Wray sees the error of his ways with Saracens

Saracens 8 Gloucester 16
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The Independent Online

This was the sort of match, or at least second half, when one was reminded how rugby scorelines occasionally used to wind up at 0-0. Gloucester led by eight points at the interval, having worked a lovely try for Marcel Garvey on the wing, and from then on gave the distinct impression they were sparing their energies for next week's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Wasps.

This was the sort of match, or at least second half, when one was reminded how rugby scorelines occasionally used to wind up at 0-0. Gloucester led by eight points at the interval, having worked a lovely try for Marcel Garvey on the wing, and from then on gave the distinct impression they were sparing their energies for next week's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Wasps.

The sad fact for Saracens is that their glut of possession in the latter stages had not the slightest effect on the outcome; even the losing bonus point went west when Henry Paul put over his third penalty goal for Gloucester with the final kick.

While Gloucester have plenty to play for, domestically and in Europe, Saracens are preparing for next season. Five signings have already been announced, with "eight to 10 more" to come, according to coach Rod Kafer.

Saracens' director Nigel Wray admitted in his programme notes the errors of the past. "We simply recruited and built badly," Wray wrote, "and ended up without sufficient strength in depth ... this time we have moved early, as first movers for a change, and are planning ahead." Saracens are nothing if not triers, though not often enough try-scorers.

Gloucester have become accustomed to a quieter life, although their director of rugby, Nigel Melville, refused to comment afterwards on the club's rift with the Rugby Football Union over Paul, who played against Sale last weekend rather than in the Hong Kong Sevens. Melville preferred to praise his side's defence after being restored to almost full strength following the disruptions of the international window.

Paul got things moving with a penalty after 11 minutes, while Saracens had their No 8, Kris Chesney, in the sin bin. Then Garvey finished off a sweeping move that had its origins in a bouncing box-kick from the visitors' scrum-half, Andy Gomarsall. Nicky Little cleared to touch, Adam Eustace won the Gloucester line-out and the ball went right at high speed. Paul and Terry Fanolua fed Riaan van der Bergh, who drew his opposite number at full-back, Robbie Kydd, and sent Garvey thundering in at the corner.

Paul converted and added a penalty for 13-0. Saracens needed a lucky break, and got it at a scrum on halfway in the 35th minute, when Morgan Williams had a pass ricochet back to him off Gomarsall. The Sarries No 9's second attempt at getting the ball away flew over the head of Little at fly-half, but in so doing drew Gloucester's midfield out of the defensive line and Kevin Sorrell shot through the gap. James Simpson-Daniel gave chase, but Sorrell got to within a few metres of the line and Williams scooped up the loose ball to score. Little managed the seemingly impossible by fluffing an even easier kick with the conversion than he had done previously, when he put wide a penalty from in front of the posts on the 22.

Possession at the breakdown was messy, with no lack of fight from the Saracens forwards in the face of weightier opponents. Gloucester's England prop, Trevor Woodman, retired hurt with a black eye; Williams might have fared even worse had he not avoided a left hook from Junior Paramore, who was shown a yellow card for the offence.

The penalty was, surprisingly in view of what had gone before, dispatched by Little. Sarries continued to press, and had a couple of scrums close to the line, but it was left to Paul to seal the deal six minutes into added time.

Saracens: R Kydd; P Bailey, B Johnston, K Sorrell, A Winnan; N Little, M Williams; S Sparks (E Bergamaschi, 64), J Parkes (R Russell, 50), C Visagie (B Broster, 76), S Raiwalui (capt; B Skirving, 54), C Yandell, R Hill (Skirving, 17-25), K Chesney (R Peacey, 68), B Russell.

Gloucester : R van der Bergh; M Garvey, T Fanolua, H Paul, J Simpson-Daniel; D McRae, A Gomarsall; T Woodman (R Roncero, 40), C Fortey (D du Preez, 55), P Vickery, A Eustace (M Cornwell, 79), A Brown, J Boer (capt), J Paramore, A Hazell (P Buxton, 64).

Referee : D Pearson (Northumberland).

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