There again, a team know they are on to something when a 24-carat troglodyte of a French prop creates the crucial score with a toe-poke so delicate that it might have earned him a contract at Sadler's Wells. The fact that Patrice Collazo, the loose-head journeyman who learned his brutal trade in Le Championnat, found Haydn Thomas in a position on the illicit side of whatever offside line you might care to draw did not stop the little scrum-half careering off down the field and, despite showing the footballing touch of a carthorse, scoring close to the left flag.
Collazo caused all manner of mayhem at the Memorial Ground yesterday and duly ended up in the sin-bin, which was only to be expected. Unfortunately for Bristol, another Frenchman lived up to his reputation. Ludovic Mercier, possibly the most natural kicker to play Premiership rugby, converted Thomas' try from the touchline as part of his 21-point haul. More than that, he forced the home players to their knees with a series of sublime punts out of hand.
Richard Hill, the Bristol coach, bemoaned his team's lack of discipline. Matt Salter, the Bristol captain, handed Mercier six points by making a public mug of himself on the wrong side of a ruck and then hitting Thomas marginally late under the nose of a touch-judge. Jason Strange was not much better - the referee, David Rose, took a distinct disliking to his horizontal habits when the ball was on the floor - and once the hosts embarked on a frantic catch-up strategy, it played straight into the hands of James Forrester.
Forrester first announced himself to the West Country cognoscenti some four seasons ago with a couple of astonishing tries at this very venue. Yesterday, he claimed another brace. The first resulted from a rolling maul off a close-range line-out - the kind of muscular finish Dean Ryan, his coach, feared may have been outside his repertoire. The second was more characteristic of his wide-roaming style, completed with a flourish as he dummied Brian Lima to cruise behind the sticks.
He had a hand in the most striking score of the match, too. Scrummaging only a few metres from their line, the Gloucester forwards provided a sufficiently stable platform for Forrester to try his luck off the back. He fed Mark Foster after sucking in the blind-side defence and saw his boldness bear fruit when the wing combined with Mike Tindall to send Jon Goodridge clear of the retreating Bristol hordes.
Without Mark Regan and Gareth Llewellyn, Bristol did not have the kind of hardened Premiership know-how to salvage something, despite the mighty efforts of Mariano Sambucetti and Roy Winters at lock. Gloucester, on the other hand, had the experienced likes of Phil Vickery and Mike Tindall, both of whom fancy another run around the park with England after recovering from long-term orthopaedic traumas.
Sadly, neither went the distance. Tindall took a fearful smack in the ribs while Vickery damaged his left shoulder tackling seven bells out of some poor sap or other. Despite the excruciating pain, he launched himself into one more scrum before accepting the inevitable. It was not the brightest move of all time, but at least it showed a renewed appetite for the game. The man has spirit, that's for sure.
Bristol: Penalties Strange 3. Gloucester: Tries Forrester 2, Thomas, Goodridge; Conversions Mercier 3; Penalties Mercier 5.
Bristol: B Stortoni; B Lima, R Higgitt, M Contepomi (M Denney, 58), V Going; J Strange (D Gray, 69), S Perry (G Nicholls, 40); D Hilton (M Irish, 69), S Nelson (N Clark, 69), D Crompton, M Sambucetti, R Winters, M Salter (capt; O Hodge, 58), J El Abd, G Lewis (D Ward-Smith, 52).
Gloucester: J Goodridge (D McRae, 68); M Foster, M Tindall (J Adams, 71), H Paul, R Thirlby; L Mercier, H Thomas (P Richards, 40); P Collazo, M Davies (O Azam, 58), P Vickery (capt; G Powell, 37), A Eustace, A Brown, P Buxton, A Hazell (J Boer, 1-9; 58), J Forrester (Davies, 75).
Referee: D Rose (Warwickshire).
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