Gloucester 27 Harlequins 25: Vainikolo at double to finally see off Quins

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The Independent Online

Gloucester were given a savage jolt by an enterprising and hard-nosed Harlequins team who came close to a first Premiership win here since February 1999.

It needed two second-half tries from Lesley Vainikolo to keep out the London upstarts, who outplayed the home team before the interval. It was a shocking first half for Gloucester. Their defence looked ragged at best and every time Harlequins attacked they seemed able to evade the feeble Cherry and White cover.

Gloucester's discipline was also poor. A dangerous tackle by their open-side flanker, Andy Hazell, midway through the half left Quins' left wing, Ugo Monye, flopping around on the ground for an anxious moment or two. Hazell spent 10 minutes in the cooler. While he was away Quins continued to play, scoring two tries, one of which Chris Malone converted. The second earned the visitors a try-scoring bonus point with only 33 minutes on the clock.

Shell-shocked did not begin to describe how Gloucester looked. Simon Keogh had scored the first of his two tries in the sixth minute, as a direct result of a brilliant break and excellent interplay between David Strettle and the hooker, Tani Fuga. Strettle was a thorn in Gloucester flesh throughout.

Five minutes after that score, which had followed a third-minute penalty by Malone, came a really soft try. Monye raced over unopposed on the left. Malone then sold a beautiful dummy to Gareth Cooper and Chris Paterson and touched down for Quins' third. When Keogh then slipped down the narrow side following a close-range line-out Gloucester looked hapless and hopeless.

Vainikolo, their gargantuan former New Zealand rugby league winger, did score his first try at Kingsholm, Paterson converting. The Scot also added two penalties.

A different Gloucester emerged for the second half. They weathered a brief squall before storming upfield and Mike Tindall was sent over under the posts. Paterson's conversion narrowed the gap.

A prolonged period on or around the Harlequins five-metre line saw the visitors lose two men to the sin-bin in the space of five minutes, the scrum-half Andy Gomarsall and prop Ceri Jones seeing yellow. Gloucester finally got their noses in front when Vainikolo was put through from close range for his second try. Paterson's conversion eased the home side ahead.

Harlequins battled back, hitting fortress Kingsholm with all they had, but the home line held firm and Gloucester finished the day as they had started, on top of the Premiership.

Gloucester: O Morgan; J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall, A Allen, L Vainikolo; C Paterson (R Lamb, 65), G Cooper (R Lawson, 46); P Collazo (A Dickinson, 65), A Titterrell (O Azam, 46), C Nieto, W James (L Narraway, 46), M Bortolami, P Buxton (capt; A Strokosch, 58), G Delve, A Hazell.

Harlequins: M Brown; S Keogh (J Turner-Hall, 69), D Strettle, DW Barry, U Monye; C Malone, A Gomarsall (S So'oialo, 65); C Jones, T Fuga, M Ross, O Kohn (J Percival, 61), N Spanghéro, C Robshaw, P Volley, N Easter, P Volley (capt; R Nebbett, 57; W Skinner 69).

Referee: D Rose (Warwickshire).

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