Ryan praises table-toppers

Dean Ryan paid tribute to his Gloucester side's discipline and defence after they claimed a 20-13 win at Newcastle Falcons.The result ensured Gloucester stayed top of the Guinness Premiership after scoring two tries through Iain Balshaw and Olivier Azam.

Dean Ryan paid tribute to his Gloucester side's discipline and defence after they claimed a 20-13 win at Newcastle Falcons.

The result ensured Gloucester stayed top of the Guinness Premiership after scoring two tries through Iain Balshaw and Olivier Azam.

"Newcastle is a difficult place to come and win," said Gloucester head coach Ryan. "But I thought our focus was good and stayed good throughout the game and we did very well.

"There is a danger with Newcastle that you get sucked in and enter into the way they want to play which is like sevens with 30 players on the field, but I thought defensively we were very competent and we built the win off the back of a superb scrum where we did a bit of damage and really didn't get rewarded for that.

"We've developed a really good mode of game to win tight games in Europe and in the Premiership like this and we look a complete side."

Newcastle lost hooker Matt Thompson before the game with illness and several of their players were affected by a vomiting bug, while two missed kicks at goal from JonnyWilkinson, one straightforward, didn't help their cause.

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Sale director of rugby Philippe Saint-Andre hailed Luke McAlister after the Kiwi centre helped inspire a fraught 20-14 victory against Leicester to leapfrog the Tigers.

McAlister and Tigers centre Aaron Mauger arrived in England on lucrative contracts in the aftermath of the All Blacks' World Cup quarter-final defeat to France.

They lined up against each other in midfield but while the classic duel never really materialised, McAlister exerted a greater influence than his compatriot and dovetailed effectively with fly-half Charlie Hodgson.

Victory moved Sale up to fourth, and Saint-Andre enthused: "We know Luke has so much quality.

"He's quick, skilful and today his defence was very strong.

"Luke is starting to fit into the team very well and with him and Hodgson we have two fantastic playmakers who can be very dangerous."