Gloucester 63 Bristol 25: Perry misses scrum-half showdown and an eight-try thrashing

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The Independent Online

If the policy of certain clubs to field lesser players in the EDF Energy Cup has done nothing else, it has at least given the public an opportunity to view the future. In this case, Gloucester's future.

The final hour of this particular confrontation made for excellent armchair viewing. The only disappointment was that there was no Shaun Perry at scrum-half for Bristol. Had he been on the pitch it would have pitted the present England scrum-half, Peter Richards, against his heir apparent. Richards admitted his disappointment.

"He [Perry] will be in direct competition for the England No 9 jersey with me and Harry Ellis of Leicester," said the man who played in both Tests against Australia in the summer. "And you always want to pit your wits against the best."

Bizarrely, the pair of scrum-halves have never faced each other, for one reason or another. Perry might be relieved at the latest case of avoidance, because Gloucester, thrashed by the Ospreys the previous weekend, were breathtaking. In addition to the thrusting presence of Richards around the scrum and breakdown, they possess pace aplenty from front row to full-back and they used it impressively against their West Country neighbours.

After an abysmal opening 30 minutes - "We have struggled with that first 30 minutes of every game this season and today was no different," said Dean Ryan, Gloucester's director of rugby - there was an avalanche of scoring opportunities for the Cherry and Whites, and they converted eight of them.

At the hub of a spellbinding chunk of the second half was the immensely gifted fly-half Ryan Lamb, whose quick-witted rugby brain masterminded the slaughter. And he scored a try with his first touch of the ball.

Ryan's usually stony physiognomy actually cracked into what, for him, qualifies as a grin when he savoured the prospect of fielding, in the near future, a midfield containing Lamb, the speedy Anthony Allen, and the hugely impressive and powerful Jack Adams, who in particular, looks a class act. He breaks tackles, makes breaks, shakes defences and sets up chances for others to take. He has a polished pass and great hands and reads situations like a veteran, yet he is barely 20. He is not so much one to watch for as someone you cannot miss. With the equally talented Allen and Lamb to play off, this promises to be a formidable midfield.

Although Adams had to leave the field with 12 minutes to go, reducing Gloucester to 14 men because they had used up all their replacements and a dead leg does not qualify for a "blood bin" player exchange, he left his team in good order.

Bristol's two late tries could not disguise what this was - a record walloping, and by a second-string Gloucester team. Ominously for other teams, Ryan promised: "We were not seriously derailed by what happened at the Ospreys last week, and if we qualify for the knock-out stages I can assure you it will be our first-choice side which plays from there on in."

Gloucester: Tries Foster, Richards, Goodridge 2, Lamb, Bailey, Forrester, Lawson; Conversions Mercier 7; Penalties Mercier 3. Bristol: Tries Stortoni, Sambucetti, Reay; Conversions Gray 2; Penalties Gray 2.

Gloucester: J Goodridge; J Bailey, J Adams, R Keil (A Allen, 40), M Foster (R Lamb, 62); L Mercier, P Richards (R Lawson, 40); P Collazo (J Forster, 56), M Davies (O Azam, 59), C Califano, W James, A Eustace, P Buxton (capt; J Forrester, 66), A Hazell (J Boer, 50), L Narraway (Forrester 31-38).

Bristol: L Arscott; B Stortoni, W Pozzebon, S Cox (A Maggs, 61), A Reay; D Gray, B O'Riordan (G Nicholls, 56); M Irish (J Wring, 56), D Blaney (S Nelson, 61), J Hobson (W Thompson, 56), M Sambucetti, N Budgett (D Attwood, 56), R Martin-Redman (C Pennycook, 19), C Short (capt), G Lewis.

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).