Gloucester Rugby: United make it two from two with Sale victory
GLOUCESTER UNITED 20 SALE JETS 12
BRAD Field and Matt Cox ensured Gloucester United extended their perfect start to A League action with a gritty victory over Sale Jets at Kingsholm.
After last week’s 82-0 cakewalk past Worcester Cavaliers, Sale’s far stronger second string made the Cherry and Whites work to double their win tally.
Andrew Stanley and Rob Thirlby’s side showed their resolve this week then, rebuffing several strong second-half Sale raids to record a deserved and impressive win.
Sale scored tries either side of half-time through Mike Haley and Tom Cruse, but the home side always had the edge.
Former Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath watched his Sale second string from the stands, the Sharks’ rugby director making a first Kingsholm return since resigning towards the back-end of last season.
Triallist scrum-half Field capped another strong showing with a bullish try, while aggressive flanker Cox put in an up-tempo performance, in reaction to being left out of Saturday’s London Irish victory.
Rob Cook started at full-back, the day after playing the entirety of Cornish Pirates’ 19-17 victory over Plymouth Albion at the Mennaye Field.
The summer signing from the Pirates is back on loan with the Cornishmen, on effectively a dual registration while his former club face an injury crisis.
Jonny May and Martyn Thomas are front-runners for Gloucester’s 15 shirt at the moment, so Kingsholm boss Nigel Davies has allowed Cook to pick up match action in Cornwall.
Cook missed an opening penalty attempt after a strong driving maul, and Sale counterpart Cliff followed suit soon after.
Mike Healey’s knock-on with the line at his mercy gifted Gloucester a reprieve after strong work from Sale carrying around the fringes.
Gloucester were struggling to settle, and Rob Cook and Tim Taylor were forced to clear Gloucester out of trouble twice in as many minutes.
But then the Cherry and Whites found the extra gear: Gareth Evans blasted through the line on the blindside and popped up to the onrushing Field.
The impish scrum-half raced into the gap, shrugged off a couple of would-be tacklers, and dived home.
What field lacks in stature he more than makes up for in power, and he showed great strength to drive to the line.
Cook slotted the conversion with ease.
Gloucester were quickly back on the attack, and Cook was able to slot a straightforward penalty to extend the lead to 10-0.
The unstinting torrent quickly rendered this game a front-eight blood sport battle – and the Cherry and Whites’ pack were quite happy with that.
Sale threatened twice more, but Gloucester rebuffed both attacks.
Another driving maul later Cook had a scoring chance, but could not convert what would have been a regulation penalty in any other conditions.
Yann Thomas handled Taylor’s knocked-on high ball, but Cliff could not convert his penalty shot either.
Spirited defence of a set of close Sale drives came to nought next though, as Gloucester ran out of men, accounting for Haley’s score, that Cliff converted.
Cook had a penalty chance to restore the six-point advantage, but could not convert.
Cook’s Sunday exploits were clearly taking their toll on his accuracy off the tee, so come the second half Taylor assumed the goal-kicking responsibility.
And the former Nottingham man landed his first chance of the half, to extend the lead to 13-7.
Clark failed to field a high ball next, but Cook ensured Gloucester forced left-wing Harty into touch.
Replacement Billy Burns was soon into the action, first claiming a high ball well, then blasting a clever line kick in behind the Sale defence – and then racing on to charge down full-back Charlie Ingall.
The ricocheted ball found touch, but Sale’s reprieve did not last long.
Burns Junior’s smart play allowed Gloucester to sustain the pressure, and after a driving lineout and a series of tight drives flanker Cox drove over wide out on the left.
Taylor’s excellent touchline conversion stretched Gloucester’s lead to 13.
Gloucester defended with zeal and composure towards the death, but were just unable to hold Sale out.
Replacement Tom Cruse stole home down the left flank, after Gloucester failed to gather a clearance box kick cleanly.
That was the last meaningful action of the night, as the Cherry and Whites ground out a fully-merited win.
Gloucester want to win this A League, a pleasing change from recent years –but with Leicester Tigers up next in two weeks, the challenge keeps on growing.
GLOUCESTER UNITED: Rob Cook, Kai Done, George Boulton, Tim Molenaar, Ian Clark, Tim Taylor, Brad Field, Yann Thomas, Tommaso D’Apice, Dario Chistolini, Will Graulich, Elliott Stooke, Pete Buxton (capt), Matt Cox, Gareth Evans. Replacements (all used): Koree Britton, James Gibbons, Nick Selway, Ross Moriarty, Rob Langley, Grant Hancox, Billy Burns, Stef Hawley.
SALE JETS: Charlie Ingall, Tom Harty, Sam James, Mark Jennings, Mike Haley, Will Clif, Nathan Fowles, Ross Harrison, Aston Croall, Tony Buckley, Tom Holmes (capt), Fraser McKenzie, James Doyle, Will Bordill, Mike Finnemore. Replacements (all used): James Flynn, Harry Hanna, George Hymes, Ollie Parkinson, Greg Jacob, Tom Cruse, Matt Clark, Niall Crossley.
GLOUCESTER UNITED: Tries: Field (20), Cox (58). Cons: Cook (20), Taylor (58). Pens: Cook (24), Taylor (43).
SALE JETS: Tries: Haley (37), Cruse (80). Cons: Cliff (37).
REFEREE: Andrew Jackson.