Quins go to the bottom of the Premiership after Gloucester defeat
25 February 2002 16:07pm
An 18-6 victory for Gloucester at the Stoop condemned NEC Harlequins to their eighth successive defeat in the Zurich Premiership, in what was a must win game for the home side. Tries from Diego Albanese and Olivier Azam were enough to give the Cherry and Whites the win, as Quins only points came from two penalties from Paul Burke in the first half. This defeat sent Quins to the bottom of the league table as Leeds recorded a victory over Saracens at Vicarage Road.
Playing with the wind in the first half, Quins made a promising start to the match and Burke had the opportunity to open the scoring after just two minutes of play. With Gloucester penalised for hand in the ruck, the Quins fly half opted for the kick at goal but pulled his attempt to the left of the target. Seven minutes later and it was Gloucester's turn to be awarded a penalty. After Dan Luger ran possession from out of his own twenty-two, Will Greenwood was tackled and guilty of not releasing the ball. Ludovic Mercier's penalty kick came back off the post and into the arms of Pat Sanderson, who cleared downfield.
With 13 minutes on the clock, Burke opened the scoring with his first penalty of the match after the visitors were adjudged offside in midfield. Gloucester's response was immediate and Mercier levelled the scores when Ace Tiatia was penalised for standing up in the scrum. But no sooner had Gloucester drawn level than Burke was putting Quins back in front; kicking his second penalty of the game, with Gloucester again caught offside. This made the score 6-3 after 18 minutes.
Six minutes later and Gloucester registered their first try of the afternoon. After winning possession from a lineout, flanker James Forrester made ground and the ball was then sent through the back division. Henry Paul took play up to the line before giving Albanese the scoring pass. Mercier failed to add the two extra points on offer but the visitors now led for the first time in the game by 8-6.
Gloucester continued to exert further pressure and both Luger and Ben Gollings were forced to touchdown behind their own line. The Cherry and Whites were then denied a second try as a powerful rolling maul was held-up over the line by some desperate defence from Quins. With three minutes to go before the interval, Gloucester prop Federico Pucciarello was sent to the sin-bin for foul play but Burke could not convert the resulting penalty, which meant Gloucester stayed in front by two-points at half-time.
Despite their extra man advantage, Quins failed to make any further impression on the scoreboard. Numerous handling errors meant the home side failed to make the most of the pressure and territory they created. Back to 15 players, Gloucester scored the crucial try of the game as the match was about to enter the final quarter.
Mercier intercepted a pass from Nick Duncombe and broke clear. He didn't have the pace to beat Gollings, though was able to off-load to Terry Fanolua. The winger was tackled by the covering Gollings but Azam was in support and had the simple task of touching down under the posts. Mercier added the conversion to give Gloucester a nine-point advantage, 15-6.
Duncombe then took play up to halfway seven minutes later, but the young scrum half was penalised for holding-on in the tackle. With the wind behind him, Mercier opted for the kick at goal and comfortable had the distance and direction to make the score 18-6. The fly half then had the chance to stretch Gloucester's lead even further with six minutes left to play, but his penalty attempt went wide of the target.
In the time that remained, Quins looked for a consolation try that would of at least giving them a bonus point from the game. Despite camping themselves on the Gloucester line, Quins were unable to breakthrough and the club have failed to score a try in their last two Premiership matches.
The final whistle followed and Phillipe Saint-Andre had a victory to celebrate from his final game in charge at Gloucester.
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.