Bath Rugby derby delight as Tom Heathcote wins number tens battle
How and why Bath Rugby managed to let Freddie Burns slip through their fingers and into the clutches of rivals Gloucester has long been questioned in the West Country.
Tom Heathcote went a long way towards serving up an answer on Friday night.
The comparisons between the two number tens are strikingly similar. At 22, Burns is one year Heathcote's senior, while both have a solitary international cap to their name – with England and Scotland respectively.
However, the ruthlessness of the current Bath fly-half was the difference in a thrilling Aviva Premiership derby, with Heathcote successful with his first six kicks at goal – a stark contrast to Burns, who suffered a disappointing return to The Rec.
Bissell's 8910E Aroma Pro is the ultimate in home cleaning giving you a machine that provides outstanding results when not just cleaning carpets but stairs and upholstery too.
Terms: Limited Stock Offer . FREE Delivery to most UK postcodes.
Contact: 01664 491439
Valid until: Tuesday, May 28 2013
The former Bath Academy player and Beechen Cliff pupil split the posts just once in five attempts before being relieved of kicking duties by Rob Cook. The effects of a knee injury eventually saw him withdrawn just 50 minutes into his return to action.
The Cherry and Whites will rightly point out that Burns caused havoc in the Bath defence in open play but Heathcote himself created the hosts' second try with a drop of the shoulder and skilful line break.
"Tom is evolving and he's now got the shirt he wanted," said Bath first-team coach Toby Booth. "He's gained a lot of confidence from his Scottish call-up.
"He's made a couple of great cameos off the bench recently and overall he did very well on Friday.
"He's learning every week and is working exceptionally hard to improve himself – that's going to be good for us going forward."
Heathcote fired Bath ahead early on and when Charlie Sharples denied the charging Tom Biggs a certain score illegally, the fly-half's conversion from the resulting penalty try put the hosts ten points up.
But having returned from The Rec successful on their previous two visits, Gloucester were in no mood to lie down, despite Sharples' sin-binning.
Burns fired a penalty wide but the visitors got on the board when Henry Trinder charged down Nick Abendanon's kick to touch down.
The conversion attempt was off target and Burns' frustration continued when he had a try chalked off following a forward pass during a lightning attack before another penalty went astray.
The visitors' continued pressure was eventually rewarded with the lead, though, when Jonny May bagged the first of his two tries in the corner and Burns find the target for the only time with the conversion.
Heathcote struck back in the battle of the tens, landing a penalty before sending Kyle Eastmond under the posts for a try he converted.
When Burns then missed the target for a fourth time, Cook took over from the tee and cut the half-time deficit to five points.
The two kickers traded penalties as the second half got under way but when hooker Darren Dawidiuk was sent off for a tip tackle on Dave Attwood, Gloucester's race looked run.
Another Heathcote penalty edged them further ahead and even when the sin-binning of Carl Fearns brought numbers level again, Biggs beat three defenders to finish a fine team move and all but secure the win.
A breakaway second touchdown from May, converted by replacement Ryan Mills, meant for a nervy final ten minutes but Bath were not to be denied and kept their hopes of a top-four finish alive.
"It was a difficult evening and although we were in front from start to finish we couldn't really break the stranglehold," said Booth.
"But when we got to the right end of the pitch we've got players who can hurt people and they proved to be the difference.
"In the context of the season, we knew the end of February and March would be important.
"We had a good opportunity at Northampton to bridge that gap and didn't, so it was important to bounce back.
"That resilience is becoming more and more evident each week and that is important as we want to fight tooth and nail for everything we can get."