Gloucester 51 Bourgoin 27: Lamb heads feast as Gloucester batter Bourgoin

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The Independent Online

For a good number of minutes at Kingsholm 80 of them, to be precise Ryan Lamb, a jack-the-lad of an outside-half who cannot be counted among the ultra-privileged Brideshead set who so frequently find their way into the higher echelons of the union game in England, looked the best No 10 in the country. Then Danny Cipriani started playing in the late Heineken Cup kick-off at Wasps, and the balance of opinion shifted eastwards. It has its frustrations, being one of the golden generation.

Not that Lamb wastes too much time fretting over his position in the current pecking order, which includes two other startling young playmaking talents in Toby Flood and Shane Geraghty, not to mention old lags of Wilkinson-Hodgson-Barkley variety.

"I have enough on my plate holding down a first-team place at Gloucester," he said, aware that Chris Paterson, the Scotland captain and a 100 per cent goal-kicker at the recent World Cup, is now on the staff.

The right approach? Definitely. But then, Lamb is doing most things right these days, much to the delight of the Kingsholm coaching team. The exception, it must be reported, was giving some lip to the wrong people in the wrong part of town a couple of weeks ago and landing himself in hot water with the local constabulary.

"That's something I regret," he admitted, "but I want to put it to bed now and concentrate on my rugby. I've worked hard on my game management and I believe I'm a better player now than this time last year."

Talking of hard work, does he take the self-flagellatory Wilkinson approach to preparation? How many hours does he spend practising his marksmanship, for instance? "Hours?" he replied, feigning shock that anyone could be in such dire need of a life. The man has a sense of humour. Long may he retain it.

A personal 26-point haul had him smiling, although there was precious little pressure on Gloucester once George Clancy, the referee, awarded a dodgy try to the unfeasibly quick Fijian flanker Akapusi Qera, thereby ensuring that Bourgoin would gain no advantage from an opening 20 minutes full of French flair and sophistication. The visitors conceded a second try to the outstanding Gareth Delve in the next home attack and then lost Damien Fevre to the cooler. It was a rotten seven minutes, each of them featuring a deadly rugby sin of one sort or another.

Lamb had a ball, pinging over conversions from the widest angles and flicking lovely little delayed passes to runners on either shoulder. He even grabbed himself an interception try, just as he had in Bourgoin the previous week, propelling his side past the 40-point mark. Gloucester are now sitting top in Pool Two and will almost certainly qualify even if they fail to take anything from the visit to Ospreys in a little under four weeks' time.

There will be those, aware of Bourgoin's miserable Heineken Cup performances down the years, who will refuse to rate the West Country club's potential for European success on the basis of a game such as this. But the Frenchmen played a fully active part in Saturday's entertainment, rather than a horizontal one; indeed, Benjamin Boyet, their excellent stand-off, played at a level Lamb did well to surpass.

And anyway , Gloucester would certainly have beaten a Perpignan, and probably a Biarritz, on the basis of this showing. They have at least two top-class performers in most positions three in some and in Dean Ryan they have a head coach whose authority increases by the day. Lamb is not the sort to listen to everyone, but he listens to Ryan. Between them, they will make things happen.

Gloucester: Tries Qera, Delve, Balshaw, Walker, Lamb, Vainikolo; Conversions Lamb 6; Penalties Lamb 3. Bourgoin: Tries Nicolas, Genevois, Fevre; Conversions Boyet 3; Penalties Boyet 2.

Gloucester: I Balshaw (W Walker H-T); J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall (L Lloyd 74), A Allen, L Vainikolo; R Lamb, R Lawson (G Cooper 61); N Wood, O Azam (A Titterrell 61), C Nieto (C Califano 61), P Buxton (capt, A Strokosch 70), A Brown, L Narraway (M Bortolami 54), A Qera, G Delve.

Bourgoin: F Denos; M Nicolas (A Forest 65), R Coetzee, M Viazzo (N Carmona 46), D Janin; B Boyet (capt), M Parra (R Mandon 67); A Tchougong, J-P Genevois, O Sourgens, C Wyatt, D Fevre (J Pierre 80), B Monzeglio, M Rennie, W Joost (A Petrilli 49).

Referee: G Clancy (Ireland).