Gloucester 9 London Irish 13: Irish snaffle rare victory after Kaplan baffles Kingsholm crowd

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The Independent Online

Rugby may be a global game, but interpretation of its laws is anything but universal, as London Irish and Gloucester discovered.

The Cherry and Whites in particular felt they were floored by a flawed policy, the introduction of southern hemisphere referees for a solitary match ahead of the Six Nations Championship. Hence the appearance of South Africa's Jonathan Kaplan, who takes charge of Scotland and France at Murrayfield on Sunday.

Kaplan upset the majority of the 11,710 crowd. Too often he allowed either side to slow things down illegally, too frequently blatant forward passes were ignored, and there were other oversights and alien interpretations.

Dean Ryan, Gloucester's director of rugby, was not putting defeat - his side's first at home in 10 matches stretching back to last April - solely down to Kaplan's refereeing, but he clearly felt it was a contributory factor.

"I welcome someone coming over here for six, seven or eight weeks, but I don't welcome someone turning up for one game," he said. "Jon Kaplan is a world-class referee, and I am an advocate of the idea of bringing world-class referees to the Premiership, but it is unfair on them and on us to come in on one-offs as a warm-up for internationals."

The London Irish captain Mike Catt said: "There were a few dodgy decisions. There are different interpretations by southern hemisphere referees. In the first half I thought Gloucester were coming out and killing the ball when we wanted quick ball, but he had a different interpretation of it. But that is the way it goes."

Catt was much more animated about the Irish win, their first League victory at Kingsholm in 13 years. "It is very tough up here. The passion that they have here is huge, so it is a fantastic win for us," he said.

On paper Gloucester's personnel held an edge over the Exiles. But they just could not think their way out of trouble, instead trying to run the ball from anywhere and everywhere. They also failed at the line-out, most notably in the final half-minute when they lost the ball, and therefore a final scoring opportunity, on their own throw. What possession they did obtain was invariably kicked or, worse, thrown away. James Simpson-Daniel, one of England's more potent finishers, too often had to go looking for the ball, while the back three of Olly Morgan, Marcel Garvey and James Bailey lacked menace in attack. There was sloppy handling on both sides, some of it doubtless down to the icy conditions.

Gloucesterhave two weeks before their next Guinness Premiership match, at home to Leicester.

If the Tigers are to be beaten and Gloucester are to establish themselves in a play-off spot, they are going to have to put in some overtime between now and then.

Gloucester: Penalties Mercier 3. London Irish: Try Leguizamon; Conversion Flutey; Penalties Flutey 2.

Gloucester: O Morgan; M Garvey (R Keil, 51), J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall, J Bailey; L Mercier, P Richards; P Collazo, M Davies, G Powell, A Eustace, A Brown, P Buxton, J Boer, A Balding (capt; J Forrester, 51).

London Irish: M Horak; D Armitage (S Tagicakibau, 51), N Mordt, M Catt (capt), T Ojo; R Flutey, P Hodgson; N Hatley (M Collins, 80), D Coetzee (D Paice, 80), F Rautenbach, R Casey, N Kennedy, K Roche, O Magne (K Dawson, 51), J-M Leguizamon (P Gustard, 40).

Referee: J Kaplan (South Africa).

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