Perhaps it was a good thing that a friendly between a second-string Guinness Premiership team and a second-string Australian outfit would bear little relevance for the autumn series opener at Twickenham on Saturday. For the gold and green were in a different league to their opponents here last night.
Martin Johnson, the England manager, would certainly not have paid too much heed; although at least two bits of news would have pricked up those misshapen ears. The first would have been the breakdown at which the Wallabies were absolutely ferocious. The other was the early departure of Tatafu Polota to be replaced by Pek Cowan, a loose head who had never played hooker before.
Robbie Deans, the Australia coach, only selected two No 2s for the tour and it seemed the gamble might well have backfired when Polota, who has been suffering with a sore tendon, trotted off before half-time. But Deans later claimed Polota's exit was a "precaution" and he will be fine to take his place as Stephen Moore's back-up in three days' time. "We wanted to give Pek some time at hooker," said Deans. The Kiwi will be praying he doesn't have to at Twickenham; or else this really would have been a night to forget.
Gloucester, however, will long recall this evening. This was the first time they had played the Australians and the sell-out crowd was indicative of the anticipation. If it was inevitable that Deans would go to his bench – just one of the visiting XV had started against New Zealand in Tokyo on Saturday – then Bryan Redpath's line-up did have something of a shortchanged feel about it. Only five, maybe six, could claim to be bona fide first-teamers.
In the event they were probably relieved to limit the deficit to 31 points. The Wallabies certainly had the wherewithal to waltz through with almost embarrassing ease. The first instance came in the 13th minute when Polota, of all people, was allowed to roam free for 40 metres, before the quick-witted No 10 Quade Cooper sent over the near perfect crosskick to put in Ryan Cross. But the Cherry and Whites were determined not to be too easy pickings. Carlos Spencer wrote the textbook on crossfield kicks and soon put in the full-back Freddie Burns via Charlie Sharples. His exaggerated leap over the line suggested this was a moment the 19-year-old would not be forgetting in a hurry.
A few more of the home heroes could have got their name on the scoresheet. But the Australia defence was tight. Alas, the same could not be said about Gloucester. Tyrone Smith's touchdown was the stuff of the training ground while Drew Mitchell's two tries and Cooper's late score, were similarly effortless. Mitchell should be on the bench at HQ and Johnson would not celebrate the wing's arrival
Gloucester Try Burns. Australia XV: Tries Cross, T Smith, Mitchell 2, Cooper. Penalties Cooper. Conversions Cooper 4.
Gloucester: F Burns (J Simpson-Daniel, 53); C Sharples, H Trinder (J May, 72), T Molenaar, T Voyce; C Spencer, D Lewis (J Pasqualin, 61); P Doran-Jones (B Phillips, 67), D Dawiduik, P Capdevielle (R Harden, 70), W James, A Eustace (D Attwood h-t), J Boer (capt), A Qera, D Williams (A Satala, 61).
Australia XV K Beale; L Turner, R Cross, T Smith, D Mitchell; Q Cooper, L Burgess; S Kepu, T Polota (P Cowan, 37), S Ma'afu (M Dunning 60), D Dennis, D Mumm (capt), M Chapman, M Hodgson, R Brown.
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