Rugby Union: French polisher

Gloucester 35 Bristol 13
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The Independent Online
There was a sense of great expectation at Gloucester as their threequarter line was transformed by the exotic infusion of a Franco-Antipodean axis. As it was, the most notable of the four imports, Philippe Saint- Andre, brought the house down.

Montferrand's loss is Gloucester's gain. Saint-Andre scored two tries on his debut in the English premiership to inspire Gloucester to a terrific revival. If it was thought a red-blooded West Country derby would not be the ideal curtain-raiser for the veteran French captain, he had other ideas. Saint-Andre, socks rolled characteristically around his ankles, was in his element.

One advantage of the early start to the season is that the pitches are in immaculate condition. Not that it seemed to raise the game of either side in a disjointed, error-strewn first half. Bristol, who had lost almost half their pack to more ambitious, wealthier clubs, held a 6-0 lead at half-time, courtesy of two penalties from the stand-off Paul Burke. They deserved their lead, with their captain Robert Jones looking sharp at scrum-half and with their young forwards taking the game to Gloucester.

However, the 10-minute interval at half-time seemed to work wonders for the cherry and whites. Within seconds of the re-start, Gloucester swept into an irresistible lead, spearheaded by Philippe, the elder of the Saint- Andre brothers. After the Western Samoan Terry Fanolua had made ground into the heart of the Bristol defence, Scott Benton cleverly switched the direction of play from midfield and Saint-Andre darted through for a try in the left-hand corner.

Mark Mapletoft added a penalty a minute later and Gloucester surged further ahead when the Bristol wing Dave Tiueti lost the ball in a tackle near the home 22 and, in a blistering counter-attack, Fanolua released the crowd's new favourite. Taking the ball near the halfway line, Saint-Andre cut inside Fraser Walters before sprinting over for a try under the posts.

The second half exploded into life and Bristol played their part with a cracking try from David Corkery which put them back into the game. It was, however, a brief respite as Gloucester went up a gear.

They added further tries from Tony Windo and Rob Fidler, for a conclusive victory.

West Country seamstresses had been working overtime to accommodate, on the Gloucester jerseys, the name of Eagle Star. The insurance group yesterday signed a two-year deal to sponsor, simultaneously, Gloucester and the Arrows Formula One team. The common denominator between the two, which hardly seem natural bedfellows, is Tom Walkinshaw, a director of Gloucester and the Arrows owner. After watching Damon Hill in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, Walkinshaw flew in to Kingsholm to see if Richard Hill's new machine could get off to a decent start. It did, with one Frenchman in particular looking as sharp as an arrow.

Bristol's director of rugby Alan Davies, who had been looking forward to the short trip to Gloucester, could not have anticipated that Saint- Andre would have adapted in such electric style. His contribution, at a crucial stage in the game, cannot be overestimated.

Gloucester: C Catling; R Saint-Andre, R Tombs, T Fanolua, P Saint-Andre; M Mapletoft, S Benton; T Windo, P Greening (N McCarthy, 40), A Deacon, M Cornwell, R Fidler, P Glanville (capt), S Devereux, N Carter.

Bristol: J Lewsey; D Tiueti, K Maggs (M Denney, 75), F Walters, B Breeze; P Burke, R Jones (capt); M Worsley, K Dunn, K Fullman, J Wakeford, J Brownrigg, D Corkery, E Rollitt, C Short (S Pearce, 79).

Referee: J Pearson (Durham).