Woodman brings a dash of Sydney to Kingsholm

Gloucester 28 Northampton 20
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The Independent Online

Trevor Woodman brought the spirit of the World Cup to Kingsholm yesterday in sensational fashion by coming off the bench to inspire Gloucester to victory with a wonderful solo try. It brought the capacity 11,000 crowd shouting and screaming to their feet and rekindled the festival and fire of last weekend's World Cup celebrations.

Woodman and his fellow England front-rower Phil Vickery had joined the fray five minutes after the interval when the Cherry and Whites looked as of they might be flagging. They arrived on the pitch to an ecstatic standing ovation from the home fans and made an immediate impact, splintering a series of scrums. Their presence injected new life and belief into Gloucester, who were trailing by a converted try at the time.

Six minutes after appearing on the field Vickery thundered up the middle and set up a ruck. Messy ball appeared but Andy Gomarsall, an England World Cup returnee who had started the match, somehow kept the ball alive. One of many instances of sleight of hand by Henry Paul ensured that it found its way to James Simpson-Daniel and the wing jinked his way over.

Then came the magic moment. With a quarter of an hour to go, Gloucester worked a ruck ball wide to the right, Woodman was lurking, took it standing still and spurted away like a Ferrari, zig-zagging around three defenders as he flew over the line.

The Wilkinson factor had been experienced in Gloucester before kick-off with tickets selling briskly for the home game against Newcastle - on 7 February. By the final whistle 2,500 had been sold, which means, with 6,500 season tickets already allocated, only 2,000 are left.

For yesterday's match - the club's third sell-out of the season - the faithful of the Shed had taken their accustomed places remarkably early, not moving for fear of losing their places, more than three hours before the kick-off.

But it wasn't really the match they had come to see, nor Thinus Delport of South Africa or referee Tony Spreadbury, both of whom had been Down Under.

No, they had eyes and voices only for the three men of Gloucester, soon to be Freemen of Gloucester, Vickery, Woodman and Gomarsall.

But not all minds were focused solely on last week. For a Gloucester England star of the future, Simpson-Daniel, there was the next tournament to think about. "Players will want to be involved even more now," he said, "and it gives young players a massive and exciting target."

Gloucester: T Delport; M Garvey (J Frape, 40), R Todd, H Paul, J Simpson-Daniel; D McRae, A Gomarsall; R Roncero (T Woodman, 45), C Fortey, A Deacon (P Vickery, 45), A Brown, M Cornwell, J Boer (capt), J Paramore, P Buxton (A Hazell, 60).

Northampton: N Beal; J Brooks, J Leslie (co-capt; J Sleightholme, 40), M Tucker, B Reihana; S Drahm, M Robinson; T Smith, D Richmond (M Miles, 65), R Morris (C Budgen, 59), R Hunter, Jon Phillips (M Soden, 74), G Seely, A Blowers (co-capt; M Soden, 68-74), D Fox.

Referee: A Spreadbury (Keynsham).