Pre-season rugby union friendlies remain strange beasts. It is all too easy to swoop upon a smashing victory, glow in optimistic fervour for a week, earnestly predict a campaign to rate among the greatest, only to be blown away a week later by an unfancied outfit. The opposite can occur also. Wailing and gnashing of teeth can accompany the referee’s shrill blast for no-side after a disappointing defeat only for the team to turn things round munificently in the first match that counts. I hope that this will be the case after Gloucester’s defeat to a lively Ospreys fifteen at Kingsholm yesterday. This punter enjoyed the experience though. The first half was a fairly turgid ‘appening enriched by a latish Charlie Sharples try. Not a lot clicked for the home team although Dave Attwood looked a splendid acquisition. The former Bristol inhabitant-o’-the-engine-room took line-out ball with insouciant ease but, importantly, galloped around the paddock with uncompromising zeal and used his undeniable bulk to sizeable effect. I rate him. The second half contained more shape and the cherry and whites attacked with a touch more creativity and, although gifting the visitors a late try and a (possibly) deserved win, proffered an expectant throng a few treats and hints of encouraging times to come. I’m most pleased with our signing from the forgotten wastelands of Nottingham, centre Tim Molenaar, who demonstrated more aggression, verve, energy, thrust and threat in twenty minutes than his illustrious colleague Michael ‘Mike’ Tindall managed in sixty. This fellow could prove a super signing; I can see his rasping, no-nonsense approach becoming a thorn in the side of unsuspecting opposition midfields. Young Freddie Burns looked composed, elegant and creative during his tenure at full back and, when chasing the game with seconds to go, appeared to be full of ideas and wit and guile. Nicky Robinson seemed assured at ten; some of his kicking for touch was marvellous. Most of the other players were satisfactory or better but the forwards lacked a hint of grunt at times and I expected more of the Fijian flyer, Qera, who contributed little and seems a shadow of the explosive force who galloped into our imaginations with such vigour a year and a half ago. Effectively, though, more positives emerged from yesterday’s battle than negatives and if the result was disappointing, it was merry to stand with comrades after a month or three away, and appreciate wry banter and fun. I enjoyed the event.