Dean Ryan, the Gloucester head coach, has already parted with enough players (seven) to the Six Nations, not to mention a string of injuries to key figures such as Mike Tindall and James Forrester, so the last thing he needs is to lose any more personnel.
But if Newcastle's director of rugby John Fletcher had his way Gloucester would lose another player to England. After being on the receiving end of James Simpson-Daniel at his most potent – the sometime international scored one try, had a hand in another and proved a handful throughout an intense and exciting tussle – Fletcher said: "How the hell James Simpson-Daniel is not playing for the national team I don't know. If he ever wants to move up to the north-east, tell him he can give me a call."
"Sinbad", as Simpson-Daniel is known, was at the heart of much of the good that Gloucester did, prompting, urging, encouraging those less experienced around him and ensuring that they kept their heads even when they were trailing by 11 points with less than half an hour left.
Inspired by Sinbad the centres Anthony Allen and Jack Adams put in heroic performances among an imaginative set of backs who created countless opportunities. That there were not more Gloucester tries was puzzling but the finishing was too casual at times.
If there was any other puzzle to this match, it was that the backs had so much ball to use, given how poorly the Gloucester line-out functioned. Poor Olivier Azam, whose arrival coincided with some off-target howlers, at least made up for it in the loose, where it might be said that he made his presence felt. But so did Newcastle, especially in the first half when they twice pounced on Gloucester errors to score tries, and stand-in goal-kicker Tom May was able to complete a full house of scores with a try, two conversions a penalty and a drop goal.
It was when going for a second drop goal in added time that May blotted his otherwise exemplary copybook. His attempt was charged down by Luke Narraway and Fijian flanker Akapusi Qera was put in for the third try, the conversion of which put even a losing bonus point beyond Newcastle's reach.
All in all it was a satisfying day for Ryan, who now knows he has some strength in depth in his squad. He was without a dozen first choice players for various reasons but he knows that there is more than a thread of character running through the youngsters. They did not just hang in there, they turned around a game in circumstances that might have seen many another side imploding.
"I am pleased with the players. We created a lot of chances and I am pleased with the young guys in the backs," Ryan said. "The forwards worked really hard too, perhaps we could have been just a bit smarter. But we got there in the end."
Gloucester: Tries Simpson-Daniel, Bailey, Qera; Conversions: Walker 2; Penalties Walker 3. Newcastle: Tries Phillips, May; Conversions May 2; Penalty May; Drop goal May.
Gloucester: W Walker; J Simpson-Daniel, J Adams (J Bailey, 45-49), A Allen, M Foster; R Lamb (J Bailey, 73), G Cooper; N Wood, A Titterrell (O Azam, 55), J Forster, W James (A Qera, 62), A Brown, P Buxton (capt), A Hazell, L Narraway.
Newcastle: T May; O Phillips, T Dillon, A Tait (J Shaw, 77), J Rudd (T Visser, 77); S Jones, L Dickson (J Grindal, 65); J McDonnell (D Wilson, 65), M Thompson (A Long, 65), C Hayman, A Perry (B Wilson, 68), M Sorenson, G Parling, B Woods, P Dowson (capt).
Referee: M Fox (Leicestershire).Reuse content