Brain over brawn as Beim sets standard

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The Independent Online

Tom Beim considers himself to be 85 per cent fit after five months of grief with a dysfunctional shoulder, so he should be pretty hot come Christmas time. Whether he actually wants to be 100 per cent fit ever again is a moot point, however; the painfully modest Gloucester wing set a new Heineken Cup record by putting five tries past the hapless Italians of Roma at Kingsholm yesterday afternoon, thereby underlining the fact that there is more to this rugby lark than perfect physical conditioning.

Tom Beim considers himself to be 85 per cent fit after five months of grief with a dysfunctional shoulder, so he should be pretty hot come Christmas time. Whether he actually wants to be 100 per cent fit ever again is a moot point, however; the painfully modest Gloucester wing set a new Heineken Cup record by putting five tries past the hapless Italians of Roma at Kingsholm yesterday afternoon, thereby underlining the fact that there is more to this rugby lark than perfect physical conditioning.

Capped by England in New Zealand during the 1998 "tour from hell", the former professional polo player might just as well have been on horseback for all the chance the visiting threequarters had of catching him. He was too quick for Jason Keyter, his opposite number, and too clever for the Roma midfield, who struggled to keep track of his wanderings from wing to wing. Beim's try in the wrong corner on 69 minutes typified his contribution: it was a fairly easy finish in terms of a distance run - a five-metre sprint to the corner from Andy Gomarsall's delayed pass - but the real work had already been done upstairs in the brain department.

Philippe Saint-André, the Gloucester coach, must have revelled in it: after all, he was hardly the worst wing in the world during his playing days. But Saint-André is no Gallic romantic, and his pragmatic streak will take over when his squad start their preparations for this weekend's rumble with Colomiers. Any repeat of the half-hearted semi-effort turned in by the Gloucester forwards during the first 40 minutes of yesterday's match will cost them a packet against a French side badly stung by their home failure against Llanelli on Saturday evening.

Ian Jones, rested from this one, will return to the second row; so too will Junior Para-more, either at No 8 or on the blind-side flank. Without Jones, the Gloucester line-out coughed and spluttered like a dodgy Robin Reliant in a cold snap, and the Cherry and White frailty in this department allowed Philippe Farner and Luke Gross, the outsized Roma locks, to claim an unlimited supply of prime possession. As a result, Andrea Scanavacca was able to play a territorial game and keep his side within a score for the entire opening period.

A red-raw rollicking from Saint-André during the interval did the trick, though; five minutes into the second half, Kingsley Jones and Rob Fidler turned over the Italians at a defensive ruck, Terry Fanolua hared off over half-way with the visiting midfield committed elsewhere and Beim was on his shoulder to complete the formalities. Mark Cornwell and Jason Little then put their shoulders to the wheel to earn Beim a second score in the same corner, and although Scanavacca continued to employ his right boot to considerable effect, Gloucester were home and hosed.

In the same way that Gloucester will not be entirely satisfied with a 50-point victory on their home Heineken Cup debut, the Italians will not be overly disenchanted with life. They lacked a cutting edge, but Scanavacca and his half-back partner, Giampiero Mazzi, looked perfectly comfortable at this level of club rugby. Connoisseurs of the bump and grind will have liked the look of Andrea Lo Cicero, the Test prop, and Alessio Murrazzani, a real handful of a hooker, while Carlo Caione repeatedly caught the eye in the loose.

Roma are not a million miles away from achieving something memorable in cross-border competition; they may even give Gloucester a hard time of it when the West Countrymen pitch up at Stadio Flaminio in January. There again, Beim will be fully fit by then.

Gloucester: Tries Beim 5, Schisano; Conversions Fanolua 3, Moncrieff 2; Penalties Moncrieff 4. Roma: Penalties Scannavacca 3; Drop goal Scannavacca.

Gloucester: C Catling; F Schisano, T Fanolua, C Yates, T Beim; J Little (R Greenslade-Jones,74), E Moncrieff (A Gomarsall, 63); A Powles, O Azam (S Sanchez, 76), P Vickery (N Cox, 69), R Fidler (M Cornwell, 47), A Eustace (E Pearce, 69), J Boer (A Hazell, 47), K Jones (capt), S Ojomoh.

Roma: A De Anglesis; J Keyter, G Raineri, N Zisti (L Di Luia, 70), F Roselli; A Scanavacca, G Mazzi; A Lo Cicero, A Murrazzani (G De Carli, 56), R Martinez (A Castellani, 70), P Farner, L Gross, S Virgilio, C Caione (capt), N Martin (A Bencetti ,56).

Referee: P Adams (Wales).

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