RESURGENT Rupert Harden has challenged the Glouces- ter scrum to keep turning their Exeter humiliation on its head.
Tighthead prop Harden admitted being substituted tactically after just 38 minutes of Gloucester's Exeter defeat was the lowest ebb of his Kingsholm career. The 28- year-old was withdrawn by the Gloucester coaches against Exeter for fear of suffering a yellow card, in the Cherry and Whites' 29-12 home shaming on October 6.
But the former Newcastle Falcons academy front-rower hit back in style against Munster on Saturday night, spearheading Gloucester's revam- ped scrummage approach.
Harden conceded Glouces- ter misjudged the impact of the revised scrummaging law interpretations this season.
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And now he has called on the Cherry and Whites pack to harness the scrum ballast they have rediscovered in the last Heineken Cup fortnight.
If Gloucester stabilised their set-piece in 27-22 Perpignan victory, Nigel Davies' men took charge at the coalface despite the 26-10 defeat at Thomond Park.
Now Harden expects another big step forward when Premiership action resumes with the West Country derby clash at Bath on Friday night (7.45pm).
Harden explained: "Exeter was probably the worst game ever.
"That's my worst game I've ever experienced.
"I was humiliated by that, but I think all of us were. "We had our pants pulled down as a collective eight.
"I'll definitely take my portion of the blame.
"Any successful scrum is an eight-man effort; it needs full buy-in.
"As a collective we weren't at the races against Exeter, and it was embarrassing.
"We've gone away, taken our licks and hopefully moved forward.
"Perpignan went well: Yann Thomas was successful across both sides of the scrum.
"And I kind of feel we took that bar forward against Munster. There's more to come but I feel like we're on the right track."
Gloucester might have made a reasonable fist of their opening challenges in pool six of the Heineken Cup.
But the Cherry and Whites are not happy at all with three defeats from their first five Premiership matches.
Citing rising scrum power as vital to balancing out that sticky start, Harden continued: "We've been really disappointed with our scrum before this.
"The Exeter game for me was a whole new low, I was gutted with that.
"We realised we had to go away and have a long, hard look at ourselves.
"We haven't become a bad scrum overnight, for much of last year when we were a fit tight five according to the Opta stats we were a top-four scrum.
"So you can't take that and suddenly within months turn from being that dominant to completely useless.
"We've been getting the small margins wrong.
"With the new laws a lot of people expected big change, and I don't actually think much has changed at all.
"All that's happened is that the gap's shorter between the two front-rows when you pack down.
"Ultimately you're still pushing and trying to win the hit, which is still there and still paramount.
"For the first few games we weren't winning that hit, we were sat there getting smashed.
"That puts you on the back foot and you can't recover.
"We went away after Exeter, we had a real long look and tweaked a few things, right across the scrum.
"We looked at the scrums which have been successful so far, and analysed what's been dominant.
"And now hopefully we're on the right track.
"On the whole on Saturday I thought we were generally the scrum going forward most of the time.
"We had them popping up a lot, and maybe we'd get a lot more out of it on another day."