Sunday, January 01, 2006

Positives amid the gloom

Gloucester 31 – Leeds 7

I would have accepted this result before kick-off. Four Gloucester tries propelled the city club to a temporary third spot in the Premiership and that bonus point could prove crucial come season’s end and the shake-up for European slots. There exists an element of doom and gloom on the message boards this morning but the team is improving and, importantly, it appears evident where the team could benefit from some changes. We need a heavyweight to partner the excellent Alex Brown and a couple of speedsters on the wing who can benefit from the space created by our international centres and beat their oppos on a one-on-one. Perhaps young Marcel Garvey is one of these fellows.

I wasn’t too despondent with yesterday’s performance. Although the team could not sustain the passion, the first half an hour was refreshing to behold with plenty of ball being spun out and three tries (including a deserved penalty try) to celebrate. I felt Mercier enjoyed his finest match at home thus far this season with some superb kicking complemented nicely by some elusive running and alert distribution. He took his try well and cleverly kept the over-the-hill Fanolua out of proceedings as much as possible when Gloucester were pressing for the bonus score in the last ten minutes. Why the affable and loyal – yet limited - Samoan is preferred over the more than promising Anthony Allen in the matchday 22 remains a mystery. There are other positives. Michael Tindall’s contributions are becoming more and more important and his partnership with the young prince Simpson-Daniel is developing shrewdly. I do like Ollie Morgan and not only because he was the epitome of politeness and assured good manners when he chatted to me at the last Open Day but one. His performance yesterday was unfussy and lacked frills but he did everything calmly and maturely. He cares too. His despair and self-flagellation after spurning a late chance to attack with a chip and chase displays a real passion and desire both to win in the cherry colours and to improve his own game. I admire that.