IT IS perhaps as well that the new fangled philosophy of temporary banishment did not occur to the virtuous guardians of the English game during a more ruthless rugby era. Sin-bins? Kingsholm would have needed a sin-skip to accommodate career uglies such as Mike Burton and Digger Morris, whose relationship with the rulebook was rather less meaningful than that of their professional descendents.
The very thought of Burto and co attempting to make sense of Chris Rees, the London referee given charge of Gloucester's one-sided Premiership run-out yesterday, is mind-boggling. Dan Hyde, the visiting No 8, and Simon Mannix, the West countrymen's latest midfield recruit from south of the equator, were both white-carded for the mildest of misdemeanours.
No one could have complained had Rees binned Andy Deacon, the Gloucester tight-head, for his first-half uppercut at a ruck, or given Russell Schrader, the West Hartlepool lock, a 10-minute breather for the "shoe pie" he repeatedly served up at the breakdown. But no, that would have been far too reasonable. The sin-bin, it seems, is exclusively reserved for "technical" or "professional" offenders. The referee may have enjoyed it, most of the 6,000 crowd did not.
There was never the remotest shadow of doubt that Gloucester would emerge from the disjointedness of it all with their unbeaten record in place. Only during the opening 15 minutes did the northerners press, during which Phil Belgian fluffed three of four quickfire shots at goal and the young stand-off's discomfort was made worse as he conceded a try to Richie Tombs by having a clearance kick charged down.
Tombs claimed a second try following some clever distribution from Mark Mapletoft and when Chris Catling waltzed around Phil Greaves to add a third, the second half history almost before it began.
To their credit, West dug in after the break and, aided by some sympathetic calls from Mr Rees, managed to hold their line until the final five minutes. Then they ran out of legs as well as substitutes. Steve Ojomoh and Philippe Saint-Andre both crossed, Mapletoft popped over another conversion and the Gloucester crowd went home happy. Well, sort of.
Gloucester: Tries Tombs 2, Catling, Ojomoh, Saint-Andre; Conversions Mapletoft 4; Penalty Mapletoft. West Hartlepool: Penalty Belgian.
Gloucester: C Catling (A Lumsden, 55); R Jewell (R Greenslade-Jones, 67), R Tombs, S Mannix, P Saint-Andre; M Mapletoft, S Benton (L Beck, 45); A Windo (T Woodman, 55), P Greening (C Fortey, 62), A Deacon, M Cornwell, D Sims (capt), E Pearce (S Ojomoh, 62), S Devereux, N Carter (P Glanville, 67).
West Hartlepool: J Benson (E Farrell, 54); H Bishop, P Greaves, J Connolly, S John; P Belgian, T Nu'uali'itia (capt), T Handley, 71); S Sparks (B Cullinane, 73), T Herbert (A Peacock, 54), P Beal (P Seymour, 64), M Brewer (C Webb, 65), R Schrader (W Fuller, 66), J Ponton, D Hyde, S Cassidy.
Referee: C Rees (London).