Glouces­ter bounce back with a re­demp­tion story

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Aviva Premiership - By Kate Rowan at King­sholm

At the fi­nal whis­tle, the im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion from Glouces­ter play­ers and fans was a com­bi­na­tion of ju­bi­la­tion and re­lief. There was al­most a feel­ing that the side had snuck through to the fi­nal of a cup com­pe­ti­tion.

Af­ter suc­cumb­ing to a 57-10 loss in last week­end’s fix­ture against Sale Sharks, this hard-fought 29-24 win over Northamp­ton Saints, who had come into the fix­ture at the top of the Pre­mier­ship ta­ble, is some­thing of a re­demp­tion story.

Re­demp­tion it may be but Glouces­ter’s sea­son so far has been one of frus­tra­tion, start­ing brightly with a home win against de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Ex­eter Chiefs, but since then the only other win they could muster was at home to league strug­glers Worces­ter War­riors.

It was a per­sonal re­demp­tion story for Glouces­ter’s head coach Jo­han Ack­er­mann that helped to in­spire the squad af­ter last week­end’s drub­bing by Sale. Back when Ack­er­man, who him­self had a spell play­ing for Northamp­ton Saints, was play­ing for the now de­funct Su­per Rugby side the Cats in 2001, they had suf­fered a heavy loss but came back from it.

“We played Su­per Rugby in 2001, I think against the Brumbies in Can­berra and we got ham­mered 64-0 and I just spoke about that ex­pe­ri­ence, about how you start doubt­ing your­self, how you feel al­most hu­mil­i­ated to look your sup­port­ers in the eye,” he said.

“Of course, that is not what any sports­man stands for and it was one of those games, the harder you try, the less things work, where ev­ery pass that you throw feels like it goes to them. I said to them that is the chal­lenge ev­ery sports­man is go­ing to get in life. It is how you col­lec­tively as a group be­lieve that you can rec­tify it if you are half­way there. When you start point­ing fin­gers you are on the wrong track.

“Credit to the play­ers, they took ev­ery chal­lenge that I threw at them and they re­sponded bril­liant.”

Keep­ing with the theme of re­demp­tion, out­side cen­tre Henry Trinder, the Cherry and Whites’ scorer of both of their first-half tries, is com­ing into fly­ing form af­ter a se­ries of se­ri­ous in­juries. The 28-year-old was also a key player in Glouces­ter’s sec­ond half de­fen­sive ef­fort.

Con­sid­er­ing the cur­rent in­jury cri­sis in the Pre­mier­ship, Trinder, who had been seen as an Eng­land con­tender but had to re­build his ca­reer play­ing for Glouces­ter A ear­lier this sea­son, pro­vides hope in the cur­rent cli­mate.

Ack­er­mann said: “I had never worked with Henry un­til I got here or seen an aw­ful lot of him. I just heard from the medics and the coaches that he was bril­liant as a ju­nior and then went through a bad spell through in­juries. We lost Mark Atkin­son and we lost Andy Sim­mons and Henry got the op­por­tu­nity, he even played a game for the A side and he grabbed it with both hands.

“He showed some great skill to­day. So, hope­fully he will just grow in con­fi­dence and use this as a step­ping stone.”

Could his man-of-the-match per­for­mance be enough to catch the eye of Ed­die Jones? “I don’t know the Eng­land play­ers so well in the sense of who is No1 choice, who is sec­ond choice,” the South African in­sisted. “Con­sis­tency is what coaches look for.

“You need to back it, week af­ter week, if you want to have any as­pi­ra­tions, and I am of the be­lief that your team comes first, and if Henry keeps on per­form­ing, it will just be a nat­u­ral thing that peo­ple will start talk­ing and that will open the door.”

While the first half was, in the words of Northamp­ton di­rec­tor of rugby Jim Mallinder, “an arm wres­tle”, with Saints sole try of the open­ing 40 com­ing from blind­side Jamie Gib­son, the sec­ond half was more open with fly-half Harry Mallinder go­ing over to score and convert his own try, only for Glouces­ter to re­ply quickly via a try from full-back Jason Wood­ward.

The hosts were at some­thing of a dis­ad­van­tage as fly-half Owen Wil­liams had a poor day from the kick­ing tee.

A try from Billy Twel­ve­trees ce­mented Glouces­ter’s try bonus point, which saw Wil­liams open his ac­count for the af­ter­noon.

Af­ter a Willi Heinz try and a sec­ond suc­cess­ful con­ver­sion from Wil­liams, the hosts had pulled 12 points ahead with just 15 min­utes left on the clock but, as was the rhythm for much of the sec­ond half, Northamp­ton pulled back via a score from re­place­ment hooker Mikey Hay­wood, with Stephen Myler adding the ex­tras.

For the fi­nal 10 min­utes Saints went on the march, and Glouces­ter’s re­sponse was heroic.

The next chal­lenge for Glouces­ter is to aim to get a win on the road, start­ing with Thurs­day’s Chal­lenge Cup fix­ture against Pau.

Power play: Willi Heinz runs past Northamp­ton’s de­fence to score for Glouces­ter dur­ing their vic­tory at the King­sholm Sta­dium. It was a wel­come re­sult for Glouces­ter af­ter last week­end’s loss to Sale Sharks

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