Gloucester 18 Newcastle 18: Wayward Walker costs Gloucester

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The Independent Online

James Simpson-Daniel must have believed he had won this first round game in Pool A of the EDF Energy Cup at Kingsholm on Saturday when he scored his second try seven minutes into added time of a dynamic second half. If Willie Walker's conversion had cleared the bar, that would have been the signal for a Gloucester party.

Walker's kick went wide to leave neither side satisfied, but Newcastle have more to rue. In the build-up to the try no Newcastle player asked referee Bruce Robeston how long remained. Afterwards he said quite clearly: "No one asked me, so I allowed the game to continue until the ball went dead." Surely Joe McDonnell or Toby Flood could have posed the all-important question. Newcastle had possession and could have hoofed the ball into touch. But, because no one chose to do so, Simpson-Daniel's try stood and Newcastle could only draw a game they should have won: two points instead of four.

When Newcastle's director of rugby, John Fletcher, becomes aware of this, he may not be best pleased, especially as the Falcons play Newport-Gwent Dragons, who drew 3-3 with Wasps on Saturday, at Kingston Park in five days time. Given that none of the English clubs can make any money from the competition before the final, it may not matter. But what about pride and the confidence that comes from winning?

Although there may be a lack of enthusiasm for the competiton among the English clubs – Gloucester had only four players in the team who lost to London Irish the previous weekend – the quartet of Welsh regions believe it to be worthy of effort.

Newcastle put Ollie Phillips over for the first try. Matt Thompson scored the second and all Gloucester could offer was a penalty by Chris Paterson, their talented Scotland back, who went off injured to be replaced by Walker. At halftime it was 12-3 to Newcastle. Walker opened the second half with a penalty, though this was soon cancelled out by Flood with two, to make it 18-6.

Then Simpson-Daniel struck. He went between Flood and John Rudd for the first try, which Walker did convert. Before the second, Flood pushed two attempts and a dropped goal wide. Tom May then kicked ahead though the ball stopped tantalisingly short of the line. Eleven points had gone begging, if not 13.

The home pack upped the ante at this and though the Falcons had time to clear the ball they prevaricated and allowed victory to pass. When Simpson-Daniel grabbed his second try the groans from the few Newcastle followers were loud enough to be heard in the city's cathedral.

Gloucester: Tries Simpson-Daniel 2; Conversion Walker; Penalties Paterson, Walker. Newcastle: Tries Phillips, Thompson; Conversion Flood; Penalties Flood 2.

Gloucester: I Balshaw; K Pryce (J Bailey, 30), J Simpson-Daniel, A Allen, M Foster; C Paterson (W Walker, 43), R Lawson (G Cooper, 58); A Dickinson (J Forster, 50), J Paul (A Titterrell, h-t), C Califano, W James, M Bortolami (capt), A Strokosch, A Qera (L Narraway, 59), A Balding.

Newcastle: T May; O Phillips, T Visser, S Jones (A Tait, 78), J Rudd; T Flood, H Charlton (J Grindal, 56); J McDonnell (capt), M Thompson (A Long, 66), D Wilson, A Perry (J Oakes, 66), M Sorenson, G Parling, B Wilson, R Winter (E Williamson, 74).

Referee: B Robertson (Stratford).

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