7 Jun, 15:39
ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
PARKER PEN SHIELD SEMI FINAL 28 APRIL 2002
Gloucester 27 Sale Sharks 28
And so, Gloucester's hopes for a place in the PARKER PEN SHIELD final, a competition they had set out to win in August, were ended by the narrowest of scorelines.
As they had done a week previously against Bristol, the Cherry and Whites were involved in another game that see-sawed where the team that eventually won the match did so by a solitary point.
Gloucester had already beaten Sale twice in league competition that season. But in knock-out competitions though, the form books are disregarded and as Sale showed no concern about playing Gloucester again.
It started so well for Gloucester though. They got off to the perfect start with Tery Fanolua crashing over to score the first of his two tries under the posts after only two minutes. Ludovic Mercier added the conversion and a subsequent drop goal as Gloucester established a thirteen point lead inside the first quarter.
Sale though are a dangerous team and have a back line that is capable of opening up even the meanest of defences. As a unit, Gloucester seemed to take their collective feet of the accelerator and rather than punishing Sale further, they allowed them to get a foothold back in the match.
A strong-tackling back line, lead by Robert Todd kept Jason Robinson quieter than usual. But after Charlie Hodgson had kicked a penalty for the Manchester club to get them on the board he along with Captain Bryan Redpath started to dictate the style of play. On two occasions Gloucester were stretched to breaking point as Sale wings, Mark Cueto and then Steve Hanley went over to score unconverted tries.
Sale came out of the break and scored further tries through Charl Marais and Dan Harris, and with Hodgson's penalty added as well Sale slowly crept away to a 28-13 lead.
Gloucester though dug deep and displayed the type of character the supporters and coaching staff have called for in recent weeks. They began establishing a forward platform that would tie in Shark defenders and leave space out wide. Sale's line stood firm until Diego Albanese found some room on the outside and James Forrester who was in support went over to score. In a tricky wind, Mercier kicked over the conversion.
Terry Fanolua, who would make a brilliant flanker, then scored his second try. As the game entered the final ten minutes he found space at the side of a ruck and burrowed under the defence to score. Mercier once again kicked the vital conversion to bring Gloucester to within the single point.
Gloucester knew they had to get themselves into kicking range and then almost like their gridiron counterparts in America send for their expert kicker to kick a drop goal or a penalty.
Mercier did miss with an ambitious drop goal attempt in the seventy-fourth minute but as the game entered injury time he was given a second eminently kickable chance.
Referee Nigel Whitehouse reversed a penalty on the floor deep in Sale's twenty-two and Phil Vickery with the support of his team mates and every Gloucester fan sent for Mercier.
Unfortunately the next few seconds didn't follow the script. Mercier rather snatched at the kick as nervous energy permeated every cell in his legs. The kick missed and Gloucester will have to wait until next year for European Competition to return to Kingsholm.
Tries: Fanolua (2), Forrester Cons: Mercier (3) Pens: Mercier DG: Mercier
Sale: Tries: Cueto, Hanley, Marais, Harris Cons: Hodgson Pens: Hodgson (2) DG:
Gloucester: C Catling (Paul 73) D O'Leary (Albanese 40), T Fanolua, R Todd, J Simpson-Daniel 22 L Mercier, A Gomarsall, T Woodman (Collazo 50), O Azam (Fortey 73), P Vickery (Capt), E Pearce (Fidler 50), M Cornwell, J Forrester, K Sewabu (Boer 50), J Paramore.
Replacements (Not Used): F Pucciariello.
Sale Sharks: J Robinson, M Cueto, M Shaw, D Harris, S Hanley, C Hodgson, B Redpath (Capt), K Yates, C Marais,, S Turner, I Fullarton, C Jones, A Sanderson. S Pinkerton, P Anglesea.
Replacements: A Dickens M Deane J Baxendell R Wilks M Giacheri, A Black, B Jackman.
Referee: N Whitehouse (WRU)
WHAT THEY SAID
Gloucester coach Nigel Melville:
"They had the pace in the backs, we had the power in the forwards", said Nigel Melville after the game.
"It was always going to be a close, very exiting game", he added.
And so it was, although in the end a missed penalty opportunity by Ludovic Mercier in the eighty-first minute will be remembered as the deciding moment in the tie.
"I will not hold Ludo responsible", said Nigel Melville, he was not the man who lost us the game, in fact, he was the player most likely to win it for us".