Barkley boots Gloucester to victory over Sarries
January 3, 2009
Fullback Olly Morgan grabbed a first-half try for Gloucester at Kingsholm
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Gloucester did the Guinness Premiership double over Saracens at Kingsholm as Olly Barkley landed five penalties on a bitterly cold day to secure a 22-16 victory.
Gloucester had beaten Saracens 25-21 at Vicarage Road on November 16 and made it five wins out of six league games this time out. There was some doubt whether the match would go on at all. Kingsholm had been covered right through the Christmas and New Year period but still there were hard patches around the ground before the start.
The first half claimed a couple of casualties with England internationals Andy Farrell, for Saracens, and Lesley Vainikolo both coming off injured, former rugby league wing Vainikolo being stretchered off with a painful leg injury. Saracens went into the break 16-13 ahead after being 10-3 down midway through the period.
England centre Barkley opened the scoring with a penalty only for Saracens fly-half Glen Jackson, who was to enjoy an excellent 40 minutes, to retaliate with his own shot at goal. Young Gloucester scrum-half Dave Lewis was a livewire in the initial stages but it was a two-man combination that set-up the home team's opening try as the ball was swung to the left for centre Mike Tindall to race down the touchline.
He passed out to Vainikolo and he was able to get the ball away to fullback Olly Morgan for his sixth try of the season just as wing Kameli Ratuvou brought the England winger down. Barkley ploughed over the conversion and it was all going to plan for the Cherry and Whites. Saracens, though, began to get their act together and put pressure on their opponents' line. Jackson pulled them back to within four points with a second penalty before a terrific piece of ingenuity caught Gloucester cold.
It looked like Jackson was going to try for goal when his side were awarded a penalty 40 metres out but the New Zealand-born stand-off kicked to the touchline for wing Richard Haughton to catch and go in unopposed under the sticks. His conversion put the Londoners into a three-point lead and that was how they stayed after another penalty each from the respective kickers.
Another Barkley penalty levelled matters at 16-16 before the ex-Bath man putting his side ahead on 63 minutes with a 40-metre penalty after a period of stalemate between the teams. Gloucester had much the better of the second period and again Barkley's boot was accurate from 40 metres on 68 minutes.
Saracens did not help themselves either when replacement Andy Saull was sin-binned, giving his side an uphill task in the last 10 minutes. The only serious try-scoring opportunity of the half came with two minutes to go when home No.8 Luke Narraway knocked a pass on with the line at his mercy. But the Cherry and Whites had done enough, although Sarries had the consolation of a losing bonus point for their troubles.
Following the game, Saracens director of rugby Eddie Jones launched another attack on the England elite player agreement that stripped him of international lock Steve Borthwick. "I think it is ridiculous that you don't have your best English players playing in the Premiership. It almost a contradiction. You should have your best players playing. His (Borthwick's) presence in the line-out would have made a difference."
Jones also launched another broadside at the Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) and the subesquent pressure on referees. "There is something wrong with the rules. The game is very difficult to referee. I'm not blaming the referee but it is too difficult to referee and there is so much contest at the breakdown that other things are being missed. The best side won today but there was no rugby played and everyone wants to see rugby.
"We have to have officials out there who want to referee but the IRB have made the laws so difficult for referees to referee and the game is immeasurably worse than it was 12 months ago. The referees have not got worse and neither have the players. So what's the one missing? The ELVs (experimental law variations). They (the ELVs) have stuffed the game up and it is very hard to play rugby. You have got to have a game where you attack off your ball and off the opposition ball. I'm as frustrated as anyone. I want to play rugby and we can't."
Gloucester boss Dean Ryan was also frustrated by the loss of England winger Lesley Vainikolo, who has damaged his Achilles - with the extent of it due to be discovered on Monday. "Les has an Achillies injury which we will have to wait to see the extent of it. He slipped. We get injuries every week and he got one this week."
Ryan also acknowledged the contribution of Mike Tindall, adding: "I think he has been strong in the last couple of weeks around the gain line and his defence was outstanding today. He is growing in confidence with Olly (Barkley) and whether or not (he will return to the international fold) is someone else's decision."
Gloucester: Morgan, Watkins, Tindall, Barkley, Vainikolo, Lamb, Lewis, Wood, Azam, Nieto, Eustace, Brown, Strokosch, Satala, Narraway.
Replacements: Foster for Vainikolo (30), R. Lawson for Lewis (56). Not Used: Titterrell, Dickinson, Bortolami, Williams, Walker.
Saracens: Goode, Ratuvou, Sorrell, A. Farrell, Haughton, Jackson, de Kock, Aguero, Ongaro, Mercey, Vyvyan, Jack, Skirving, van Heerden, Owen.
Replacements: Cato for Ratuvou (46), Powell for A. Farrell (15), Rauluni for de Kock (56), Lloyd for Aguero (62), Kyriacou for Ongaro (74), Visagie for Mercey (58), Saull for Owen (47).
Sin Bin: Saull (69).
Ref: Andrew Small (RFU).