Fortress Kingsholm holds firm again

Gloucester 30 Saracens 7
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The Independent Online

A rousing Gloucester performance had a 10,050 crowd bellowing and stamping its approval long before the end of this comprehensive victory over Saracens.

The Cherry and Whites set off at a cracking pace, their backs in particular making a series of strikes into opposition territory. But too often the likes of Marcel Garvey ran up against immovable objects, and when James Simpson-Daniel made one fabulous break down the left he was superbly tackled by the alert Richard Haughton.

Sarries also had the personnel to launch counterattacks - Cheltenham-born Paul Bailey looked decidedly quick and deadly. But when Gloucester burst into their opponents' half in the 23rd minute, Junior Paramore found that mobile concrete block, Alex Brown. The Gloucester second-row thundered down the left, slipped the ball to Jake Boer, and up on the captain's left shoulder appeared the speedy full-back, Jon Goodridge, to run clear and free to the line.

Saracens hit back instantly, and in a sweeping cross-field move sent in Nathan McAvoy, the former Bradford Bulls centre. Unfortunately, the final pass from Thomas Castaignède was deemed forward and the try was disallowed.

When Henry Paul, who had converted Brown's try, added his second penalty, Saracens found themselves very much on the back foot. Their line-out, particularly in the first half, did not produce much other than problems, although it redeemed itself shortly after the interval with a fine drive which saw Taine Randell get the final touch. But it was an isolated episode and, despite an intense effort late on, the visitors were reminded why this is dubbed Fortress Kingsholm.

Gloucester were without their England props Phil Vickery and Trevor Woodman, but their stand-ins - notably tight-head Adrian Olver (a former Saracen now on loan at Kingsholm from Worcester) - were more than comfortable. The Cherry and Whites also look to have found a useful half-back pairing in Alex Page and Simon Amor, both able to pass rapidly and, more importantly, accurately. The home backs were thus well supplied with ball and when Saracens pressed, the home guard proved a well-drilled outfit.

Randell's try, which had been converted by Andy Goode, was soon cancelled out by Goodridge's second score to round off an intense spell of Gloucester pressure. Then Simpson-Daniel marked his return to action by racing over after Robert Todd had made a smart interception.

Saracens lock Kris Chesney was sin-binned for retaliating after being held down at a ruck, then another scuffle broke out within seconds of the first. Thankfully, minds refocused after that and Gloucester strung together some marvellous moments of continuity, with a few scintillating snatches from Garvey.

They earned themselves a bonus point with a fourth try when Saracens lost control of the ball and Page found replacement No 8 James Forrester. The youngster sprinted 50 metres before taking two defenders over the line with him.

Gloucester: J Goodridge; M Garvey, R Todd, H Paul, J Simpson-Daniel; S Amor, A Page; P Johnstone (N Wood, h-t), S Brotherstone (C Fortey, 46), A Olver, A Brown (A Eustace, 40), M Cornwell, J Boer (capt), J Paramore (J Forrester, 46; P Buxton 70), A Hazell.

Saracens: T Castaignède (A Wynnan, 46); R Haughton, P Bailey, K Sorrell, N McAvoy; A Goode, D Kirton (P Phibbs, 80); S Sparks (A Kershaw, h-t), J Ross (J Parkes, 65), E Bergamaschi (B Broster, 74), S Raiwalui (capt), K Chesney, T Roques, T Randell, R Peacey (B Skirving, 80).

Referee: S Leyshon (Bristol).

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