Bath Rugby edge out rivals Gloucester in thrilling West Country derby
MATCH REPORT: BATH RUGBY 31 GLOUCESTER 25
Bath Rugby kept their hopes of a top-four finish in the Aviva Premiership alive with victory in a pulsating West Country derby against rivals Gloucester.
Tom Heathcote scored 16 points with the boot, while a penalty try and touchdowns from Kyle Eastmond and Tom Biggs were enough to see off the visitors at The Rec.
Jonny May scored two tries for Gloucester, while Henry Trinder also crossed, but the Cherry and Whites were forced to play the final 30 minutes a man down when Darren Dawidiuk was sent off.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Wednesday, May 22 2013
It was a frustrating return to Bath for Gloucester fly-half Freddie Burns, with the former academy player and Beechen Cliff School pupil landing just one of five kicks at goal before succumbing to cramp in the second half on his comeback from a knee injury.
Bath first-team coach Toby Booth hailed the victory as crucial in their bid for a place in Premiership semi-finals, with them moving within four points of the fourth-placed Cherry and Whites.
“We spoke about today being a bit of a cup final,” said Booth, who was pleased to deny Gloucester a third consecutive league double over Bath.
“We know how important playing Gloucester is to Bath and they have won the last few times they’ve been here. Things go in cycles and it was important to break that cycle.
“And in the context of the season, we knew the end February and March would be important.
“We had a good opportunity last week at Northampton to bridge that gap and didn’t, and it was important to bounce back today.
“That resilience is becoming more and more evident each week, and that’s important as we want to fight tooth and nail for everything we can get.”
Fly-half Heathcote booted Bath ahead with an early kick at goal and the lead was ten inside five minutes when the hosts were awarded a penalty try.
Centre Matt Banahan broke from his own 22 and into Gloucester territory before kicking downfield for Biggs to chase. Biggs had Charlie Sharples beaten in the race for the line but the Cherry and Whites winger stopped the home flyer illegally just as he was about to fall on the ball.
Sharples was sin-binned for his transgression and the visitors’ plight got even worse when Heathcote landed a difficult conversion.
Had they not been up against their fiercest rivals, Gloucester may well have folded but they stormed back into the game and hauled themselves ahead in a devastatingly dominant 20-minute spell.
Burns was off-target with their first chance at gaining some points but a poor clearing kick from Nick Abendanon gifted them a try soon afterwards.
The home full-back fired straight into the legs of Trinder, allowing the charging centre to continue his run and touch down in the corner.
Burns missed the conversion and his frustration continued when he had a try chalked off following a lightning attack. The pace of the visitors had cut the Bath defence to pieces but May’s pass to Mike Tindall was deemed forward in the build-up to the score.
The Gloucester ten missed another long-range penalty attempt but the visitors’ continued pressure was eventually rewarded with the lead.
May crossed in the corner after a width-of-the-field move along the Bath tryline, with Burns splitting the posts for the only time on the night with the conversion.
When the home side finally got themselves into Gloucester territory for the first time in an age, Heathcote put them back ahead with a penalty before playing a key role in his side’s second try.
The Scotland international slipped between two opponents on halfway before releasing Eastmond, who skipped past Sharples and darted under the posts.
Heathcote split the posts again with the conversion, while the fortunes of his opposite number could not have been greater when a fourth missed kick from Burns resulted in Rob Cook taking over from the tee.
The full-back had much better luck and brought the half-time gap to five points with his first attempt at goal.
The two kickers traded penalties as the second half got under way before the sending off of Gloucester hooker Dawidiuk for a tip tackle on Dave Attwood with half an hour to play seemed to signal the end of his side’s chances.
Heathcote fired over another penalty and even when the numbers were brought even again following Carl Fearns’ sin-binning, Bath were able to run in a third try.
Biggs finished off a fine move from the home back-line, beating three tackles on the left wing before charging over the whitewash. Heathcote was off-target for the first time on the night with the conversion attempt.
Suddenly, however, Gloucester brought themselves within a converted try when May grabbed his second touchdown of the night – converted by Cook – when the Bath defence were again caught cold.
Heathcote and Cherry and Whites replacement Ryan Mills then missed further kicks at goal in a breathless finale but Bath held on for a vital victory.
Having kept themselves in contention for league honours, Gary Gold's side will head to next Saturday's LV= Cup semi-final at Harlequins confident that this can be a very fruitful season.
BATH RUGBY: Abendanon, Agulla, Banahan, Eastmond, Biggs, Heathcote, Stringer, James (Catt 76), Webber (Batty 68), Wilson, Day (Spencer 68), Attwood, Louw, Fearns, Skirving. Replacements not used: Perenise, Gilbert, Claassens, Vesty, Koster.
Tries: Penalty, Eastmond, Biggs. Conversions: Heathcote 2. Penalties: Heathcote 4.
GLOUCESTER: Cook, Sharples, Trinder, Tindall, May, Burns (Mills 51), Robson, Wood (Murphy 55), Dawidiuk, Harden (Chistolini 20), Lokotui, James, Savage (Buxton 75), Qera (Edmonds 54), Kalamafoni. Replacements not used: Edmonds, Hazell, Lewis, Thomas.
Tries: Trinder, May 2. Conversions: Burns, Cook. Penalties: Burns, Cook.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth