Gloucester ease past ill-tempered Calvisano
December 6, 2008
Ryan Lamb gave Gloucester the lead in Italy
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Gloucester took just 43 minutes to get the bonus point they needed to stay in touch with leaders Cardiff in Heineken Cup Pool Six.
Having seen the Blues pip Biarritz 21-17 last night, Gloucester had to score four tries to ensure the gap between them and the leaders remained no more than one bonus-point victory. Ryan Lamb, Luke Narraway and Marco Bortolami all crossed before the break for the visitors, with Jack Forster adding a crucial fourth before a penalty try Mike Tindall's late effort.
Having failed to pick up anything at the Millennium Stadium against the Blues, captain Peter Buxton's side needed to fire on all cylinders against the Italian champions, and although they were not at their best in the early stages, they eventually got their phase play to count. It was the home side, who had only notched two wins in their previous 38 Heineken Cup ties, who had the first chance to score when Italian outside half Paulo Buso was gifted a seventh-minute penalty chance which he pushed wide.
That left his opposite number Lamb with the chance to get the scoreboard moving when he intercepted a pass on half-way in the 11th minute. He ran unopposed to the line for a try which Olly Barkley converted. The opening quarter was a close-run affair with the two packs keeping the game tight, and Buso was able to reduce the gap with a 15th-minute penalty.
But any thoughts of a meaningful home side revival were well and truly crushed when Narraway successfully controlled at the base of a powerful Gloucester scrum to claim a pushover try which Barkley converted on the half-hour.
Then Gloucester introduced some greater tempo into their play and finally began to go through some phases. As the game moved into first-half injury-time it was the Italy skipper Bortolami who put the boot into his countrymen as he rounded off a great move that included fine work from Matthew Watkins and Narraway.
That score put the visitors well in command, but the yellow card dished out to Calvisano hooker and skipper Leonardo Ghiraldini on the stroke of half-time dealt them a crucial blow. While he was kicking his heels, Gloucester helped themselves to their bonus-point try a mere three minutes after the restart.
Replacement prop Ali McKenzie knocked on from the kick-off at the start of the second half and from the scrum Gloucester built the platform for their score. It was Scotland international Alasdair Strokosch who led the charge, taking the ball to within four metres, and then when the ball was recycled Rory Lawson fed Forster for the try.
Barkley added the conversion and the stage seemed set for a major second-half assault by the English club. Yet no sooner had they moved into a 23-point lead than Gloucester took their foot off the pedal and allowed the home side to flex their own muscles.
Two minutes before Ghiraldini returned from his 10-minute break, 14-man Calvisano conjured up a try from a scrum following a midfield fumble by Gloucester. Scrum-half Pino Patelli made the initial break before Buso carried on. With the Gloucester line fractured, quick passing allowed Italian wing Ludovico Nitoglia to cross for a try which Buso converted.
Yet no sooner had they returned to a full complement, in the 52nd minute, Calvisano were back down to 14 men following the dismissal of replacement lock Nicola Cattina. Having come on as a 53rd-minute replacement for Luca Beccaris, the 23-year-old was sent off two minutes later by Welsh referee James Jones for a swinging arm punch at the side of a ruck on Narraway.
Losing a man did not dent Calvisano's ambition, however, and Lesley Vainikolo and replacement scrum-half Dave Lewis had to move quickly to touch down following threatening kicks ahead over the visitors' line. Then, after 73 minutes, Calvisano grabbed their second try with a strong forward drive that paved the way for McKenzie to plough over, and Gerard Fraser converted.
That cut the gap to a mere nine points with seven minutes to play and forced Gloucester to stage a last-gasp surge. With England star Tindall on to replace Watkins, Gloucester were awarded a penalty try when Narraway was prevented from touching down and then Tindall himself intercepted to race clear for try number six. Barkley converted both to restore the earlier 23-point advantage.
Gloucester boss Dean Ryan was satisfied with a job-well-done in Italy, despite the fact that his side failed to hit top-gear. "You can't dwell on things we may never come across again this season," Ryan said. "I am satisfied with the outcome because we had to get a bonus point, and when you go into a game with that frame of mind you do things slightly differently from how you would normally.
"It's hard because you are effectively chasing a game from the off but we did what we had to do, got the job done and can now move forward to next week. The pitch was tight, small and heavy which meant it was difficult to get numbers on anyone but we did well to adapt to what was in front of us and did some good things without ever really getting into our stride."
"In games like this you sometimes have to wait for long periods for your dominance to come through and I thought we did that okay," Ryan said. "We didn't always execute certain things like we have done really well in recent weeks, but we got exactly what we needed from the game and that was five points. We can move on from this and try to increase the tempo next week at Kingsholm."
Rugby Calvisano: L McLean, M Stanojevic (M Pratichetti 41), W Mafi, D Forcucci, L Nitoglia, P Buso (G Fraser 67), P Patelli (P Griffen 74), H Tui (A McKenzie 41), L Ghiraldini [capt] (T D'Apice 72), A Moreno (H Tui 62), L Beccaris (N Cattina 53), C Treloar (A Persico 79), D Dal Maso (T D'Apice 42), A Zanni (N Cattina 38), J Purll
Yellow Card - L Ghiraldini (72)
Red Card - N Cattina (57)
Gloucester Rugby: O Morgan, M Foster, M Watkins (M Tindall 58), O Barkley, L Vainikolo, R Lamb (W Walker 80), R Lawson (D Lewis 47), A Dickinson, S Lawson (O Azam 59), C Nieto, W James (A Eustace 80), M Bortolami, P Buxton [capt], A Strokosch (A Satala 70), L Narraway
Man of the Match: L Narraway (Gloucester Rugby)
Referee: James Jones (Wales)
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