Peter Butler column: On forwards, the Welsh and Wasps
THE most important aspect of the victory over Wasps on Saturday was getting that crucial win on the board.
Yes, Gloucester should have won by more and invited Wasps on to them in the latter stages, but when you haven't won at home for so long any game becomes a dogfight.
You have to start building confidence from somewhere, and that's usually with some ugly wins before the real rugby can begin to flow.
Gloucester started with a commanding first-half against Wasps, but never felt comfortable until the final whistle had gone.
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The number of impressive individual performances on show was the major encouraging point.
Up front the young Tom Savage was an inspiration late on with his thumping tackles – one after another he smashed Wasps men back which was fantastic to see.
Savage also had his best game as a second row unit with skipper Jim Hamilton, the pair now firmly established as the first-choice second row combination.
Sione Kalamafoni was another to impress, not only with his try but also around the park in his first start for the Cherry and Whites.
There is true competition for places in that back row, with Akapusi Qera coming on later on in a show of power from Nigel Davies.
Elsewhere, Dan Robson, Freddie Burns and Billy Twelvetrees were excellent as a unit and it was great to see James Simpson-Daniel sparkle again.
Sinbad scored a try which shows he has lost none of the pace and guile which make him the most dangerous winger in the Premiership.
But with the finish line in sight all of those performances went out of the window as Gloucester defended their line, desperately in search of the win that would end the disastrous home run of late.
That desperation was encapsulated in the moment when the ball was thrown directly into touch from a Gloucester scrum, but the Cherry and Whites held on and you could see how much it meant to them from their reaction at the final whistle.
The challenge now is to make that the first of many home victories this season, and I am looking forward to watching things continue to build under Nigel Davies.
FORWARDS' SAVAGE WORKLOAD HAS TO BE MANAGED:
I HAVE been looking for a while now for the Gloucester Academy to produce a gem up front after the abundance of talent which has emerged out wide.
And with his performances this season, Tom Savage is showing he could be that man.
With Shaun Knight also in the process of proving himself as a prop, suddenly life is looking good for the Gloucester forward unit.
Savage’s defensive performance against Wasps was as good as any I’ve seen all season across the Premiership.
I know it’s important not to build these youngsters up too early, but you also have to give credit where it’s due, and the lock-cum-blindside is now a permanent fixture in the Gloucester starting line-up, no matter where you play him.
Saying that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nigel Davies leave him out for the trip to London Welsh this weekend in line with a rotation policy designed to manage the workload of particularly the forwards.
Davies will have listened intently to the feedback he received from Jim Hamilton recently – that the Scottish lock felt overplayed under the previous regime.
The director of rugby will be keen not to exhaust any of his frontline weapons too early in the campaign and I will be a keen observer of how he manages those resources.
WELSH WIN WILL BE FAR FROM EASY:
JUST when you thought London Welsh were to be the whipping boys of this Premiership season, they have pulled a couple of brilliant wins out of the bag.
Now Gloucester’s trip to Oxford looks much less an opportunity to rest players, and more a tricky away tie against plucky Premiership new boys.
Clearly there has been some serious reflection on the part of Lyn Jones’ squad, and with victories over first Exeter and then Sale in the bag, they have built some crucial early momentum in a similar manner to the Chiefs in their first season in the top flight.
A concern to Nigel Davies and Gloucester will be the number of injuries picked up against Wasps.
In the latter part of the game someone seemed to be hobbling off every five minutes, which becomes more of an issue when you consider the squad is already light on numbers.
But those who came on did enough to close out the win and enough to give you the confidence that if Davies turns to them to start this weekend, they can put another away victory in the coffers.