GLOUCESTER'S new-look and experimental side suffered a 24-14 defeat in their first pre-season game against Saracens at Kingsholm.
Saracens were fully deserving of their victory because they showed more cohesion as a unit and took advantage of Gloucester's understandably fragile structure in a team that was obviously gelling in key areas.
"To me, tonight is not a success because we didn't win the game and I think it was fairly obvious that for the first 40 minutes we were very much a side finding our feet," said head coach Dean Ryan.
"We looked sharper in the second half, particularly when we played with speed, but I am positive that when some more familiar faces come back into the side we take that performance forward because that was a development for a lot of unfamiliar players.
"There were lots of new faces and it is difficult to ask a new half-back pairing to run a game for you, but we saw the organisational skills of Marco Bortolami in the line-out, a powerful effort from Christian Califano and Willie Walker looks a tidy player.
"Will James has been at Cornish Pirates but I am convinced there is plenty to come from him in the future too.
"The task now is to get some more regular faces back and enhance what we are aiming to do."
Bortolami ran the line-out with streetwise effectiveness, James announced himself to the Kingsholm public inside two minutes with a monstrous demolition of Ben Skirving and when Califano was introduced in the second half, Gloucester won a free-kick from virtually every scrum.
But it was Saracens who were slicker. Glen Jackson was a serious handful at 10, Kevon Sorrell and Ben Johnston ran hard and they kept the ball far better.
Their first try came when Dan Scarbrough and Richard Haughton sustained an attack and when play switched left, Jackson stepped the cover to score after 22 minutes with a lovely angled run.
The second try came four minutes later when scrum-half Alan Dickens tapped a quick penalty to himself close to the line following a neat break by Sorrell.
Gloucester huffed and puffed - Adam Balding, James Merriman and Peter Buxton were always willing to carry ball - but there was little spark and Saracens scored again immediately after the re-start to make it 19-0 when Kris Chesney finished off a penetrating move after Rudi Keil had been penalised for off-side.
And when Ben Russell took another searching pass from Jackson, Saracens were 24-0 ahead with 30 minutes remaining.
Gloucester then made a couple of replacements and both paid instant dividends. Califano's first act was to literally twist a scrum 90 degrees and with Mefin Davies on at hooker, the line-out firmed up.
It was Davies who grabbed the first try, running round to join a line-out and be buried over the line and the set-piece routine worked again ith nine minutes to go for Merriman to be in the vanguard of the move to score.
Walker converted both but the comeback was too late and Saracens were left comfortable 24-14 winners.
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
On a tough evening at Kingsholm, Gloucester could escape neither a suffocating Bath defence, nor the whistle of referee Greg Garner as six penalties and a penalty try paved the way to a 39-16 win for the visitors.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).