Conversion of Paul beginning to look complete

Gloucester 22 Rotherham 8
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If this was the shape of things to come, it could be an arduous autumn. Certainly for Rotherham, who despite a lethargic, error-strewn effort from Gloucester, were workmanlike at best, and distinctly second-best on their return to the Premiership after two seasons away.

The good news for those who will follow the Premiership during the absence of World Cup participants is that Gloucester, still smarting from winning the league by 15 points last May yet losing the play-off final, have one of the potential stars of that period in Henry Paul. The rugby league hall-of-famer has had problemsin a lengthy adjustment to union, yet was absolutely on top of his game yesterday, and it was only to be regretted that the back division around him made so little of his vision and sublime passing.

The Shed was bathed in hot sunshine, so much so that 11 spectators needed treatment for heat exhaustion by half-time. They were certainly not swooning at the high quality of the play.

Gloucester had a decent first 10 minutes, during which they made large territorial gains and took a 6-0 lead through two penalties by Paul. But in the absence of England's Andy Gomarsall and the departed Frenchman, Ludo Mercier, there were distinct signs of stage fright from Gloucester's half-backs, Simon Amor and Brad Davies.

Rotherham, rebranded as the Titans, were suitably whole-hearted, and almost caught their hosts on the hop, when a possible try from a full line-out thrown to Dan Cook at the front was disallowed for the second row encroaching within the permitted five metres. After 19 minutes there was no such escape for Gloucester, as they presented a try on a plate to Geraint Lewis. The Rotherham No 8, one of several players signed from Wales by the National League One champions, collected Amor's rash reverse pass from the touchline and gleefully belted the 30 metres he needed to make the line. The salt in the Gloucester wound was that Amor made his faux pas while scurrying to retrieve Alex Brown's steal at a Rotherham line-out.

Brown, newly arrived from Bristol, impressed at the set-pieces, but a series of knock-ons kept things tight: a third penalty for Paul followed by one from Jason Strange made it 9-8 at the interval.

Still, while Gloucester had Marcel Garvey lurking with intent, there was always the chance that something special would happen. Indeed, it would have been almost criminal if Garvey's weaving run upfield in the 49th minute had been undone by another fumble. Fortunately, the man in support, prop Paul Johnstone, kept his head to link with his captain, Jake Boer. The South African forced play nearer the Rotherham posts, and a simple pass to the wide sent Rory Teague in for a try converted by Paul.

Two more penalties by Paul completed the job for Gloucester. For Rotherham, a change of identity may not be all that is required to avert a crisis.

Gloucester: R Teague; M Garvey, T Fanolua, H Paul, J Goodridge (R Todd, 56); B Davies, S Amor (A Page, 61); P Johnstone, S Brotherstone, A Deacon, A Eustace (M Cornwell, 69), A Brown, J Boer (capt), J Paramore (J Forrester, h-t), A Hazell.

Rotherham: J Benson; A Elliott, J Pritchard (M Oliver, 75), P Jorgensen, M Wood; J Strange (P Jones, 61), J Rauluni (C Harrison, 75); M Lloyd, C Johnson (capt), C Loader (S Bunting, 56), D Cook, L Gross (G Kenworthy, 56), L Greeff, G Lewis (J Cockle, 65), N Spence.

Referee: R Maybank (London).