Paul to Sir Clive: pick me

Gloucester 36 Newcastle 12
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There may have been no Jonny Wilkinson, but England head coach Sir Clive Woodward saw enough exciting players yesterday - chiefly in Gloucester shirts - to be reassured that rugby is not a one-man game.

Henry Paul was a towering presence in attack, in defence, on the ball, off it, kicking for goal; you name it, the Glouycester centre did it. He was the spark that ignited the backs, injecting every move with intelligence.

He was not alone. Scrum-half Andy Gomarsall gave a polished performance, although he provided Woodward with a couple of scares, first with a leg injury, then with a shoulder knock. But overall the England coach must have been a happy man.

He also saw two of his props, Gloucester's Trevor Woodman and Phil Vickery, doing their stuff at the set-piece and putting themselves about in the loose. Woodman even showed his skill as a kicker, thumping one ball behind the advancing Newcastle defenders, such was the home side's confidence in this rout.

It was a victory that had begun with Paul's seismic tackle on Falcons centre Mark Mayerhofler. The contact threw the visiting defence into disarray, leading, ultimately, to a try for the muscular centre Robert Todd after just 85 seconds.

Thereafter Paul, the former league international, displayed his brilliant footballing brain and serious rugby brawn. The third Gloucester try was as a direct result of what might be termed "HP Sauce" as Paul cheekily offered the ball one way then the other, wrong-footing the defence before bursting through and feeding Todd, who this time found the slippery fly-half Duncan McRae.

In between Paul organised the defence on the rare occasions that the Falcons ventured forward. But Newcastle had nothing with which to counter the classy Gloucester personnel. Lock Adam Eustace delivered a deft pop pass to the wing Marcel Garvey, and he scorched through to touch down wide out.

Paul knocked over his third conversion effortlessly. Although he missed the next one, scored by the replacement No 8 James Forrester for a precious bonus point, he made no mistake with the fifth after Terry Fanolua's stunning break down the left wing. Newcastle's two tries, one at the end of each half, were mere post-scripts to a poor performance.

Gloucester 36 Newcastle 12

Half-time: 24-7 Attendance: 11,000

Gloucester: J Goodridge; M Garvey, R Todd, H Paul, T Fanolua; D McRae, A Gomarsall (A Page, 72); T Woodman, C Fortey (C Collins 15-21), P Vickery (capt), A Eustace (M Cornwell, 72), A Brown, P Buxton, A Hazell, J Paramore (J Forrester, 47).

Newcastle: J Shaw; T May, J Noon, M Mayerhofler (M Wilkinson, 80), M Shaw; D Walder, J Grindal (H Charlton, 40); I Peel (D Wilson, 75), M Thompson (N Makin, 72), M Hurter, G Archer (C Hamilton, 62), S Grimes, J Dunbar, H Vyvyan (capt), W Britz.

Referee: D Pearson (Ashington).