Little an instant hit at Kingsholm

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The Independent Online

At last an honest-to-goodness traditional derby, littered with bodies and errors, highs and lows, rumbling forwards, fumbling backs, even a nostalgic glimpse of the dark ages of amateurism with a brief brawl for the enthusiastic 6,000-plus crowd to savour.

At last an honest-to-goodness traditional derby, littered with bodies and errors, highs and lows, rumbling forwards, fumbling backs, even a nostalgic glimpse of the dark ages of amateurism with a brief brawl for the enthusiastic 6,000-plus crowd to savour.

But Gloucester prop Phil Vickery's stunning solo try late on, which earned Gloucester their bonus point, could not upstage the Australian maestro Jason Little, who marked his debut at Kingsholm with a fine performance and two of Gloucester's four tries.

Little is still not fully fit following knee surgery, but his left leg held up for 76 minutes, by which time he had done enough damage to suggest that he will make even more of an impact as the season progresses. The Wallaby centre entered into the spirit of the contest from the off, contributing not just points but some big hits and canny running off his team-mates.

These West Country derbies have a pretty bloody history; yesterday, though, the only blood that looked likely to be spilled in this 202nd meeting was that of referee Nigel Yates. Some of his decisions incensed the home crowd to the point where had Gloucester lost the match, one might have feared for his wellbeing.

Thankfully, rugby and good sense prevailed. The atmosphere was tense throughout, the spills adding to the thrills.

There was the habitual fluffing of Bristol line-outs and the obligatory collection of unforced errors from both sides, no doubt the occasion and over-eagerness getting to them. But there were also some great moments, such as Bristol's drive for the line for their opening try.

That was as a direct result of a penalty against Chris Fortey, who appeared to knock over Agustin Pichot after the whistle had gone. It was from the resultant line-out that Williams got his try.

Gloucester finally got the message and the pack began a controlled series of drives, moving into better positions with every huff and puff. Once they were near enough Andy Gomarsall, a much-improved performer, darted through a gap before popping the ball up perfectly for Little to smash through the remaining few metres and open his account.

He completed his double in the 46th minute, pounding upfield for 45 metres after some fancy footwork by Terry Fanolua had opened up the defence. That try was not the first of the second half, though, that honour went to Olivier Azam. With Simon Mannix landing all but one conversion and Vickery rumbling some 30 metres for his well-taken try, it was all over for Bristol.

Gloucester: C Catling; J Ewens T Fanolua, 36), J Little (I Sanders, 76), C Yates, T Beim; S Mannix, A Gomarsall; A Powles (O Azam, 14), C Fortey (P Vickery, 79), P Vickery (S SAnchez, 74), R Fidler (A Eustace, 55), I Jones, J Boer (S Ojomoh, 48), J Paramore, K Jones (capt; A Hazell, 55).

Bristol: S Marsden; D Rees, E Simone (J Mayer, 79), L Davies, S Brown; S Vile, A Pichot (capt); P Johnstone, B Williams, D Crompton, A Sheridan, D Ryan (S Morgan, 74), S Fenn, B Sturnham (J Brownrigg, 64), A Vander.

Referee: N Yates (Manchester).

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