Bath hold on to complete treble over Gloucester

The victory, perhaps the most significant since Brian Ashton's return to the Rec, pulled Bath clear of the danger zone at the bottom of the Guinness Premiership, demonstrating that they have both the appetite and the ability to take the game to the top sides in the league and beat them on their own patch.
Brian Ashton's side, who were looking to get back on track after an error-strewn performance against Irish, were outstanding playing into a gale in the first half as once again their enthusiasm to use the ball to play their way out of trouble was to prove decisive as the conditions. At times they were sublime, and both first half tries provided proof as to what damage can be done when you generate quick ball.

However, despite Bath's first half superiority, this derby encounter served up ample helpings of drama in a second half that Gloucester dominated in terms of possession. The home side scored two tries of their own to set up a tense finish, but it was the action inbetween James Bailey and Mark Foster's try that was to cost them the game.

The turning point came when Ludovic picked off a wayward pass to steam towards the try line. With no one in front of him and England speed merchant James Simpson-Daniel outside him, it seemed to the 12,000 crowd that a try was inevitable. However, no one told Bath's Andy Higgins, who sprinted across the field to strip the ball off the embarrassed fly half as he prepared to cross the try line. It was a significant moment that summed up Gloucester's afternoon - so close, yet so far.

"In that situation you have to keep on chasing, because it shows character" said Higgins. "I was confident that I could catch Mercier, but not Simpson Daniel, so it was lucky that he did not pass and I caught him."

Following a nervy start it was Bath, who despite playing into the elements, who settled first. Playing open rugby the visitors worked their way up into the Gloucester twenty-two before the outstanding Andy Beattie broke from the back of a maul to score the opening try.

For a while after Beattie's effort, the floodgates threatened to open for Bath, who carved through the Gloucester defence with ease. However, it took until the final minute of the half before the visitors had their second try. Crockett's break split the Gloucester defence and although the impressive centre was eventually hauled down, the Bath move continued and Nick Walshe directed a beautiful inside pass to Lee Mears who broke a tackle to score to give Bath a 12-3 lead at the break.

Malone struck over a penalty and a thirty metre drop goal to keep the scoreboard ticking over for the visitors after the interval, but credit must go to Bath for their defencive display in the second half. They showed a great deal of heart in repelling everything that Gloucester threw at them and Higgins, along with Alex Crockett and Joe Maddock, made some big try-saving tackles at the death to ensure that it was their side who went home with the points.

"Given the way that Gloucester came back in the second half and the general trend of the match, I am not disappointed with an 18-15 victory given the position that we are in," said Brian Ashton. "We are improving our performances and we are pleased to have won the game."

Bath: 15 Stephenson (Dunne), 14 Higgins, 13 Crockett, 12 Maddock, 11 Bory (Finau), 10 Malone (2p, 1dg, 1c), 9 Walshe, 1 Flatman (Loader), 2 Mears (1t), 3 Filise, 4 Hudson, 5 Short (Fidler), 6 Beattie (1t), 7 Lipman (Scaysbrook), 8 Feaunati

Subs not used: Fulton, Scaysbrook

Ref: David Rose.

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