Sunday, August 27, 2006

This is Kingsholm

Gloucester 29 – Llanelli 22

This was encouraging. Doughty and determined heads in the Scarlets line-up ensured this was no gimme but a gritty Gloucester performance containing sufficient craft to complement the graft won the spoils. And, despite a need for the city to produce an encouraging display, the victory, any victory, had more import attached to it. The club could not welcome Bath next week with three straight defeats under the collective belt.

For sure, there was scrappiness at times but, certainly, fixtures like these are designed to expose and remedy that. Evident were a series of cameos and displays that heartened and comforted. I liked Bortolami’s style. He is a pacy fellow who, while adhering nattily to the basics of the tight, was able to make himself a nuisance in a variety of game situations. He’ll add a good deal to our fifteen. His captaincy skills were apparent throughout; an encouraging slap on the back here, a few words of encouragement there. He possesses ‘people skills’ for sure. He can inspire. He is welcome.

It was strange to see Iain Balshaw wearing the cherry hue but he showed a lot of class yesterday and by no-side his reputation was, in my eyes, enhanced. Naturally one associates raw pace with the fellow but he demonstrated his intelligence on a number of occasions, choosing a clever line, seeking out a comrade, selecting a place to enter the line or, in defence, demonstrating shrewd organisational skills. He’ll prove an asset to the crew.

Newbies Walker and Califano did nothing wrong all afternoon. The Kiwi outside-half controlled things well, generally kicked with aplomb and appears to be a decent signing who will fill the Lamb-shaped void steadily and with no little poise. Califano is the wily old fox I expected. I’m reassured that he’ll be around to steady ships and add his nous to proceedings over the months.

It was refreshing too to witness the enthusiasm and zeal of others. Peter Richards enjoyed a snarling and energetic match and his will to win and quickness of thought caught the eye. This livewire shall be key to our chances this season but I appreciated Rory Lawson’s twenty minute cameo that was almost Richardsesque in its effervescence and appetite for action. Peter Buxton had a pleasing match and, especially in a ten minute purple patch after the break, proved a colossus and almightily difficult to bring to ground. Andrew Hazel remains Andrew Hazel and I salute the terrier. To state that England’s loss is the city’s gain is obvious but there shall ne’er be a truer word spake all term methinks. For me, James Forrester deserves the man-of-the-match nod. It is churlish to suggest that he could, on occasions, seek out a team mate more readily when he is making such clean breaks and scoring such bewitching tries as yesterday but that remains my only minor criticism of the youngster. As I see it, his confidence levels are sky-high, he is carrying the ball with a tad more power than usual and, my word, he wants to win rugby football matches for the city club.

There were many positives on show yesterday but to defeat the old rivals from Bath next week, a touch more ruthlessness, a tad more streetwise, heads-up ‘thinking rugby’ needs to permeate the team. At times Gloucester made the heaviest of weather when attempting to cross the try-line and this was against, at times, only fourteen fellows who were not, despite a fierce collective competitive nature, seeking league points. That said, I tip my favoured team to open the new season with a win next weekend and I would be pleased to see the gnarled and rugged Collazo back in the fifteen as well as old lag Tindall and young pup Allen replacing Keil (steady enough, to be fair) and Adams in midfield. Would there be a better way to start a new season than with a merciless dismantling of the Somerset side? Can’t wait…

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