A sell-out crowd at Kingsholm were treated to a typically tense West Country derby this afternoon, as Bath Rugby claimed the local bragging rights in dramatic fashion, winning 17-18.
The home side made the most of some good early possession with Billy Twelvetrees soon getting the Cherry and Whites in front with a straightforward penalty. 3-0.
Bath soon started to get into their stride and from an attacking lineout, the forwards set a powerful driving maul rumbling right through the Gloucester 22. After a Gloucester infringement from the resulting scrum, George Ford had his first opportunity at goal and he made no mistake, drawing the visitors level after 10 minutes. 3-3
After Ford spotted a gap in the defence, a nicely weighted punt from Matt Banahan allowed the centre to charge after it and force Charlie Sharples to carry the ball back over his own line. Bath had the 5m scrum and after a big shunt and some quick passes, Horacio Agulla dotted down over the line only for the ref to rule it out for crossing in the build-up.
The game was turning into a bit of a midfield battle and with Gloucester starting to string some phases together, Bath were pinged at the breakdown. Twelvetrees was once again accurate from the tee, extending the home side's lead. 6-3
With just over 10 minutes of the half remaining, the away side were down to 14 when Carl Fearns was sent to the bin and Twelvetrees kicked the resulting penalty to further extend his teams lead. Despite being a man down, Bath continued to attack and were rewarded with a penalty, which Ford duly converted with less than five minutes of the half to play. 9-6
With the clock ticking down on the first-half, Bath were restored to 15 men with the return of Fearns, only to go back to 14 a minute later with Matt Garvey being shown yellow for an apparent high tackle.
Half-time: Gloucester Rugby 9 – Bath Rugby 6
Despite being a man down, Bath started the brighter of the two teams after the break. Ford was unsuccessful with an early penalty opportunity but the visitors were mounting some good attacking phases. Sniping runs by both Kyle Eastmond and Banahan had the Gloucester defence scrambling and Ford was unlucky to hit the post with a drop goal.
With the game evenly balanced, Gloucester replacement prop Sila Puafisi was shown a straight red card after a dangerous tackle on Abendanon as the fullback looked to make another scything run through the defence.
Bath were quick to take advantage, with a quick catch and drive at the line-out, a huge surge towards the line and Club captain Stuart Hooper emerging from under a pile of bodies to claim the all-important try to give Bath the lead for the first time in the game. 9-11.
The red card meant uncontested scrums for the remainder of the game, and Twelvetrees nudged the home side back in front with a penalty from inside his own half when Dave Attwood was the third Bath player to be sent to the sin-bin. 12-11.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, Gloucester found the breakthrough that had been building as centre Henry Trinder scampered over to score much to a jubilant Kingsholm's delight. Twelvetrees skewed his conversion attempt wide to set up an extremely tense final few moments. 17-11.
Bath were not deterred and when Abendanon made a blistering break through midfield, he was pulled down agonisingly close to the line. Gloucester then lost Tindall and Edmonds in quick succession to yet more yellow cards, but Bath were doing all they could to break down a stubborn defence as they chased the win.
With less than two minutes to play, a lineout saw another big drive from the Bath pack and Gloucester were left with no options to infringe, and referee Wigglesworth awarded the penalty try. Ford added the simple extra two points to move Bath into the lead with less than 60 seconds left on the clock, as Gloucester had replacement scrum-half Tavis Knoyle sent-off for throwing a punch. 17-18.
With a penalty awarded for the red card, Bath re-started and Ford kicked to touch. Bath secured the lineout ball, and as time was dead on the clock Peter Stringer sent the ball sailing in to touch to end the game and seal the victory for Bath.
Final score: Gloucester Rugby 17 - Bath Rugby 18.