Gloucester 23 - London Irish 21
I suppose the most satisfying of all rugby union victories for my favoured outfit, the Gloucester club of Gloucester, are those when all seems lost and insipid defeat appears to be certain but, with a potent mix of grit, skill and sweat, the fellows in cherry turn matters around to sneak victory. Yesterday was a classic of that genre. At half time and beyond, the green-clad warriors of London Irish dominated proceedings, held sway at the set-piece and clinically impressed behind the scrum. Tactically and, seemingly, in terms of attitude and execution, the home side were second best for fifty minutes and this punter, still haunted by recent losses, expected a hiding. How wrong I was. The final half hour witnessed a wonderfully committed and abrasive effort from ‘the lads’; the ball was kept in hand more and a blend of the rugged and the resourceful resulted in a series of successful penalty kicks and, finally, a joyous touchdown to seal a remarkable triumph. We are fortunate that some key players are returning. Gareth Delve, the belligerent behemoth, blazed away bravely from the base o’ the scrum; the determined Welshman was this punter’s man of the match and ‘twas refreshing to witness a fellow, a long-term injury victim, seek contact and make hard yards for the cause all afternoon. He was magnificent. Greg Somerville, the wise old Kiwi head, added guile and poise to the forward eight while the sentimentalist in me could be excused a slight mistiness in the eye watching that loyal old warhorse Andrew Hazell back in the thick of things, creating havoc for the club he loves, and urging and inspiring aching limbs around him to success. The ‘sixteenth man’ shouted loudly all match and if I was hoarse and spent at no-side then I was not alone. The popular side was as thunderous and steadfast as it has been in ages and it must have helped the troops in no small way. It was a privilege to stand and support the team yesterday.