Boss Nigel Davies 'humiliated' by Gloucester Rugby's Kingsholm defeat to Sale Sharks
GLOUCESTER 16 SALE SHARKS 22
‘HUMILIATED’ Gloucester were outgunned at the breakdown, outmuscled at the set-piece – and denied any real ball-carrying avenues in sloppy defeat to Sale.
Gloucester boss Nigel Davies lamented his side’s slipshod showing in the Premiership opener at Kingsholm, hailing Sale’s ‘two number sevens’.
Dan Braid and David Seymour did a number on Gloucester at Salford City Stadium in April when Sale dispatched Gloucester 32-9.
And the twin flanking menaces repeated the feat here as the Kingsholm men failed to fire.
Sale simply shut Gloucester’s game plan down, stopping Sione Kalamafoni and Ben Morgan at source, and hassling Freddie Burns and Billy Twelvetrees too.
Mark Cueto claimed Sale’s first try before grubbering through for Andy Forsyth to claim the Sharks’ second.
The Television Match Official awarded the try amid much controversy, with Forsyth comfortable offside when Cueto played his kick through.
Henry Trinder claimed a fine individual score for Gloucester as the home side rallied in the second-half.
Davies’ men battled back from 19-3 down with 20 minutes to play to trail just 19-16 six minutes later.
But then Joe Ford coolly slotted a drop-goal, and despite Gloucester’s best efforts, Sale held out.
Frustrated rugby director Davies explained: “We’ve got to lick our wounds a little bit.
“And we are wounded – we’re humiliated.
“But that’s the nature of the sport.
“It’s the last thing we wanted at home, but we’ve got to deal with it head-on now.
“I would say the second one was offside from the kick, but sometimes those calls go for you and sometimes they don’t.
“I’m not picking up on that as an excuse from today.
“But we didn’t have enough control of the game really to merit a win.”
Sale took control straight from the off, suffocating Gloucester at every turn.
The more the home side wriggled, the more Braid, Seymour and their clever coaching strategy sucked the life out of the Cherry and Whites.
After all the grunt work from the Sharks though, it was from a set scrum move that they scored their first try.
Gloucester failed to cope with a straightforward runaround in midfield, Peel raced through a gap – and a tap-pass sent Cueto clear on the right.
Somehow Sale had worked a three-man overlap – and the helpless Charlie Sharples could do nothing about Cueto throwing a dummy and strolling across the line.
Burns landed one penalty, then two more stood up in the wind, leaving the off-kilter out-half frustrated.
The home side did not heed Sale’s warning shots though.
Tom Arscott then landed a howitzer penalty from his own half, benefitting from a big wind at his back.
And then Nick Wood was sin-binned for his third scrum penalty, slipping his bind and hitting the deck.
The usually-robust loosehead could have few complaints, though still looked furious as he paced the touchline.
Arscott landed a second long-range penalty, before MacLeod shanked one after the break.
But Gloucester only conceded three points in Wood’s absence and would have been hopeful of a turnaround.
But then came Forsyth’s score, and even with MacLeod shanking the conversion Gloucester still trailed by 16 points heading towards the final quarter.
Twelvetrees was then sin-binned for a tip-tackle – more clumsy than malicious.
Once again Sale failed to make their extra man count, and their containment plan almost fell short.
Gloucester threatened on the edge of the Sale 22 without penetrating for several frustrating phases – before Trinder took matters into his own hands.
The in-form centre was clearly fed up with waiting for service – so went short and got the job done himself.
Cutting a neat line off the nine at a ruck, he raced clear and across the whitewash.
Burns converted to leave Gloucester trailing by nine.
Desperate to plug the gaps, Sale’s midfield transgressions were frequent and blatant.
But referee Andrew Small never even considered reaching for a card.
Burns slotted two penalties to bring Gloucester within three points – only for replacement Joe Ford to land a drop-goal that ultimately ended the argument.
Ford missed a penalty and another speculative drop-goal as time ticked down.
Gloucester then launched a field-length counter, the impressive Rob Cook racing half the length himself.
But the home side just could not find a finish.
Ross Harrison was sin-binned from a last-minute scrum, with Gloucester opting for another set-piece.
Sale brought Lewis Roberts back on, sacrificing Arscott from the backline.
And the gamble worked – their pack bulldozed Gloucester off the ball with a well-timed delayed shove, sounding the final whistle.
One week in, and already it's back to the drawing board for Davies and Co.
GLOUCESTER: Tries: Trinder (60). Cons: Burns (60). Pens: Burns 3 (18, 63, 66).
SALE SHARKS: Tries: Cueto (12), Forsyth (52). Pens: MacLeod (8), T Arscott 2 (35, 38). Drop-goals: J Ford (68).
GLOUCESTER: R Cook, C Sharples, H Trinder, B Twelvetrees, J Simpson-Daniel, F Burns, D Robson (T Knoyle, 57), N Wood (D Murphy, 57), D Dawidiuk (D George, 51), R Harden (Y Thomas, 57), T Savage (capt), L Lokotui (E Stooke, 62), S Kalamafoni, M Kvesic, B Morgan (D Murphy, 38-48, A Qera, 51)). Unused: M Tindall, M Thomas.
SALE SHARKS: T Arscott (E Lewis Roberts, 79), P McKenzie, A Forsyth, J Leota, M Cueto, N MacLeod (J Ford, 63), D Peel, E Lewis Roberts (R Harrison, 48), M Jones (T Taylor, 59), H Thomas, J Mills, M Paterson, D Braid (capt), D Seymour, J Gaskell. Unused: V Cobilas, K Kulemin, J Beaumont, W Cliff, R Miller.
GLOUCESTER: N Wood (37), B Twelvetrees (55).
SALE SHARKS: R Harrison (79).
REFEREE: Andrew Small.
New lineout leader James Hudson is Gloucester's only injury absentee for the season opener.
Rugby director Nigel Davies is able to field an all-but full-strength side then, with new skipper Tom Savage paired alongside Lua Lokotui at second-row.
Scavenging flanker Matt Kvesic going head-to-head with Dan Braid and David Seymour will be one the tussles of the match.
Gloucester will look to assert control through Sione Kalamafoni and Ben Morgan's power game.
If the Cherry and Whites backs get on the front foot, it could be an opening day to remember.
GLOUCESTER: R Cook, C Sharples, H Trinder, B Twelvetrees, J Simpson-Daniel, F Burns, D Robson, N Wood, D Dawidiuk, R Harden, T Savage (capt), L Lokotui, S Kalamafoni, M Kvesic, B Morgan. Replacements: D George, D Murphy, Y Thomas, E Stooke, A Qera, T Knoyle, M Tindall, M Thomas.
SALE SHARKS: T Arscott, P McKenzie, A Forsyth, J Leota, M Cueto, N Macleod, D Peel, E Lewis Roberts, M Jones, H Thomas, J Mills, M Paterson, D Braid (capt), D Seymour, J Gaskell. Replacements: T Taylor, R Harrison, V Cobilas, K Kulemin, J Beaumont, W Cliff, J Ford, R Miller.