Vickery wins wheel of fortune

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The Independent Online

Who says the scrum is dead? It is alive and well, albeit in an altered state, and so too are Gloucester after narrowly and breathlessly averting a third home defeat on the spin.

Who says the scrum is dead? It is alive and well, albeit in an altered state, and so too are Gloucester after narrowly and breathlessly averting a third home defeat on the spin.

Instead the vital spin turned out to be a powerful wheel of the Quins scrum in the shadow of the Gloucester posts, as an error-strewn match hung in the balance in injury time. Quins needed a try; Gloucester, with a ton of power thrust through the shoulders of Phil Vickery, did the needful.

A turnover, then survival of the last few seconds before Philippe Saint-André, the Gloucester coach who had been told to calm down by his own scrum-half, Andy Gomarsall, during the frantic denouement, could begin to relax.

Two weeks ago Gloucester lost here by a single point to Bath, cursing seven missed goal kicks and their opponents' allegedly deliberate wheeling of the scrum. Perhaps the home pack, in which England's Vickery made his first appearance of the season as a replacement, had learned a trick or two. They certainly had an ace in the kicking department with Simon Mannix, who missed the Bath match with a broken finger, landing all nine penalty goal attempts to equal the Premiership best set by Saracens' Thierry Lacroix last season.

On an Indian summer's afternoon, Gloucester had a start that went down like a bad curry with the Shed. Quins ran a neat loop between Paul Burke and Will Greenwood and, after a couple of rucks, Burke kicked a penalty for Gloucester preventing release. From the restart Greenwood's cut-out pass on the Quins' 22 sent Ryan O'Neill through a gap, Ben Gollings and David Wilson gave support and Greenwood applied the finish for a sixth try in seven Premiership matches.

Burke's conversion had Quins 10 points to the good. Yet after Mannix's first penalty goal Quins went into their shells for a while, with Burke kicking for position and handing Gloucester the initiative. A couple of turnover tackles by Junior Paramore were further grist to the home side's mill but it was the sort of match in which the team in the ascendancy quickly suffered a bad attack of vertigo. Dropped passes and one illegal intervention by Wilson at a ruck limited Gloucester to three more Mannix penalties before the first half was out, when they could have done with a try. Quins showed them the way when Keith Wood burst clear and popped up a scoring pass for Nick Burrows. Burke converted and kicked a penalty following the sending of the Gloucester prop Adey Powles to the sin bin the 37th minute.

Trailing by eight points at half-time, and with Vickery initially filling in for Powles, Gloucester gained immediate encouragement with two more penalties from Mannix. Burke put one over in reply but the first sign of trouble for the Quins eight came when they were shoved off their own ball. For all of Wilson's good work - clearly trying to impress his watching brother-in-law, Gloucester's new signing Jason Little - Quins had forgotten their lines. Mannix banged over three more kicks, and Kingsholm celebrated.

Gloucester: C Catling; J Ewens, T Fanolua, C Yates, T Beim; S Mannix, A Gomarsall; O Azam (P Vickery, 44), C Fortey (O Azam, 63), A Powles, R Fidler, I Jones, S Ojomoh (Vickery, 39-44; A Eustace, 67), K Jones (capt, A Hazell, 56)), J Paramore

Harlequins: R O'Neill (J Williams, 63); B Daniel, W Greenwood, N Burrows, B Gollings; P Burke, P Richards (M Powell, 63); J Leonard, K Wood (capt), B Starr (R Mathieson, 78), G Morgan, A Codling (A Jones, 71), R Jenkins (T Fuga, 78), D Wilson, S White-Cooper (A Dawling, 66)

Referee: R Goodliffe (Yorkshire).