At the final whistle on Friday night at Kingsholm, the clear emotion around the ground was relief. The ‘Cherry and Whites’ ended a five game losing streak with a 16-9 win over Exeter Chiefs, rounding off a roller-coaster month or so for Shedheads everywhere. There is a well-known psychological model called ‘The Seven Stages of Grief’ and it appears that a similar chart of emotion can be drawn for fans at Kingsholm.
Here is my Five Step Checklist for a typical month in the life of Gloucester Rugby supporters –
A month in the life of Gloucester Rugby Supporters
Defeat to lowly opposition
After a well-earned 13-10 victory over Wasps, the next three games against three of the bottom four sides should have been the springboard to the top six. Instead, defeats to Worcester and London Irish followed, with neither performance putting up much resistance. In particular the sight of the game being reduced to ‘uncontested scrums ‘against Irish was especially humiliating.
Disappointing home defeats
Being outscored three tries to none at home to bitter rivals Bath was tough to take, but the real low point was in the European Challenge Cup (see further here) when a fifth defeat in a row was confirmed with a ‘lacklustre exit’ that did not befit the title of reigning champions. The victorious visiting Newport Gwent Dragons certainly deserved it on the day but it was a result that almost certainly condemned Gloucester to a third season in the second-tier European competition.
Calls for coaches to be sacked
There have been calls for management to be removed, in particular Head Coach Laurie Fisher who had built up a cult following due to his signature bucket hat and unkempt hairstyle. This is unlikely to be helpful. In the Aviva Premiership which gets more and more competitive every year, teams with stability at the top have been rewarded.
The best example may be at Wasps, who were almost relegated under Dai Young in 2011 but are now fighting for both the Premiership and Champions Cup titles, and are playing some of the most exciting rugby in Europe. In fact all of teams in the top six have the same head coach as in 2011–in contrast Gloucester have had numerous changes in coaching staff over the past 15 years and have been stuck in cycles of forever waiting future reward.
Predictions of relegation next season
Gloucester are one of only six (unless London Irish miraculously survive) sides never to have been relegated and have never really been close to dropping out of the division. Yet dismal performances to supposed ‘weaker opposition’ always seem to lead to doomsday calls of disaster. However, if ninth place is as low as the troughs go, then not many can really have cause for complaint; just think of Bristol spending their seventh season in the Championship.
Unexpected victories against much-fancied opposition
What has been learned over the past month is that when tactics are implemented properly, the Cherry and Whites can turn over the best. Against Wasps the gameplan was to keep the ball as much as possible and when the opposition had the ball, stifle their main threats Nathan Hughes and Christian Wade. Bar the try for the latter, they did this perfectly and won the match. Similarly against Exeter, the main threat was the Chiefs’ driving maul, and BT Rugby Tonight demonstrated their excellent forward-work done to nullify this.
Both of these victories were therefore based on well-executed defensive plans, or in other words ‘a perfect match of good coaching and good player performance’. Why did this then desert them in the three weeks in between? If any of Dean Ryan, Bryan Redpath or Nigel Davies had cracked that, they would probably still be in a job with many trophies in the cabinet.
Gloucester now only have two games left (against Sale and Northampton), and the only sure thing is that there will be a repeat of much of the ‘Five Step Checklist’. Hopefully the team will have learned and developed from the past month and the victory against the high-flyers will now be a springboard for further victories and a positive end to another challenging season.
“Main photo credit”