Gloucester turn it on in Ireland

Gloucester kicked their Heineken Cup challenge off in fine style with a 32-14 victory over Ulster at Ravenhill on Friday.

The match was set for 80 minutes and that is how long they stayed on the field, but in fact the match, as a result, was over after 23 minutes. By then the Gloucester visitors were leading 22-0 and had their bonus point. If that was all that counted the match was over.

The first half produced seven tries, 5-2 in Gloucester’s favour. The second half produced none, just a solitary penalty to have any effect on the scoreboard. The second half was a choppy affair. Gloucester had the wind – and the rain for a while – but lacked the zest of the first 23 minutes. They went into show-nothing mode.

Gloucester had four distinct advantages. They won the tackle, in both aspects of the tackle. They tackled with thunderous efficiency and allowed Ulster only slow ball back from the tackle while they won quick ball when tackled. They scrummed with power, at times turning the Ulster scrum into a shambles. They handled with confidence and skill, especially into the wind in the first half and they ran straight. Whether the ball-carrier was a forward or a back did not matter, for he would run straight. Mike Tindall did it and Peter Buxton did it and so did the others. It was a fine performance by the visitors.

Ulster tried. They got stuck in. They had good moments. But they made errors. Perhaps it was the ferocity of the Gloucester defence that shook them into error; perhaps it was the malaise of doubt that is, apparently, besetting Irish rugby.

All Ulster won was the penalty count – 10-4 in their favour.

Ulster’s rickety season persists.

Gloucester’s young Ryan Lamb at flyhalf set up the first try when he held the pass back and then sent angular Akapusi Qera running through a gap. The big Fijian went off swerving and stepping till, stumbling, he was tackled. Back the ball came to Lamb who nudged a gentle grubber into the left corner where massive Lesley Vainikolo fell on the ball. 5-0 after 6 minutes.

Ulster had some good moments as Tommy Bowe broke and Neil Best charged but then Best knocked on for a scrum in the Gloucester’s 22. From the scrum Gloucester went right. Tindall timed a perfect pass to Iain Balshaw who surged before he gave to speedy James Simpson-Daniel who zipped down the right touch-line. Harassed, he gave inside to Balshaw who gave inside to Tindall who raced a long way to score. 10-0.

Gloucester could have scored again when hooker (sic) Olivier Azam collected a stray kick by Mark McCrea and footed delicately ahead but Justin Harrison saved brilliantly before Simpson-Daniel.

The next try was not long in coming and it started when Vainikolo used his bulk to bump off two defenders and deliver a pass to Tindall as the third got in close. Back the ball went to Lamb who has no bulk but has magic feet. He danced past three, stretched and scored. This time he converted. 17-0 after 17 minutes.

Ulster then went on a serious attack but when Paddy Wallace passed back inside to Bowe he found Lamb instead and the delicate flyhalf set off from inside his 22. Isaac Boss was hunting him down and Lamb passed to Simpson Daniel who had cut across on his left and the wing scored. 22-0 after 23 minutes and the bonus point.

Again an Ulster error produced the next score. Their scrum buckled but they got the ball only to lose it in a driving tackle by Luke Narraway. The ball bobbled about and the next thing Balshaw was racing 48 metres down the right for a score. Lamb converted. 29-0 after 28 minutes.

Ulster scored the next two tries.

First Andrew Trimble broke when Ulster set up an attack off a partly charged ball. Tackled at the line by Vainikolo, Trimble managed to control the ball enough for Matt McCullough to plunge over for the try which Wallace converted. 29-7 after 30 minutes.

Ulster then battered at t

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