Sunday, 30 December 2012

Allen Key To Victory

Geordan Murphy was a jack of all trades filling in at both half back positions and kicking a goal as Tigers won a tight contest 17-12.  Anthony Allen crossed in the corner of the Crumbie and the Goldsmiths Stands for the games only try as George Ford provided the other 9 points with his boot; all Gloucester’s points were by Freddie Burns.

Tigers best period was actually when they were down to 14 men.  Ford had got the teams’ second yellow for a pretty cynical killing of the ball ten metres out from his own line and Burns took the points to make it 9-3 with 43 minutes played.  Ben Youngs was literally just returning from his own sin bin period and made an immediate impact as Tigers intensity and pace lifted for the only time during the game. 

After a spilled ball by Billy Twelvetrees Anthony Allen secured possession and was driven within inches of the line.  Tigers drove at the try line with purpose but were pushed back until eventually a wide cut out pass from Ben Youngs freed Salvi in front of the Crumbie terrace with Niall Morris on the outside, but the Australian either didn’t trust the pass or didn’t see it and the chance was missed.  Thankfully a couple of phases later another peach of a cut out pass by Youngs this time found Allen who evaded Shane Monaghan’s poor tackle to get the 5 points.  Geordan Murphy missed the conversion from the touchline.

After yet another scrum penalty Tigers kicked for the lineout and had a good drive going.  Will James decided enough was enough and walked round the side to tackle Salvi, the ball carrier, unluckily for him Andrew Small also decided enough was enough and sent him to the sin bin for his troubles.  This time 15 metres infield Murphy made no mistake and Tigers were back in the lead with 53 minutes played.

Burns had the chance to re-establish Gloucester’s lead after an in at the side penalty against Tom Youngs following up his brother’s inventive escape from Gloucester pressure but skewed it wide.  Around 5 minutes later the 9th scrum penalty against Gloucester gave Ford his second penalty as he stretched the lead to 5 points, only for Burns to reduce the arrears back to 2 after Jordan Crane was adjudged to have entered from the side. 

The scoring was rounded off after Kalamafone, the former Nottingham flanker, was pinged for offside.  Murphy had hoisted a Garryowen that Martyn Thomas failed to deal with; rather cynically Kalamafone stepped in front of a Leicester player to prevent the counter attack and was lucky not to be the 5th player sin binned as the incident was fairly similar to one that saw George Ford take a ten minute rest.

The game had a grandstand finish it didn’t really deserve as Gloucester pushed for the drawing try.  After about 10 drives at the Leicester line they went wide and must have thought they had blown it with a knock on, but the clock still had 11 seconds to go and the Tigers had to secure their own scrum ball to win. 

Given the 10 penalties Tigers had already garnered on their own put in a simple task?  Hardly.  Dan Murphy played the ref brilliantly to gain a penalty for the Cherry ‘n’ Whites when really he was at fault.  This time it only took three phases for Tigers to burgle the ball back and that man again Geordan Murphy stepped into scrum half to boot the ball out of the ground, probably somewhere down Filbert Street, to end the game.

This was a bitty and fractious game; not helped by the weather but as Tigers scored 4 tries in similar conditions in this game last year clearly attacking rugby could have been played if either side had been good enough; not helped by the referee and his sometimes bizarre interpretations of the rucks and his leniency at scrum time. 

Gloucester conceded 10 scrum penalties, all on Tigers put in, but only received 1 yellow card, this despite the referee warning their props in the 31 minutes ( the 6th penalty and 2 after the first yellow) and them conceding another penalty straight away and then 3 more in the second half.  I cannot believe a referee would let a side refuse to engage in any other aspect of the game with such little punishment. 

In contrast Tigers first yellow card, for Ben Youngs not rolling away, was only the second defensive penalty Tigers had conceded in their own half and this was 34 minutes into the game.  Hardly killing the ball at every opportunity! 

But we can’t let the poor refereeing performances gloss over our wasteful attacking play.  Ford is highly thought of by many but he is in poor form and his attacking game comes up short when compared to Flood.  You can’t lay all the blame on one man’s shoulders but the contrast between our attacking play when Flood playing and when he isn’t is stark.  The Awesome Foursome of Youngs-Flood-Allen-Tuilagi are superbly balanced and bring the best out of each other, but take out any one of them and we look clueless and disjointed.

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