Both Gloucester and Bath will go into Amlin Challenge Cup action for the next fortnight feeling fairly good about their first six weeks' endeavours in the Premiership. Gloucester's 16-10 victory felt like a positive sign-off before meeting broader horizons: a packed Kingsholm in the autumn sun and some quality contributions by players from home and overseas.
It was a pretty picture to put before the newest foreign recruit to Gloucester, the All Black scrum-half Jimmy Cowan. The former Highlander had been in England for seven days before getting to work as a second-half substitute, putting in smother tackles on opponents he must quickly learn are deadly local enemies, and coolly standing off at a scrum on his goalline to batter a clearing kick downfield.
"It's what I expected – huge physicality and a different culture of rugby," said Cowan, who played 51 Tests for New Zealand and whose most recent outing was for Southland in Invercargill on 26 September. "It's a wee bit different to how we play the game at home. It's a style that's going to suit me."
One thing not new to him was the presence of two hefty South Sea islanders – Sione Kalamafoni and Akapusi Qera – to provide Gloucester with back-row muscle.
Gloucester expect to see their exciting English backs Jonny May and Charlie Sharples return from injury this week or next but Shane Monahan and Rob Cook have been filling in tidily. Cook scored his first try since joining from Cornish Pirates in the summer – a score made by James Simpson-Daniel. It is sad Simpson-Daniel has given up on adding to his 10 England caps; time and tide, injury and illness never quite aligned for the now 30-year-old from Teesside. The power and pace of the Premiership may be immediately obvious to Cowan; the much rarer ability of Simpson-Daniel to find space and make others around him look good is at a premium, and more's the pity.
Gloucester: Try Cook. Conversion Burns. Penalties Burns 2, Drop Burns. Bath: Try Donald. Conversion Donald. Penalty Donald.
Gloucester: R Cook; S Monahan, H Trinder, B Twelvetrees, J Simpson-Daniel; F Burns, D Robson (J Cowan, 58); N Wood (D Murphy, 62), H Edmonds (K Britton, 62), R Harden (S Knight, 58), T Savage (W James, 46), J Hamilton (capt), S Kalamafoni, A Qera, B Morgan.
Bath: N Abendanon; K Eastmond, D Hipkiss (J Cuthbert, 69), S Vesty, T Biggs; S Donald (O Devoto, 78), M Claassens (M McMillan, 52-56, 69); P James (N Catt, 69), L Mears (capt; R Batty, 63), D Wilson (A Perenise, 63), D Day (W Spencer, 60), D Attwood, C Fearns, B Skirving, S Taylor (W Skuse, 52).
Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).
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