Gloucester hold on to beat Bath
October 6, 2012
Gloucester take the West Country bragging rights
Gloucester had to come back from conceding a first minute try to beat their west-country rivals Bath 16-10 at Kingsholm.
Fly-half Stephen Donald scored and converted a try soon after kick-off and then put Bath 10-0 ahead with a penalty. However, two penalties from Freddie Burns meant the hosts went in at half-time only 10-6 behind. After the break a Rob Cook try and a conversion and drop-goal from Burns meant that Gloucester finished with their fourth win of the season.
Bath will wonder how they let things slip, especially given their early set-piece control, yet Gloucester were in no mood to relent once they set the scoreboard moving.
Burns, who has played himself into England fly-half contention ahead of the autumn Tests, came up trumps at key moments of an attritional contest. His kicking contribution made the difference as Gloucester added Bath to their list of early-season scalps, and they will head into their European campaign next week unbeaten since September 1. They are threatening a place in the play-offs at this early stage of the season, but Bath remain an erratic combination that has yet to settle under the coaching direction of Gary Gold and Toby Booth.
England number eight Ben Morgan returned from injury for Gloucester, while centre Henry Trinder and hooker Huia Edmonds also started and New Zealand scrum-half recruit Jimmy Cowan was on bench duty as the home side looked to make it five Premiership games unbeaten.
Bath were captained by former England hooker Lee Mears in the absence of an injured Stuart Hooper. Dominic Day and ex-Gloucester lock Dave Attwood formed Bath's second-row partnership, with Leicester old boys Sam Vesty and Dan Hipkiss teaming up at centre.
And the visitors made a stunning start, claiming the season's quickest Premiership try after just 32 seconds when Donald made a brilliant 40-metre break. The New Zealander's sold Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees an audacious dummy, then sprinted clear for an opportunist touchdown that he also converted.
Gloucester were rocked on their heels, and they almost fell further behind 13 minutes later when brilliant work along the touchline by Bath wing Kyle Eastmond looked to have created a try for full-back Nick Abendanon. But television match official David Grashoff rightly ruled that Eastmond had a foot on the touchline, and Gloucester escaped.
Gloucester, though, could not get into the game, with Bath enjoying scrummaging supremacy through the efforts of their Wales international loosehead Paul James and dictated the flow accordingly. Donald booted a 21st-minute penalty to extend Bath's lead, but Gloucester secured enough territory late in a low-key half that reaped two penalty chances which Burns accepted.
Bath trooped off just four points clear, yet they will wonder why it was not a more convincing advantage given how Gloucester had lacked fluency or enjoyed any sustained spells of pressure. Gloucester had chances to make life more difficult for Bath early in the second period, but Burns missed a penalty before brilliant defensive work by visiting wing Tom Biggs prevented a certain try.
Biggs' opposite number Shane Monahan set off on a superb angled run towards Bath's line, but Biggs - despite conceding considerable height and weight advantage -got underneath his opponent and prevented the touchdown.
Gloucester, though, only had to wait another three minutes before they breached Bath's defence, and this time it was Monahan's fellow wing James Simpson-Daniel who did the damage. Cropping up in midfield, Simpson-Daniel fixed the Bath defence sufficiently to create space out wide, and former Cornish Pirates player Cook touched down. Burns slotted the touchline conversion, and Gloucester held a three-point lead after fighting back impressively.
Bath tried to re-establish themselves in the game, but Gloucester possessed sufficient game-management skills to retain control, and Burns' 74th-minute drop-goal sealed the deal.
Gloucester director of rugby Nigel Davies was pleased with how his team responded in the second half after a poor opening period.
"We didn't turn up in the first half, we were poor," he said. "I'm proud of how the boys came back in the second half, we had a little more shape and a little more width. We had no control in the first half, no control anywhere, so to come off with only four points between us was quite an achievement."
Bath coach Gary Gold meanwhile felt that his team should have capitalised on their chances when they had them, so as not to allow Gloucester a route back into the match.
He said, ""We deserved to be a little further in front than 10-0, but you need to convert when you are in the ascendancy. We had opportunities to convert, and in tight games - especially away from home - you have to take what is on offer, but unfortunately we didn't do that."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The Heineken Cup proved once again just why it is the best domestic rugby competition in the world at the weekend and Monday Maul picks out some of the key talking points
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson