Mercier in destructive mode

Gloucester 36 Saracens 13
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The Independent Online

There were signs at Fortress Kingsholm yesterday of a centuries-old rugby philosophy being blown to kingdom come after Gloucester emerged from a fascinating, if scrappy, Premiership match with a flattering scoreline and four vital points.

Nigel Melville, the Cherry and Whites' director of rugby, pronounced himself disappointed with the performance, feeling that they had played poorly, but he is a perfectionist – there was certainly plenty on show to indicate that Gloucester are getting better and, if the momentum is maintained over the summer, then they will be a force to be reckoned with next season.

Even now they look a good bet to lift the Parker Pen Shield, and on this showing should wind up this league campaign in second place. There was a new confidence in Gloucester, an element of devil-may-care, as they attempted to do the unthinkable and handle the ball from front to back. That their enthusiasm was out-stripped by the pragmatism of Saracens' cover or by silly errors could not disguise the fact that there is a wind of change sweeping through one of the bastions of solid forward play.

Not that the Gloucester pack were in any way thrust into the background. There was no reason for any Gloucester old boys to spin in their graves, because Jake Boer and his band of pioneers made sure they did all the basics first. Their superior strength and cunning allowed them to disrupt Saracens' scrum and win the put-in for themselves, their line-out also showed savvy, indeed there was invention about their play up front, not least at the line-out, where a couple of moves came close to opening up Saracens.

And once they had got past the hard stuff the pack were prepared, to a man, to run and handle. They had help from their French fly-half Ludovic Mercier. In his hands the ball became a smart missile as he frequently, and from the tightest of angles, would find touch a long way downfield.

There was an element of luck about Gloucester's opening score, Saracens losing control of the ball on their put-in and, when the ball scooted out of the scrum, beefy centre Robert Todd darted through, scooped up the ball and plunged over the line.

Although Saracens kept up with their opponents during the first half, with Gerald Arasa benefiting from some ragged defending at a tap penalty, Terry Fanolua's try late in the half courtesy of a wonderful piece of thinking by, and a long pass from, Junior Paramore, really set the seal on events.

An inability to use the ball early in the second half, coupled with an uncanny knack of falling foul of the referee within Mercier's range, saw Saracens slip further behind and by the time Andy Gomarsall spun around the blindside of a maul (which came from a penalty line-out) and touched down it was all over.

Gloucester: C Catling; D O'Leary, H Paul, R Todd, T Fanolua; L Mercier (J Simpson-Daniel, 76), A Gomarsall; T Woodman (P Collazo, 70), O Azam, F Pucciariello, R Fidler, M Cornwell, J Boer, J Paramore, J Forrester.

Saracens: B Sparg; B Johnston, T Shanklin, K Sorrell (L Smith, 75), G Arasa; T Horan, K Bracken (capt; N Walshe, 63); D Flatman, R Russell (M Cairns, 50), P Durant (L Harbut, 50), A Benazzi (B Cole, 65), S Murray (K Roche, 72), K Chesney, R Hill, A Roques.

Referee: R Maybank (London).

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