Not for the first time, money was the talk of the day. While Tom Walkinshaw, Gloucester's owner, played down rumours of problems with his club's finances, the call from Kingsholmites and neutrals alike was: whatever Marcel Garvey is on, it's not enough.
Garvey, a 19-year-old locally born and bred, ran in three tries on his first start on his home ground, two of them the product of coruscating pace and self-confidence. An England Under-19 wing last season, when he made several substitute appearances in the Cherry jersey, Garvey is almost as broad as he is tall but when he gets motoring he is in the Ferrari bracket.
Talking of fast cars, Walkinshaw's Arrows have been pointing sharply downwards of late, but the Scot is holding his line that the rugby club is entirely separate, and not in peril. Asked why Patrice Collazo, the popular prop, had been transferred back to France, Gloucester's managing director, Ken Nottage, said: "Toulouse upped the ante. There is no link with Arrows. From time to time, any business must go through re-structuring."
On the surface, the club are in rude health, even without their four wins out of four this season. There are burgeoning ticket sales (including 9,000 already for next month's European tie with Munster), a Premier Rugby salary cap of £1.9m and the considerable makeweight of central funding from Twickenham of around £2m per season.
Yet talk persists of bills unpaid, including a claim by Collazo's agent that his client is owed three months' wages. On Thursday, Collazo was named in the squad for this fixture. The next day, he was gone. Nigel Melville, Gloucester's head coach, admitted it had been "unsettling" and hinted at decisions being made over his head, although he was "kept in the loop".
During the summer, one of Gloucester's rival clubs was putting it about that Walkinshaw had four props earning six-figure salaries. It's fair to assume that is no longer the case, after Collazo followed Federico Pucciariello out of the door. There are backs said to be getting restless, among them Daren O'Leary and Chris Catling, but they have gone from first team to fringe selections while younger candidates such as James Simpson-Daniel and Garvey have come through the Gloucester Academy.
Furthermore, Melville and his assistant, Dean Ryan, are still settling in, and in the process of getting the personnel sorted to their own liking.
Thus far they are getting the on-field business spectacularly right. Bristol made the same mistake as Sale a fortnight ago, by scoring first – through Brendon Daniel after four minutes – and ended up with a similar 40-odd point hiding.
Garvey's first try, after Felipe Contepomi and Ludovic Mercier had swapped penalties to make it 10-3 to Bristol, was a treat. The initial break on the counter from Gloucester's 22 by Thinus Delport was classy in itself; after a couple more phases Garvey was simply breathtaking. A lateral shuffle along the Bristol 10 metre line to find the gap, then a straight sprint to the posts.
Mercier, who collected 20 points including the sixth and last Gloucester try, converted for 10-10, and Bristol were on the slide to bottom place in the table. Not that they were helped by losing their new All Black signing, Daryl Gibson, to injury inside the first quarter. Garvey was a mite fortunate with his second try, having possibly lost control of the ball, but a couple of Mercier penalties and a storming try by Jake Boer pushed Gloucester out to 26-13 after 48 minutes.
Garath Archer briefly stemmed the tide, but Junior Paramore secured the bonus point with a ruthless counter-attack, and Garvey completed his hat-trick with a glorious sidestep and chip and chase to outfox half the Bristol backs. Walkinshaw saw it all. Perhaps he slept easier last night.
Gloucester: H Paul; M Garvey, T Fanolua (T Beim, 79), R Todd, T Delport (J Simpson-Daniel, 78); L Mercier, A Gomarsall; T Woodman (A Deacon, 77), C Fortey (O Azam, 29-36, 58), P Vickery (capt), R Fidler (E Pearce, 69), M Cornwell, J Boer, J Paramore (P Buxton, 78), J Forrester.
Bristol: J Williams (S Drahm, 69); B Daniel, D Rees, D Gibson (M Shaw, 19), P Christophers; F Contepomi, A Pichot; D Crompton (E Bergamaschi, 55), N McCarthy (S Nelson, 78), J White, G Archer, A Brown (A Sheridan, 55), B Sturnham, R Beattie (capt; M Salter, 5), M Lipman.
Referee: T Spreadbury (RFU).Reuse content