As wild West Country derbies go, the sheriff had a pretty quiet time of it. Nobody shot up the saloon and there was no need of a posse as Bristol quietly left town. Perhaps the game has become too professional for the rip-roaring days of old, but this stand-off was curiously impersonal.
Or perhaps, as Dean Ryan, the Gloucester coach, said, conditions were far more difficult than most people realised. Whatever, the Gloucester faithful couldn't give a monkey's. The club recorded their 16th Guinness Premiership win in a row at Kingsholm; they scored four tries to nil and the bonus-point thus gained put them five points clear at the top of the table. On Friday evening they make the short journey to Bath for what promises to be a much more ferocious argument between neighbours.
A heavy pitch and a strong wind played havoc with Ryan Lamb's goal-kicking he managed three out of eight but the quality of Gloucester's tries improved considerably in the second half. James Simpson-Daniel celebrated his 100th Premiership appearance with a trademark score, gliding between the Arscott brothers, Luke and Tom, after Lamb and Olivier Azam provided the approach work. A few minutes later Azam was involved again after Rory Lawson got The Shed excited with a great turn of foot to set up Leon Lloyd for a try at the posts.
"It was a good all round team effort," Ryan said. "There was no outstanding individual performance and we didn't do anything spectacular but we had five opportunities and took four of them. This time last year we wouldn't have won so convincingly. We are building a squad that is still on a development curve."
Beforehand Richard Hill, Bristol's coach, had said: "Gloucester have amassed a heck of a squad. I think we're all a little bit envious of the money that's going in." Afterwards, Hill said that his own squad, depleted by injuries, did not have such strength in depth.
"We've had some tough games and it takes its toll," he said. "This match was a little bit too far for us. We did not have enough left in the tank to respond." Bristol, who have not won on the road in the Premiership in almost a year, had Mark Regan on the bench although Hill said the England hooker was not fit for action. There was no one else available.
Gloucester, on the other hand, had the rampaging Azam in the middle of their front row and the Frenchman is in prime form. He scored the opening try in the 12th minute, diving on a loose ball over the Bristol line after it appeared that Alex Brown had tapped forward at a line-out.
By half-time Gloucester were 15-0 to the good. David Hill threw a pass straight to Simpson-Daniel and the defence was sufficiently stretched down the left flank to enable Lamb who has just signed a new two-year contract to put in a perfectly judged cross kick to the right, where Lloyd had the time and space to catch and go.
Ryan has made some smart signings at the resplendent new Kingsholm, including Alasdair Strokosch from Edinburgh, a flanker capped once by Scotland, and on the other flank the mega-hitting Fijian Akapusi Qera. Lloyd, a veteran recruit from Leicester, is another case in point.
He came on after only nine minutes, by which time Mike Tindall had damaged a nerve in a leg and had limped off; Simpson-Daniel moved to the centre and Lloyd made the most of his opportunity with two well-taken tries. His career he won everything with the Tigers has been given fresh impetus and further honours await.
As Richard Hill said: "This could be a very big year for Gloucester."
Gloucester: Tries Azam, Lloyd 2, Simpson-Daniel; Conversions Lamb 2; Penalty Lamb.
Gloucester: W Walker; J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall (L Lloyd, 9), 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), A Qera, L Narraway.
Bristol: L Arscott; T Arscott, R Higgitt, S Cox, D Lemi; D Hill (E Barnes, 61), B O'Riordan (H Thomas, 70); A Clarke (D Hilton, 59), S Linklater, D Crompton, R Winters (D Attwood, 59), S Hohneck, M Salter (capt), A To'oala (J El Abd, 61), A Blowers.
Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).Reuse content