RUGBY

Gloucester Rugby: Five things we learned from the win over Saracens

There’s something brewing in the air at Kingsholm.

The last few years have been disappointing for the Gloucester fans, with performances not reaching the desired level and the failure to hit targets in competitions, most importantly the Premiership.

But something special is happening this season. The arrival of Johan Ackermann seems to have changed not only the performances on the pitch, but the whole atmosphere around the club has lifted and it seems there is a great solidarity and team spirit in the dressing room.

From the Saracens game the first half defence personified this spirit. They refused to give in and let Saracens past them. They stood up well in defence, soaking up so much pressure, but then when the chances came from Gloucester, they took them with great precision.

 

Ruan’s huge impact

After featuring for the Barbarians against New Zealand at Twickenham a few weeks ago, Ruan Ackermann’s stock within the game is certainly rising. This week he put in another performance of a giant. The former Lions back-rower made 15 tackles and 56 metres as he spurred the Gloucester side forward. He led the forwards as they pulled out a huge effort in keeping the Saracens attack out in the first half.

 

Bench boost for Gloucester

They may be called replacements, but as Eddie Jones calls them, the Gloucester ‘finishers’ made the difference for the Cherry and Whites as they came from behind to beat Saracens. The impact of pacey scrum half Ben Vellacott particularly impressed, as he started the move from which Ollie Thorley scored Gloucester’s opening try. The Scottish U20 international came up with a tremendous catch and subsequent step to beat a Saracens defender and put the visitors on the back foot.

Vellacott offers a different threat top that posed by Willi Heinz. While Heinz offers solidity and composure to control the game from the base of the ruck. Vellacott offers sheer pace and creativity and the apparent ability to create space in a phonebox. He plays the game like a Sevens player, and his impact off the bench serves as a boost to the pace of the attack, putting the defence on the back foot, especially in the late stages of a game.

 

More than just a Premiership debut

Four years ago Tom Hudson retired from rugby due to a mystery injury that affected his abductor and groin. However, he found a cure and after 18 months of hard work, he’s in the reckoning with the Gloucester first team.

 

He made his Premiership debut at full-back, opposite England full-back Alex Goode who continuously tested Hudson with a number of high balls which he dealt with confidence and with assured calm and authority.

Hudson scored the winner for Gloucester with a strong finish in pressure to get the ball over the line at the base of the posts.

 

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But Hudson’s not getting ahead of himself and says he is just happy to be back playing and doing well for Gloucester. He told ParkLifeSport “We’ve got a few good boys coming back and it was about putting on a performance in for Gloucester Rugby, not Tom Hudson tonight, so I hope I’ve done that.”

 

Gloucester can keep going

The win at the weekend sees Gloucester move up to 5th place in the table. Ultimately the club will be hoping to cement themselves first in a Champions Cup spot, but maybe even push on more and challenge for the top four and a playoff place. Gloucester have already made some big scalps this season, beating Saracens, Exeter and Northampton Saints at home as well as an away derby win against Bath. They’ve showed they have more than enough on their day to beat anybody, but as was the case last season, they must deliver on a consistent basis to reach the higher reaches of the league.

They travel to Newcastle Falcons on Friday night before a home game against London Irish before another block of European fixtures against Zebre in mid-December. It’s key for Gloucester’s season that they pick up wins in these next few weeks to keep the momentum going and really assert themselves in the league.

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