Sims inspiring

Gloucester 37 West Hartlepool 10
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The Independent Online
IN A dog-eat-dog scrap, Gloucester extended their winning run to six Courage League matches and emphasised that they are a side making strides upwards. They overpowered a game but deficient West Hartlepool team to raise themselves away from the league's danger zone. West matched them for aggression and commitment but came nowhere near to offering enough skill and discipline.

In time-honoured fashion, Gloucester built the complete victory on a pack that was solid in the tight and fierce in the loose. The lock and captain, Dave Sims, rampaged forward repeatedly, usually abetted by Simon Devereux behind him.

As the forwards took control, the backs opened up with the outside-half Mark Mapletoft in charge. Left-wing Mike Lloyd scored a hat-trick of tries, the first when a tapped penalty was moved wide to him in space, the second a scintillating effort when he gathered a loose kick and dodged his way through most of the West Hartlepool side.

Lloyd got his third after the Gloucester prop Tony Windo had barged into the action with a powerful try of his own. Mapletoft scored a try himself as well as kicking three conversions, a penalty and a dropped goal.

Against this, West had no real answer. They were confined by Gloucester to bit parts for most of the untidy drama, giving every impression of being end-of-season strugglers. Their points came in a penalty from outside- half John Stabler in the first half and a try from Chris John, which Stabler converted, when the game was well and truly settled at the end.

The performance underlined a real renaissance in Gloucester. The director of rugby, Richard Hill, hasn't got money to spend but he has built a useful side largely from local materials. He said: "I don't agree with buying a load of superstars. I am just happy to build a squad who have a long- term future. At Gloucester we need to get better, but we will not go for instant success."

Quite. The next month, though, will be crucial for Hill's longer-term ambitions. His side have a string of down-table games which they have to win to stay up. On yesterday's evidence, they should. Gloucester are worthy of the first division, but remain a leap away from the leaders. Their hope is that success breeds success - and money.

Gloucester: C Catling; M Peters, D Caskie, M Roberts, M Lloyd; M Mapletoft, S Benton (C Mulraine, 70); T Windo, P Greening, A Deacon, R Fidler, D Sims (capt), E Pearce, N Carter, S Devereux.

West Hartlepool: M Silva; M Wood (C John, 51), L Botham, J Connolly, S John; J Stabler, P Harvey; W deJonge (J Painter, 22), S Whitehead (A Peacock, 61), P Whitelock, C Murphy, K Moseley (capt), J Irons, M Roderick, I Morgan.

Referee: T Rossall (Liverpool).