Chance to make his­tory for club

Gloucestershire Echo - - DEACS' WEEK -

THE Gal­lagher Premier­ship pro­gramme came to a dra­matic close with Glouces­ter los­ing at Sale Sharks, in a 13-try thriller.

As pre­dicted Jo­han Ack­er­mann left most of the front line play­ers out ahead of this week’s play off with Sara­cens.

The game at AJ Bell will be seen by most on the Glouces­ter camp as a moral vic­tory, scor­ing six tries away from home against a Sale side that was well mo­ti­vated with still an out­side chance of Euro­pean qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

With so many rested play­ers there can be a ten­dency to produce a flat or dis­jointed per­for­mance, and of course de­fence coach Jonny Bell will be dis­ap­pointed that Glouces­ter’s de­fence was so por­ous, with seven tries con­ceded.

That said Glouces­ter played as they have done all sea­son - with en­thu­si­asm, en­ergy, mixed with some great skills.

It was good to see Lloyd Evans get a run out at fly half play­ing so well in a Glouces­ter first team shirt.

I had him at Cin­der­ford as very young player, he looked in­tim­i­dated at times in those early days, but you could see he had a de­cent skill set, and even at that young age he un­der­stood the game.

Most im­por­tantly he had a thirst to learn and im­prove, in the Na­tional One en­vi­ron­ment. This set him apart.

He has been in and around the Glouces­ter set up for some seasons and has been pa­tient with lim­ited first-team game time, but when called upon this sea­son he has looked as­sured and not out of place play­ing at this level. Of course, train­ing along­side Danny Cipri­ani will have helped him con­sid­er­ably feed­ing off his knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence of the game day in, day out.

When the sea­son ends if he is now recog­nised as the Cherry & White num­ber two fly half this will be a sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward for Lloyd and one, he can be proud of. All the at­ten­tion will now swing to this Satur­day with the much-an­tic­i­pated play­off game against Sara­cens.

The se­lec­tion will not spring too

many sur­prises.

As ever the back row in most rugby clubs is a very com­pet­i­tive area. Glouces­ter could pick two dif­fer­ent back rows and still be con­fi­dent of do­ing well.

The key back­row player that does stand out is Ben Mor­gan who I think has had his best sea­son ever in the Cherry & White shirt.

He looks fit­ter, stronger, mo­ti­vated, and very much an in­ter­na­tional player.

He has the power but also soft hands that can put his fel­low play­ers into space.

Mor­gan will be a cru­cial player in the Sar­ries game of course he will match up against one of the best num­ber eights in the world, Billy Vu­nipola.

If Mor­gan and his back row mates of Ruan Ack­er­mann and Jaco Kriel win that bat­tle it will be piv­otal for a Glouces­ter win.

The big­gest area for me will be the Glouces­ter de­fence.

It must be wa­ter­tight and any de­fence, of course, is helped with a high field po­si­tion if the ter­ri­tory stats are weighed heav­ily in Glouces­ter’s favour.

This will go a long way to eas­ing the stress on the de­fence.

Sara­cens at home or away are a very good side and will en­joy pe­ri­ods in the game when they will try to squeeze the life out of Glouces­ter.

If the men in Cherry & White can with­stand this in­tense scru­tiny on their de­fence they will have a chance to take the win.

You know Sara­cens will be brim­ming with con­fi­dence af­ter be­ing crowned Euro­pean cham­pi­ons.

They will be rested and in good con­di­tion af­ter the mam­moth cel­e­bra­tions fol­low­ing their lat­est Euro­pean vic­tory. But this is knock out rugby. The Glouces­ter play­ers will re­alise that Sara­cens are red hot favourites to win the game and move seam­lessly into the grand fi­nal.

As a player I used to love this sce­nario: noth­ing to lose, ev­ery­thing thing to gain, us against them, 80 min­utes of bru­tal­ity play, play­ing right on the edge, be ar­ro­gant, but hum­ble at the same time, con­cen­trate on the game and noth­ing else, no dis­trac­tions, no egos, fight for the club and for what it stands for.

That would be my mes­sage to the play­ers if I were cap­tain in the chang­ing room just be­fore we stepped out on the pitch.

As I type I can feel the ex­cite­ment build­ing within me.

That is what Jo­han Ack­er­mann, his coaches, and play­ers have cre­ated; the prize to play in the big­gest game in English rugby - the Grand Fi­nal at Twick­en­ham and a chance to make his­tory for this group of play­ers, and the club. Go well guys.

I hear there are a few busses travelling on Satur­day.

But it is a great idea by Glouces­ter to open King­sholm so that sup­port­ers who can­not make it to Sara­cens can come and sit on the pitch and watch the game on the big screens.

It be great for all and a great at­mos­phere.

Lloyd Evans is tack­led by Faf de Klerk of Sale Sharks

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