Peter Butler column: On Andy Hazell and gouging
ANDY Hazell's red card was the main talking point from what was a gutsy away win from Gloucester at Mont de Marsan in France last week.
Since the incident, Hazell has come out and said how he regrets throwing a flurry of punches and then a knee at one of the opposition players.
He no doubt does regret it, but he was also probably trying to send a message to the Amlin Cup disciplinary panel who will decide his punishment.
It's very easy to say Hazell shouldn't have reacted in the way that he did.
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But put yourself in his boots, with an opponent allegedly sticking his fingers in your eyes more than once during the course of a game.
That Hazell managed to keep his cool until the second half of the game was remarkable, although the red mist clearly descended and the incident that led to his sending off was an ugly one.
The other side of the argument is that Hazell is a professional player and should know better, but in the heat of the battle and up against extreme provocation it is difficult to predict how anyone will react.
Whether provocation can be used in Hazell's defence in his disciplinary hearing is difficult to say.
I'm sure the citing commissioner who was at the game will be scouring the tapes looking for evidence of gouging from the French outfit.
But if any evidence is found, it is likely to count only in a case against the player responsible rather than in Hazell's favour.
Take the Hazell incident out of it, and what you are left with is a fine away win for the Cherry and Whites.
Some important players were rested for the trip to France, so to come away with a victory, particularly after going down to 14 men, is some achievement.
The Dave Lewis break which set up the try for Ian Clark was very encouraging.
It's not the first time the scrum-half has broken the line and set up a score this season – he seems to be playing with a renewed confidence which only bodes well for the Cherry and Whites.
LET'S HOPE FOR A DECENT RUN IN AMLIN
IF Gloucester can back up the Mont de Marsan victory with a win over Bordeaux at Kingsholm this Thursday, they will be excellently placed for a decent run in the Amlin Cup this season.
Playing on Thursday nights always hammers it home that the Amlin Cup is a second tier competition – but that is only during the group stages.
Much like the Anglo-Welsh Cup, once the group stages have been safely negotiated, it becomes far less of a burden and much more an opportunity for silverware.
Nigel Davies showed with his selection last week that his priority is the Premiership this season, but if the squad men can drag Gloucester into the European knockout stages that will soon change.
Victory over Bordeaux would also continue a growing unbeaten run ready for the visit of Leicester to Kingsholm the following week.
But it doesn’t pay to be complacent, so it’s crucial this first hurdle is negotiated before thoughts turn to the Tigers.
CLARK WILL SOON BE CHALLENGING FOR A REGULAR SPOT
I WAXED lyrical about Gloucester’s resources in the back three positions in this column last week, but I failed to mention Ian Clark.
Then out went the Hartpury youngster and scored the try which separated the two teams against Mont de Marsan.
It’s always very exciting to see these young talents develop. They always seem to come out of nowhere into the first team, but saying that is disrespectful to all those who have worked on bringing them through.
Clark showed last season he has an eye for the try line and that is a skill you can’t teach.
The ability to pop up at the right time – like Chris Ashton does for club and country – is a rarity and if Clark continues to regularly cross the whitewash it won’t be long before he is a serious challenger in an already competitive area for the Cherry and Whites.