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#ThursdayTales : A Tough Start in Europe, but a Notable Double

#ThursdayTales : A Tough Start in Europe, but a Notable Double
Llanelli 2000-01

A Tough Start in Europe, but a Notable Double

When Gloucester first qualified for the European Champions Cup in 2000-01, they were faced with a huge challenge in their first match, drawn away to Llanelli, semi-finalists from the previous season. The Gloucester team at Stradey Park on 6th October 2000 was:

C Catling; T Fanolua, J Little, C Yates, T Beim; S Mannix, A Gomarsall; S Simon, O Azam, P Vickery, A Eustace, I Jones, S Ojomoh, K Jones (captain), J Paramore; Replacements: F Schisano, E Moncrieff, R Fidler, A Hazell, J Boer

Gloucester came out in determined fashion, and were rewarded with a couple of penalties kicked by Simon Mannix, whilst thumping tackles by Junior Paramore kept Llanelli at bay until Stephen Jones kicked two penalties to level. Mannix kicked another penalty, but then went off injured. Two minutes before half-time Olivier Azam drove forward, Andy Gomarsall switched play, and Jason Little surged through the midfield to score a breath-taking try. Llanelli struck back immediately with a converted try for 14-13.

The Gloucester front row took command after the break, with Serge Simon playing his best game for Gloucester alongside a robust Azam and a rock-solid Phil Vickery. Fierce tackling rattled Llanelli, and Chris Yates bull-dozed through in midfield to set up Andy Hazell to race in under the posts. Gomarsall kicked the conversion and Terry Fanolua a penalty for 24-13. Another Llanelli try set up a frantic finish, but Fanolua’s late penalty saw Gloucester home 27-20.

 

For the return match at Kingsholm on 13th January 2001, Gloucester selected:

C Catling; T Fanolua, J Little, C Yates, T Beim; S Mannix, E Moncrieff; T Woodman, O Azam, P Vickery, R Fidler, I Jones, J Boer, K Jones (captain), S Ojomoh; Replacements: A Deacon, C Fortey, A Hazell

They had slipped up with a draw and a loss against Colomiers, so a win was essential, but Llanelli surged to a 13-0 lead. Six fruitless lineouts close to the Llanelli line added to the frustration, but eventually Ian Jones soared into the air to catch the ball, Gloucester chugged the maul forward, Quinnell brought it down, and the referee awarded a penalty try. Simon Mannix converted and kicked a penalty to make it 10-13 at half-time.

Mannix kept chipping away with penalties, and Llanelli suffered two yellow cards, but scored a magnificent try to lead 27-25 as time was running out. However, Gloucester won turnover ball, and Kingsholm roared as Jake Boer, Chris Yates and Tom Beim ploughed forward. Suddenly Phil Vickery found himself isolated, but clung on and went to ground, the defence converged and with nowhere else to go Elton Moncrieff tried a drop goal from right under the posts. It was heading under the bar until it struck the shoulder of Phil Booth, and wobbled up and over for a freak score, which won the game 28-27.

Gloucester went on to win a very tight group with only nine points, and beat Cardiff 21-15 in the quarter-final, before being squeezed out 15-19 by Leicester in the semi.

 

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