the Leeds eight. The Tykes' Richard Parks and Stuart Hooper were obviously doing their stuff, by the traditional benchmark of how often opponents lined up to chin them one.

In the circumstances it might have been sensible for Gloucester to have started with the experienced scrum-half, Andy Gomarsall, rather than introduce him at half-time, when Leeds led 22-10. Melville argued Gomarsall's attitude has not been all it should since he agreed a summer transfer to Worcester, but why is 40 minutes acceptable if 80 is not?

Another conundrum was the appearance in the loose-head role of Olivier Azam, a France hooker, when two props, Nick Wood - who scored Gloucester's second try from a catch-and-drive in the last minute - and Terry Sigley were on the bench.

"We wanted Olivier's ball-carrying ability," said Ryan, though Azam was more prominent tussling off the ball and, on one occasion, arguing with Forrester.

And, in any case, wasn't this the same Azam whom Gloucester refused to switch to loose head during a controversial cup semi-final against Leicester two years ago? Perhaps future team announcements at Kingsholm could be made by Little Britain's Vicky Pollard: "Yeah but, no but, yeah, but..."

Gloucester: Tries Forrester, Wood; Conversion McRae; Penalty McRae. Leeds: Tries Shelley, Bell, Parks, Wood; Conversions Ross, Balshaw; Penalties Ross 3.

Gloucester: J Goodridge; M Garvey, J Simpson-Daniel, M Foster, S Kiole; D McRae, A Page (A Gomarsall, h-t); O Azam (N Wood, h-t), M Davies, G Powell (T Sigley, 69), A Eustace, A Brown, P Buxton (L Narraway, 58), J Boer (capt), J Forrester (J Merriman, 80).

Leeds: I Balshaw (capt); A Snyman, P Christophers, C Bell, D Albanese (T Biggs, 61); G Ross (C McMullen, 32-ht), A Dickens; M Shelley, M Regan (R Rawlinson, 72), G Kerr, S Hooper, T Palmer, S Morgan, R Parks (J Dunbar, 75) A Popham (D Hyde, 50).

Referee: T Spreadbury (Somerset).

Comments