Ryan condemns use of uncontested scrums as Gloucester edge home

Gloucester 28

Northampton 24
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The Independent Online

Northampton had four players consigned to the sin bin and could have had a couple more sent there during a less than edifying match. The rash of second-half yellow cards against the Saints created the situation which angered Ryan.

Midway through the half the replacement hooker Dan Richmond was sin-binned. Dylan Hartley, who had started the match in the No 2 shirt and had appeared to have been replaced for tactical reasons, remained on the sidelines with an unspecified "upper body" injury, according to his head coach, Budge Pountney.

No problem - Steve Thompson, England's first-choice hooker, was playing on the Saints' blind-side flank. He would be able move into the front row.

But after a lot of shilly-shallying it emerged that Thompson was carrying a "neck injury" and Saints did not want to risk a more serious injury by moving him up. Consequently, after a confused series of substitutions, the rest of the match was played with uncontested scrums.

That suited Saints, who were outplaying the Cherry and Whites out wide but losing out at close quarters.

Ryan said: "There's too many uncontested scrums happening. They are happening at very opportune moments, and in the right areas of the field - five metres from a side's tryline. It would be an interesting study to see if a team with a dominant scrum has ever gone to uncontested scrums.

"These sort of things have to be looked at. The bottom line is that although we cannot risk players' health, we cannot afford to allow ourselves to be manipulated because of that fear of injury. We have jumped so far this way that I think we are being manipulated as a body. Five years ago you never had uncontested scrums."

When Saints had eight bodies up front they were manipulated by Gloucester's extremely able pack. Their driving of the maul was executed with ruthlessness and speed.

Gloucester should have been awarded a penalty try after a series of drives off line-outs, when Saints' only defence appeared to be up-ending the catcher.

But Saints were a league above Gloucester's backs. Carlos Spencer may lack a little speed these days, but the former All Black still has one of the quickest brains. His chip, chase and gather to set up the try for Damien Browne was exemplary.

The scoring pass for that came from Thompson, who later on became the fourth player to be sin-binned - a record for one club in the same match in the Premiership. Add Gloucester's yellow card for the full-back Rob Thirlby and you have a record aggregate.

Gloucester: Tries Richards, Boer, Simpson-Daniel; Conversions Mercier 2; Penalties Mercier 3. Northampton: Tries Thompson, Clarke, Browne; Conversions Reihana 3; Penalty Reihana.

Gloucester: R Thirlby (J Goodridge, 76); M Foster, M Tindall (capt), H Paul, J Simpson-Daniel; L Mercier, P Richards (H Thomas, 51); P Collazo (T Sigley, 80), O Azam (M Davies, 76), G Powell, A Eustace, A Brown, P Buxton, J Boer (A Hazell, 76), J Forrester.

Northampton: B Reihana (capt); S Lamont, J Clarke, D Quinlan, B Cohen; C Spencer, M Robinson; T Smith, D Hartley (Easter 47; B Sturgess, 58; M Soden, 70) C Budgen, M Lord (S Boome, 56), D Browne, S Thompson, D Fox, M Easter (D Richmond, 40).

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).