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Dominant Gloucester end Bristol’s dream start

18 Sep 2005
Dominant Gloucester end Bristol’s dream start

Prop Vickery, whose career has been ravaged by repeated fitness setbacks, went off nursing a shoulder problem in front of watching England boss Andy Robinson, while Vickery’s fellow World Cup winner Tindall departed clutching his ribs.

However such was Gloucester’s dominance, they hardly needed Vickery or Tindall though, as Dean Ryan’s men easily preserved their unbeaten GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP record and destroyed Bristol’s in the process.

Bristol might have adapted impressively to Premiership life by defeating opening opponents Bath and Newcastle, but Gloucester proved in a different class. Number eight James Forrester scored a try in each other half, while there were also touchdowns for scrum-half Haydn Thomas and full-back Jon Goodridge. Fly-half Ludovic Mercier’s 21-point haul piled on the agony as Gloucester claimed a bonus point.

Jason Strange booted three penalties for Bristol, but Gloucester were never seriously threatened in any aspect of the contest. Bristol’s hopes of continuing their blistering start to the season were hit by injuries that ruled out international forwards Mark Regan (broken thumb) and Gareth Llewellyn (ribs), which meant call-ups for hooker Saul Nelson and lock Roy Winters.

Ryan made one change following an injury-time victory over Sale Sharks last weekend, replacing Azam with Mefin Davies, while Vickery continued as captain with Adam Balding sidelined due to a fractured cheekbone.

Gloucester were forced into a temporary change inside 30 seconds when bloodied England flanker Andy Hazell left the field to be replaced by Jake Boer, and Bristol’s forwards quickly established territorial supremacy. Debutant Bristol wing Brian Lima came agonisingly close to opening Bristol’s account on five minutes, but the Samoan international was bundled into touch by opposite number Rob Thirlby.

Strange though, wasn’t to be denied, maintaining his imperious goalkicking form by landing two penalties in four minutes for a 6-0 lead that Bristol richly deserved.

Opposite number Mercier halved the deficit by slotting his opening penalty, and with Gloucester’s forwards slowly moving into gear, Bristol found themselves under pressure from a five-metre lineout after Mercier sacrificed a kickable penalty.

Gloucester’s decision reaped its reward though, with Forrester being driven over for a try that hoisted the visitors 8-6 ahead. Mercier could not convert, but he then slotted a penalty after Bristol drifted offside, and although Strange completed his penalty hat-trick 10 minutes before the break, another Mercier strike restored a five-point Gloucester advantage.

Bristol found themselves heavily outgunned in the scrums, a trend which continued even after Vickery departed injured, and Mercier booted two more penalties.

But just when Bristol thought things could not get any worse, they conceded a contentious injury-time try and lost scrum-half Shaun Perry through injury.

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