Gloucester Rugby: Redpath unpicks team he built
BRYAN Redpath's team were outmanoeuvred and out-thought at Kingsholm.
Bryan Redpath's old team of course; the one he never got to coach.
The back-row axis that Brush built came tumbling off its normally-fulsome foundations as Sale did a total number on Gloucester's game plan.
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Former joiner Redpath still has his influence all over Nigel Davies' Gloucester squad.
Davies was quite right to keep the majority component parts from last season to this, adding the odd extra feature.
But in the opening game of his second Gloucester season, his Kingsholm predecessor haunted the Cherry and Whites.
Any strength can be spun into a weakness with the right inside information.
Redpath knows all about Sione Kalamafoni and Ben Morgan's limitless running power – he recruited both to the Gloucester cause.
He was itching to unleash those marauders on a relatively unsuspecting English top-flight, until he became unsettled, Sale agitated for his services and he was eventually unseated in mid-2012.
On Saturday all he cared about was suffocating the bullocking back-row duo – and an endless sequence of choke-tackling defenders did the job.
Gloucester had no answer to Sale doubling up on their wrecking-ball loose-forwards.
Sale's other match-winning tactic was to set natural scavengers Dan Braid and David Seymour into perpetual ball-hunting motion.
The Sharks stopped the bereft home side at source.
Puzzled faces and furrowed brows in cherry and white pondered plan B, but never quite concocted it.
Matt Kvesic was recruited in the summer as the new continuity man in attack, and turnover king in defence.
But the former Worcester Warrior and new England cap cannot act alone.
Gloucester's tight five were too sluggish to the rucks, and that's where the damage was done.
There will be many times this season when the Kalamafoni-Kvesic-Morgan back-row will be irresistible.
But captain Tom Savage and whichever lock partner will have to shoulder extra continuity duties.
Few sides will boast two class opensides like Braid and Seymour; the blond pair were like immovable twins latching first onto the ball at every ruck.
Maybe this was the kind of contest where Akapusi Qera would have been better employed from the off, at the expense of one of Morgan or Kalamafoni.
The joys of hindsight, let's not berate rugby director Davies for his back-row selection: it ought to have worked.
Had Gloucester romped home here, Davies would have been a genius and his back-row the most bloodthirsty ball-carriers in the league.
Instead they must quickly devise a get-out strategy: now, other teams will follow Sale's lead.
Davies is a shrewd coach and a canny tactician though, and he will surely be able to navigate his side around this early speed bump.
Gloucester are supposed to be the side carving strike opportunities from starter plays.
But it was Sale who exploited field position from an early scrum, easily unpicking Gloucester's backline lock.
A simple runaround shredded the home midfield, and Mark Cueto dummied over the line thanks to a three-on-one overlap.
Gloucester's attacks were all fits and starts, no continuity, no rhythm.
Freddie Burns posted a penalty, before two shots at goal stood up in a swirling wind.
Tom Arscott then took advantage of that breeze to land a 60-metre goal.
After all the fuss about the new scrum interpretations, little has changed at the coal face.
Something new, and unwelcome for Gloucester, though, was the sight of Nick Wood in a set-piece pickle.
The usually-assured loosehead was in bother against Henry Thomas, and the third penalty he conceded under that duress led to a yellow card.
Incensed, he stalked the touchline, but referee Andrew Small's call seemed fair.
Arscott banged over another penalty to put nonplussed Gloucester 14-3 down at the break.
Gloucester refused further concession while Wood was in the bin, MacLeod missing a penalty into the wind.
Back to full complement, that gnarled old curmudgeon Mr Controversy slapped Gloucester across the face with a wet-fish try.
Cueto's grubber sent Andy Forsyth over the whitewash.
Sale's outside centre was offside, in front of Cueto before he even received the ball.
Mr Small asked the Television Match Official to adjudicate.
And not even with the benefit of multiple replay angles could the TV man see the blindingly obvious.
Let's be clear: this try did not alter the course of the match.
But why waste time delaying the game just so Mr Magoo can walk into the women's changing rooms again? Rant over.
Billy Twelvetrees exorcised personal demons with a tip-tackle and was duly sin-binned. And then Gloucester rallied.
Fed up with waiting for ball, Henry Trinder cut a great, deep, pacy line off replacement scrum-half Tavis Knoyle, and raced home for a fine individual try. Burns' conversion and two penalties took Gloucester within three.
But Joe Ford's drop-goal pushed Gloucester back out of arm's reach.
Imperious Rob Cook's half-field break handed Gloucester one last chance.
Sale happily conceded penalties, knowing Gloucester needed a try.
Ross Harrison was sin-binned and Gloucester took a last-gasp five-metre scrum – only to be blasted off the ball for the final whistle, compounding their set-piece ignominy.
Davies has calculated how many points Gloucester need from each match to qualify for the play-offs.
One game into the season, the Cherry and Whites are already three short.
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.
Tries: Trinder (60); Cons: Burns (60). Pens: Burns 3 (18, 63, 66)
Yellow cards: N Wood (37), B Twelvetrees (55)
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.
Tries: Cueto (12), Forsyth (52). Pens: MacLeod (8), T Arscott 2 (35, 38). Drop-goals: J Ford (68).
Yellow Card: R Harrison (79).
REFEREE: Andrew Small