Gloucester Rugby player ratings v London Irish

Back at Kingsholm and back on a winning streak as Gloucester beat London Irish 36 to 23

In a game that changed hands multiple times, Gloucester’s star attacking players showed their worth towards the final quarter of the match as the Cherry and Whites opened up. Tries from Lloyd Evans, Ollie Thorley, Louis Rees-Zammit, Jack Stanley and Stephen Varney. The younger players made a name for themselves as Gloucester start to find their form again.

Here’s how I rated George Skivington’s men in their bonus point win:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

15. Jason Woodward 6

Very good under the high ball and beautiful offload to Thorley for second try. Limped off with an injury at the start of the second half.


14. Ollie Thorley 8

Touched the ball a few times in the first half, and had his time to shine just after 30 minutes scoring the team’s second of the afternoon. Was lucky not to be penalised more after a deliberate knock-on. 


13. Chris Harris 7

Good defensive effort throughout and had some nice little carries across the first half. Was strong throughout the game and a valuable link in attack.


12. Mark Atkinson 8

Didn’t have much ball in the first half, but made a good break and took advantage of the ball when he had it creating space for the second high.


11. Jonny May 8

Knock on early in the game, didn’t have as much ball as he could have in the first half, but had a good game in defence. Opened up the attack during the second half with some lovely phases of play and controlled the game well with his experience.


10. Lloyd Evans 8 

Scored Gloucester’s first try and converted. Some clever kicking trying to open up the game. Had some big boots to fill in the absence of Cipriani but did well to match Paddy Jackson in play. Limped off with an injury midway through the second half.


9. Stephen Varney 9Stand out player

Coped well at the breakdown and offered Gloucester with some quick thinking at times. Irish put pressure on him a lot but he cleared his lines well. Ran in a nice try for the Cherry and White’s fifth of the afternoon. Constantly tried to keep Gloucester moving with some quick ball.


1. Val Rapava-Ruskin 7

Challenged the ball well at the half hour mark and got Gloucester a turnover perfect for an attacking opportunity. Was solid in defence and set-piece.


2. Franco Marais 6

Gave away a penalty at the breakdown which caused quick defensive effort from the rest of the team. Threw well at the line-out and had a good success rate and protected the ball at the breakdown.


3. Fraser Balmain 7

Had a very good defensive game, 10 tackles in the first half and was in and around the breakdown constantly throughout. Brought some good experience.


4. Ed Slater 6

Good performances at set-piece but quiet throughout the first half. Went off early in the second half with a nasty head injury. 

5. Matt Garvey 8

Always in and around the breakdown holding the defence for Gloucester. Did some good unseen work throughout and made some big hits. Earned a great attacking opportunity for the cherry and whites.


6.Jack Clement 8

Some powerful carries for the young back-row and put in a good defensive shift with some big tackles and protected the ball well at the breakdown throughout the game.


7. Lewis Ludlow © 7

Gave away penalty at lineout early in the first half. Defensively was good, but not his best performance in a Cherry and White shirt.


8. Jake Polledri 8

Conceded two early penalties, but made lovely intercept and carry for Gloucester’s first try. Was constantly hunting for the ball at the breakdown and trying to turn the ball over for Gloucester.


Replacements: 

16. Jack Singleton 6

Confident in set piece and was good in attacking support for the Cherry and Whites and protecting the ball. 


17. Corne Fourie 6

Gave away a penalty for offside late into the game. Made a couple of good hits. 


18. Jack Stanley 7

Within minutes of him being on the field he scored Gloucester’s bonus point try with a lovely carry to the line.


19. Ruan Ackermann 6

Played as lock in the scrum, which unsettled Gloucester’s scrum. Offered some good experience into the side and kept the defence in check.  


20. Jordy Reid 7

Starting to find his feet in a Cherry and White shirt with some big tackles and high energy defensive work. Had a beautiful break for the Cherry and White’s fifth try. Starting to fit the Gloucester mould very well.


21. Joe Simpson 6

Played on the wing as Varney kept the control at scrum half. Had a couple of touches with the ball but mainly spent time in sport for attack.


22. Billy Twelvetrees 9

Made some good tackles and held well in defence. Offered some experience to the side and guided them well in the absence of Cipriani 


23. Louis Rees-Zammit 8 

 Had a few carries and showed his pace to full advantage when scoring Gloucester’s try and outran Hassell-Collins. Showed how vital he is in attack for Gloucester. Played well at full-back, which could appear to be his preferred position.

Ring-fencing, why give the IPA Championship no fight?

Ring-fencing for many seasons has been a much-debated topic within the Gallagher Premiership. Some argue that a tighter more invested league will benefit English rugby. Whilst some, like myself, believe that ring-fencing will only deteriorate the game and take away the competitiveness that is found within the sport. 

Before it was found that domestic and European champions, Saracens broke the salary cap for four consecutive seasons, there were cries that ring-fencing the Premiership would prevent clubs from over reaching beyond their means. 

However, now that the reigning champions have been automatically relegated at the end of this domestic season, the calls for ring-fencing have gone quiet. 

Embed from Getty Images

Following Premiership Rugby selling a minority stake to equity firm CVC Capital Partners in late 2018, there were suggestions that the £200m jackpot would be spread across shareholders in 13 teams to create a new era for the elite English clubs. 

However, with the RFU announcing in February that they will be slashing the second-tier funding following the targets that were given to the league not being met.

This means clubs will see funding income fall from £534,000 to £288,00 per club, mimicking the funding figures from the 2015 season.

Many players start their rugby career in the Championship and blossom into the international or Premiership player that they are through the core values and skills they learn in the second devision.

The hashtag, #iplayedchampionshiprugby was started in response to the funding cuts to show the importance of the second-tier division. The success of the hashtag has been seen across social media, with many players calling for the RFU to change their decision.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Some players return to the Championship to re-find the game and fall back in love with the reason they started playing rugby. This is something that Bristol Bears and former Wasps Hooker, Tom Lindsay spoke to me about.

“In the Championship I think player culture is the drive, that’s why you’re seeing so many players coming out of the woodwork and going Championship the best thing I ever did.

“Personally for me Championship gave me a year of playing rugby week in week out and fell in love with rugby again.”

Tom Lindsay, Bristol Bears

Many Championship clubs dream of entering into the Premiership and closing the door on their aspirations could cause upset across the Championship. Clubs such as the Cornish Pirates are fully committed to making the Premiership a near future goal. The Pirates are hoping to have a new ground by 2020 to ensure that when they do make their Premiership dream a reality they can meet the requirements with a 10,000-seater stadium. 

Embed from Getty Images

Many former players and coaches have been vocal on where they stand in the ring-fencing debate. Former British and Irish Lion, Matt Dawson spoke on his BBC Radio 5 Live podcast about being in favour of the ring-fencing. He said: 

“For the welfare of players, it would extend their careers. I think they will play fewer games. Overall, we will have a better national side.

“At the moment, players are not played because of the risk of relegation” 

Matt Dawson, Former British and Irish Lion

Whilst current players, such as Saracens back-row Will Fraser spoke to BBC sport about his rejection for ring-fencing. He said: 

“If we want to keep generating young English players, we need to have the Championship as a league as a method and progression pathway for young players to use to come through to the Premiership.” 

Will Fraser, Saracens

I think that the stance on ring-fencing is very clear. If ring-fencing is in place then future Championship clubs will never be able to thrive in top flight English rugby, nor will they have the success of clubs such as Exeter and Bristol and bring excitement to their fans with their players, coaches and ability to put on an experience day, rather than just a rugby game. 

Why give the Championship no fight? They are the clubs bringing up the next generation that want a shot at the big stage. Who are we to stop clubs reaching their full potential?

Gloucester suffer fifth successive defeat to Wasps

Gloucester fell to their fifth consecutive defeat in the Gallagher Premiership losing to Wasps this afternoon, 39-22.

Wasps showed constant threat in attack throughout the match and have left Gloucester with lots to improve on.

A half time score of 29-10 and a bonus point try from Wasps in the first half put Gloucester in a difficult position to recover, especially with Tom Marshall being sent to the sin bin late in the first half. 

To read more of this article please click here to take you to Gloucestershire Live where the match report is published.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Johan Ackermann talks about Gloucester’s ill-discipline following Exeter loss

The Cherry and Whites lost 26-15 to Exeter Chiefs on Friday night and the score could have been much worse if it wasn’t for two late tries from replacement Jake Polledri and teenage sensation Louis Rees-Zammit.

Gloucester Head Coach, Johan Ackermann has re-iterated his frustration with his sides ill-discipline that has arguably cost them on multiple occasions this season.

To the boys, we cannot iterate that enough, we show them that we lost in the discipline stats, we told them that it is unnecessary so don’t go into the breakdowns, we have been hammering it over and over and it is now the individuals and as a team they have to start making better decisions at that breakdown.

Embed from Getty Images

Gloucester have currently conceded 108 penalties in the Gallagher Premiership and worryingly for them, top the unnerving statistic. Many of those penalties have costed the Cherry and Whites on the scoreboard, but Ackermann insists that it is individual errors rather than a team effort.

I think it is individual decisions. Penalties that we gave away, individuals felt that they were correct and the referee was wrong and obviously, it wasn’t that way so it is just individuals that must make better decisions at breakdown.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Interestingly, Exeter conceded more penalties on Friday night (9) than Gloucester (8), but the visitors took any points that were on offer when the opportunity came their way. Late in the second half, Gloucester conceded three consecutive penalties within seven minutes all from relatively the same area of the pitch and Exeter benefited on the scoreboard.

The thing is, because we are aware of the penalties and make a point of that. It is the individual that goes out of that system if he does get penalised. If you have a referee that is so pedantic on calls then just stay out of the breakdown so that he cannot make that call. 

Gloucester have London Irish to prepare for this week as they travel to the Madejski Stadium on Saturday and will look to work on their discipline as Irish currently sit eighth in the Gallagher Premiership table and come into the game off the back of a convincing away win against Harlequins.

Talking points from Gloucester’s defeat to Bristol Bears

Gloucester suffered a 34-16 defeat to Bristol Bears on Saturday afternoon after multiple penalties cost them a game in which Bristol ran away with the victory. Gloucester now have a two week rest before facing current top of the league Exeter on the evening of Valentines day. So what do Gloucester need to do to get their cupid’s arrow back?

Good resetting defence, but little cover out wide

Although their penalty count was high, Gloucester’s defence reset itself well when Bristol were attacking. The Cherry and Whites quick resetting defence saved them on multiple occasions when Bristol were looking really strong in attack, especially in the second half. Bristol used Nathan Hughes on the wing as a strong ball carrier for the majority of the game, something that Gloucester found hard to cover. Louis Rees-Zammit and Tom Marshall tried to cover their respective wings but there was a lot of space out wide for Bristol to exploit. Gloucester needed to put in a tremendous shift defensively, given that Bristol had over 60% possession and territory. They did well in the first half, ensuring that they prevented Bristol from getting over the try line, but the Cherry and Whites started to tire in the second 40, which was reflected in the way that they defended in the red zone. 

Ill-discipline still costing Gloucester 

This has been a problem for Gloucester all season with many games being lost on the penalty count. In the first half, Gloucester conceded seven penalties, compared to Bristol’s three. Simple penalties were given away throughout the match for discipline offences that should have been mandatory for Gloucester. Arguably, some of referee Karl Dickson’s decisions didn’t favour Gloucester and they were unlucky on a few occasions. Both penalty counts were high, with Bristol conceding eight penalties to Gloucester’s ten. The penalty count has constantly been an area this season that Gloucester have struggled with and have failed to have a consistent period of games with a particularly low penalty count against them. Today, was harder than previous fixtures for Gloucester given the lack of ball they possessed, but their ill-discipline is something that they must work on during the break of fixtures. 

Captain Lewis Ludlow share his thoughts on Bristol

The Cherry and Whites are starting to suffer without Cipriani 

The loss of Danny Cipriani is becoming ever more apparent in the way that Gloucester are playing. When they had the ball, their direction was limited and creative thinking was lacking. Cipriani, who is still out injured for at least another month could always offer Gloucester a creative flare to inject some pace into their attacking play. Although Gloucester’s possession was minimal and their in-play kicking was kept to a minimum. With Owen Williams set to be away on international duty with Wales for the Six Nations period, Gloucester turn to young fly-half Lloyd Evans. The 25-year-old has only made 25 first team performances since the 2013/14 season and still has a lot to learn if he is to take the place of Cipriani when he is injured and Owen Williams when he is on international duty. Last season Gloucester really struggled when Cipriani had an injury last season and they need to be careful not to fall back into the poor run of games they had without him last season. That said, given the little ball Gloucester managed to retain today, even Cipriani wouldn’t have helped them. 

Gloucester need to go back to basics will keep possession  

Gloucester must start to retain their possession if they are to start consistently winning matches and being a true competitor in the Premiership. Their possession today was 38% however, the time in which they had the ball was minimal. They have started to lack consistent forward play, where the forwards are making small meters and protecting the ball at all costs. Today, when Gloucester did have the ball, they found it hard to retain that possession due to many attacking penalties going against them. Looking at some of Gloucester’s best performances, they have all come from the pack working together and protecting the ball to open up some spaces for the backs to exploit the opposition’s crumbling defence. 

Gloucester Rugby player ratings v Bristol Bears

Gloucester fell against Bristol Bears this afternoon at Ashton Gate as they lost 34-16. It was a game that was littered with discipline issues and inconsistencies throughout.

Find out how I rated the Gloucester players in their defeat for Gloucestershire Live.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Gloucester Rugby v Worcester Warriors match report

Gloucester left it late, but finally break their losing streak on the clubs 500th Premiership game as they go into Christmas with a 36-6 win.

Five tries within 20 minutes saw Gloucester turn around a miserable first half performance and run away with the win after finally finding their feet. They could have had seven tries, but two disallowed in the first half saw them settle with five. 

Winger, Louis Rees-Zammit showed how crucial he is proving to the Cherry and Whites after being involved in three of the tries and picking up the man of the match award. 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The five second half tries were the difference between the two sides, as Gloucester will be thankful of their late victory as they finally have another win on the table and move up to third place.

Worcester opened the scoring through Duncan Weir with a penalty in front of the posts, as the visitors controlled the game early on in the match. 

England scrum half Willi Heniz made his first appearance since the World Cup but was welcomed back to Kingsholm with a disallowed try. He chased Louis Rees-Zammit’s kick ahead, but was caught offside. 

The home side had another opportunity to push over the line but were disallowed their second try of the evening as No.8 Ben Morgan dropped the ball. 

Both fly-halves traded missed penalty kicks in the play that followed, as both sides found themselves giving penalties away.  

Gloucester had three attacking penalty opportunities late in the first half, but failed to capitalise on any. Worcester were the ones who came away points through a penalty of their own after Franco Mostert knocked the ball on at try time. 

Worcester’s defence held strong to deny Gloucester of any points, until the final second of the first half, when Danny Cipriani levelled the scores with a penalty kick. 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Worcester’s Ryan Mills found himself on the referees naughty list in the second half, after he was yellow carded for being off his feet at the breakdown. 

Gloucester finally found the try-line without any assistance from the officials as Ruan Ackermann scored under the posts to put a Christmas cracker in the game, with Cipriani adding the extras. 

Soon after, Rees-Zammit showed his excellence, as a beautiful pass found the hands of Chris Harris who scored the second try of the evening as things started to get a bit livelier.

The youngster proved his talent moments later as the momentum started to shift as he went over in the corner to score the Cherry and Whites third of the evening.

Ben Morgan scored the all-important bonus point try after phases of attacking pressure by the Cherry and Whites broke the Worcester defence to light up the Kingsholm crowd. 

Winger, Rees-Zammit scored his brace on the stroke of full time, running in the final try out wide as he completed the Christmas try festivities and with the successful conversion from Cipriani, Gloucester have themselves an early Christmas present. 

Gloucester bow out of the Premiership Rugby Cup but the Gallagher Premiership is looming

Embed from Getty Images

Gloucester have had four consecutive losses in the Premiership Rugby Cup against London Irish, Bristol Bears, Harlequins and finally Bath in a local derby at Kingsholm last Friday night; leaving them out of the competition that they used as pre-season games. 

The AJ Bell stadium awaits them this Saturday as they face Sale Sharks in the first round of the Gallagher Premiership. 

Head coach Johan Ackermann has reiterated throughout the competition that he was using the Premiership Rugby Cup as a set of pre-season games and somewhere he can start to integrate the academy into the senior squad. 

Embed from Getty Images

Throughout his time at Gloucester, Ackermann has been known to select players on form over age, something that urges those younger players to push for a starting place in the senior squad. 

“For me, age is irrelevant. If a guy is 34 and is the best, then I will pick him but if he’s 18,19 and the best and doing the job then I will pick him.

These academy players really have a shot at it if they play well and put the pressure on the players.”

Friday night’s game against Bath was the most unusual of games that Gloucester have played. The Cherry and Whites lead 24-12 at half time, after both an attacking and defending masterclass before losing 24-26.

There was a shift in momentum and dominance in the second half and Bath’s set piece controlled large periods of game. 

It is clear that the coaching team aren’t concerned about the current form of the club and are confident ahead of the new domestic season this weekend, however some fans are raising concerns about how the cup competition has played out. 

Academy forwards coach, Trevor Woodman was confident in his head coach’s ability follow their Friday night loss.

“Johan has proven that last year with his selection, he likes to give players opportunity, especially young players the opportunity to play and at the same time if he has the opportunity to rest players a week before the game then he will, last year it worked very well.”  

Embed from Getty Images

Gloucester travel to Sale this weekend for their first fixture in the new season. Sale, like Gloucester have a handful of players away on international duty in Japan with both sides unable to field their ‘usual’ starting team. 

Sale however, are coming off the back of four consecutive wins from the Premiership Rugby Cup as they progress to the knock out stages, something that Gloucester will be fully aware of. 

Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester

I have been lucky enough this season to be writing alongside Last Word on Rugby. The articles that I have published for them will have the links avaliable to read.

Read my first article here:

Premiership Grounds focus: Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester

Embed from Getty Images

League titles seem ever more difficult for struggling Harlequins

This season Harlequins have won just seven of twenty-two matches and even lost to relegated side London Irish at home, 35-5. The celebrations of the 2012 Premiership title now seem a distant memory.

Last month it was announced that Director of Rugby John Kingston, will be leaving the club under mutual consent at the end of the season following his seventeen-year spell with the London based side.

Embed from Getty Images

The announcement came just eighty-one days after he signed a new contract extension alongside his head coach Mark Mapletoft and forwards coach Graham Rowntree.

Kingston took over the DOR position following Connor O’Shea’s departure to the Italian National team but prior to this, Kingston had won both the Premiership and the Challenge Cup as head coach.

Harlequins are known to be loyal to their players past and present and this is shown with former Quins player Nick Easter, who left his playing career for a coaching position at the club.

However, prop Joe Marler spoke to the BBC in February voicing his concerns over coaching at the club and alluded to there being no ‘fresh perspective within the coaching set-up and (that) things are quite familiar’

With the players looking to get a new voice from the coaching team, Wanye Smith former New Zealand coach might be looking to re-negotiate a contract with the club. Smith turned down Harlequins two years ago to keep his position with the All Blacks but could make a return to England.

Harlequins do have a very good squad with a minimum of eight international players and should be getting better results than they currently are. Although they have three / four starting England internationals they shouldn’t need to suffer hugely during the Six Nations period and should be able to do better than some of the top sides during that time. Nevertheless, Quins aren’t producing the results that they should be.

Looking ahead to next season, Harlequins need to manage their talent better than they currently have been and utilise on their strengths. With an international forwards coach and the talent, their pack has their scrum has no reason why it can’t be one of the best in the premiership. As for their backs, Mike Brown is sensational under the high ball and Marcus Smith is a star of the future and both alongside Joe Marchent who has been outstanding this season.

The best thing for them over the summer is to re-evaluate, get some fresh ideas into the way they play and start playing more to their advantages.