Gloucester 27 Bristol 0: Lloyd double shows depth of Gloucester's title ambition

Leaders brush weakened neighboursaside to go five points clear at the top
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The Independent Online

Gloucester are getting quite good at this, especially at Fortress Kingsholm. It used to be called "Castle Grim". Not any more, at least not by the patrons. The club have invested heavily in improving facilities and it is money well spent. For a match sold out weeks ago, Gloucester did not disappoint their hordes of fans, dominating this West Country derby by the emphatic margin of four tries to nil.

Dean Ryan's side were already the creamy head of the Guinness Premiership, and their bonus-point victory here puts them five points clear at the top. This was their 16th successive win at Kingsholm in the league and their eighth victory in a row in all competitions. By contrast, Bristol have not won on the road in the Premiership since beating Northampton last January, and yesterday they came a poor second. They were missing several key players through injuries and their coach, Richard Hill, said: "We've had a series of tough games and this one was a little bit too far for us. We did not have enough left in the tank to respond."

Before the start, Hill had said: "Gloucester have amassed a heck of a squad and I think we're all a little bit envious of the money that's been going in." That is usually code for "how the hell do they manage it under the salary cap?"

Ryan Lamb kicked Gloucester in front with a straightforward penalty, downwind, in the fourth minute but ended up missing five kicks from eight. The conditions made goal-kicking more of a miss than a hit, but it hardly mattered to Gloucester.

Their first two tries had more than an element of good fortune, but as the second half warmed up they created and executed a couple of beauties. By the 12th minute Gloucester were 8-0 ahead. From a line-out close to the Bristol line Alex Brown appeared to tap the ball forward but the first player to respond was the home hooker, Olivier Azam, who dived to score. Azam went on to play a blinder in every facet of the game.

After David Hill had failed with what looked a relatively easy penalty, Gloucester went further ahead. Hill threw out a pass to his right which was gathered by James Simpson-Daniel, who had changed position after an early reshuffle. Mike Tindall suffered nerve damage to a leg in the ninth minute, so Simpson-Daniel switched to centre with Leon Lloyd coming in on the right wing. The former Leicester player made the most of his opportunity.

When Simpson-Daniel snapped up Hill's pass, Lesley Vainikolo was halted down the left but Lamb put in a cross-kick that was perfectly weighted and measured for Lloyd to score under no pressure.

Bristol might have suspected this was not going to be their day when they were awarded a penalty, worked the touchline and then missed their jumper. After Hill struck an upright with a penalty, Simpson-Daniel marked his 100th Premiership appearance by slicing through with a teasing run and dummy that left the Arscott brothers, Luke and Tom, in two minds. It came from a tap penalty taken by Azam and the link was Lamb.

Nor was Azam finished. The Frenchman had a hand in Gloucester's fourth try, which featured an impressive injection of pace by the scrum-half, Rory Lawson; Lloyd took an inside pass at full pelt to touch down at the posts.

As West Country derbies go it was lacking a bit of the old Wild West until, near the end, Matt Salter, the Bristol captain, charged headlong into a ruck. Seeing red, Vainikolo respondedin similar fashion. When the dust settled, Salter needed treatment, as did Christian Califano.

Eventually the referee, David Pearson, showed a yellow card to Salter. Vainikolo got off scot- free. Mr Pearson had done Bristol no favours whatsoever, but this was adding insult to injury. You are 27-0 down at Kingsholm and your captain is sent to the sin-bin. It could hardly getany worse.

Salter trooped off to derision from the spectators in the smart new South Stand. To say he was angry was an understatement. There was still time for Lamb to fail with another relatively easy kick and for the Gloucester captain, Marco Bortolami, to see yellow for a dangerous tackle. While Salter was booed and jeered, Bortolami went off to warm and sustained applause. The comforts of home.

Gloucester: W Walker; J Simpson-Daniel, MTindall (L Lloyd, 14), A Allen (C Paterson, 69), L Vainikolo; R Lamb, R Lawson (M Prendergast, 77); N Wood, O Azam (J Paul, 77), C Califano (J Forster, 71), M Bortolami (capt), A Brown (W James, 71), A Strokosch (P Buxton, 59), L Narraway, A Qera.

Bristol: L Arscott; T Arscott, R Higgitt, S Cox, D Lemi; D Hill (E Barnes, 61), B O'Riordan (H Thomas, 70); A Clarke, S Linklater, D Crompton, R Winters (P Attwood, 59), S Hohneck, M Salter (capt), A Blowers, A To'oala (J El Abd, 61).

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).