Gloucester stay top after outstanding derby
February 28, 2009
Charlie Sharples of Gloucester scores a try
© Getty Images
Gloucester retained top spot in the Guinness Premiership today but Bath will feel aggrieved to have left the home of their arch-rivals with nothing following an outstanding derby.
Seven tries, two further sin-binnings, a sending-off and a fast and ferociously attacking game sent the fans out of Kingsholm having received their money's worth and then some. Gloucester needed the victory to move further away at the top of the table from Sale Sharks after defeat at Harlequins last week. But Bath came out firing from the start with a try from hooker Rob Hawkins and a Butch James conversion. That initiative did not last long as Gloucester, often slow starters this season, hit back and nearly scored twice.
It went quiet for 20 minutes before exploding in the final seven minutes of the first half with four tries being scored, three of them going Gloucester's way to put the Cherry and Whites ahead 23-17 at the break. James and Carlos Spencer notched a penalty apiece for their respective sides before centre James Simpson-Daniel became the architect of Gloucester's revival. He won the race for the ball as it bounced in the Bath in-goal area after Spencer's delicate grubber kick from near the posts.
Simpson-Daniel, capped 10 times by England, then moulded a move from the Bath 10-metre line for wing Charlie Sharples to get over in the left corner. Bath centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu then threw a high pass on his own 10m line which Simpson-Daniel intercepted and he raced 40 metres to the posts, with Spencer adding the extras to this one.
It put Gloucester 20-10 ahead but, after a charge in the home 22 from prop Duncan Bell and giant wing Matt Banahan, Hawkins took a pass five metres out, was tackled but stretched his arm to touch the ball on the line, with James converting. The action was still not complete in this breathless period. Olly Barkley made it 23-17 to the hosts, but then James kicked a penalty for Bath when centre Anthony Allen was sin-binned for coming in on the wrong side.
Gloucester went 10 points ahead at 30-20 as wing Iain Balshaw and opposite number Banahan chased for a kick downfield. Banahan got in Balshaw's way and it could easily have been a penalty try but scrum-half Rory Lawson followed up to dive on the loose ball and score, with Barkley converting.
That gave Gloucester a bonus point but Bath were back in the game when James quickly tapped a penalty close to the opposition line and put wing Andrew Higgins in from five metres, with James converting. And the tension flared up when prop Nick Wood got a yellow card for a high tackle on Bath full-back Joe Maddock.
Alex Crockett was sent off for a second sin-bin offence when he tackled Sharples without the ball in the 63rd minute when the wing had kicked into open space on his left. But, even with a man down, Bath put Gloucester under pressure and nearly got over for a fourth try on a couple of occasions. Two penalties from ex-Bath centre Olly Barkley, though, put Gloucester nine points ahead.
James missed with two penalties at the end to give his team at least a losing bonus point and they were unfortunate to leave with nothing from a brilliant spectacle.
Gloucester: Morgan, Balshaw, Simpson-Daniel, Allen, Sharples, Spencer, R. Lawson, Wood, Azam, Somerville, Eustace, Brown, Satala, Hazell, Delve. Replacements: Barkley for Simpson-Daniel (33). Not Used: Titterrell, Forster, Wright, Williams, Lamb, Foster. Sin Bin: Allen (41), Wood (61).
Bath: Maddock, Higgins, Crockett, Fuimaono-Sapolu, Banahan, James, Claassens, Barnes, Hawkins, Bell, Harrison, Short, Beattie, Scaysbrook, Browne. Replacements: Bemand for Claassens (1), Hooper for Short (65), Faamatuainu for Browne (65). Not Used: Lilley, Jarvis, Berne, Stephenson. Sin Bin: Crockett (13). Sent Off: Crockett (63).
Att: 16,500 Ref: Wayne Barnes