Saracens 9 Gloucester 19: Vickery's men show strength to subdue Saracens pack

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This was no day for enterprising rugby, so Gloucester won. Nevertheless, despite the lack of obvious entertainment there was a morbid fascination to proceedings as enormous steamy men crashed into each other from the off and continued to do so right to the very end.

Gloucester scored the only try of the game on the stroke of half-time, and in so doing spoilt what would have been a fascinating half-time score of 0-0. Inevitably, the try was scored from a driving maul, with Peter Richards spinning off it after a penalty had been kicked to the corner.

It was probably due reward for Gloucester's overwhelming superiority in both possession and territory, but despite it all they had never looked like scoring until then. Saracens' defence was good, although at this level huge men lumbering through mud and drizzle are relatively easy prey for tacklers. It is physically demanding, though, and Saracens were more than willing.

The home side showed more ambition on those rare occasions they got the ball, which, sad to say, was not the wisest policy in the conditions. One brilliant counter-attack inspired by Thomas Castaignède from behind his own line would not have looked out of place on a Fijian beach, and Saracens were suddenly in Gloucester's half. But the ball soon found its way back to the other end, and normal service was resumed.

There was a flurry of scoring early in the second half, which in this game meant that four penalties were kicked, two for each side. Still, though, Saracens could not wriggle free from Gloucester's grip and their efforts grew increasingly desperate.

Another flurry of penalties on the hour, this collection won 2-1 by Gloucester, extended the visitors' lead to 19-9, which on so heavy a day with 15 minutes to go looked more comfortable than it should. Nevertheless Phil Vickery, who was sent to the sin-bin for the final few minutes, prowled the touchline furiously gesticulating at his team-mates as if it were a cliff-hanger.

His nerves must have increased in the dying moments as Dan Scarbrough looked as if he might scamper clear of the covering Gloucester forwards, but one of them was the excellent Alex Brown, who took him into touch comfortably before he had reached the Gloucester 22.

"I thought we'd built a reputation for knowing how to play at home," said Steve Diamond, the Saracens director of rugby. "But we were done over by a better side. We'll have to take a look at ourselves."

Gloucester, however, will like the look of their League position, up among the big men in the play-off spots and starting to leave the mid-table bog behind.

Saracens: Penalties Jackson 3. Gloucester: Try Richards; Conversion Mercier; Penalties Mercier 4.

Saracens: Scarbrough; Johnston, Castaignède, Sorrell, Vaikona; Jackson, Dickens (Rauluni, 55); Yates, Cairns (Byrne, 55), Mitchell (Broster, 72), Raiwalui (Skirving, 30), Chesney, Randell, B T Russell (Seymour, 55), Vyvyan (capt).

Gloucester: Morgan; Foster (Fanolua 61), Simpson-Daniel (B Davies 79), Tindall, Bailey; Mercier, Richards; Collazo (Sigley 61), M Davies, Vickery (capt), Eustace, Brown, Buxton, Boer (Collazo 77), Balding.

Referee: A Spreadbury (Somerset).