Coming off the back of three successful pre-season friendlies and an excellent summer of preparation, Bath Rugby were armed with all the tools necessary to start their Guinness Premiership with a bang. However, after a frustrating match against Gloucester that left The Rec contingent 24-5 down, Bath Rugby will now have the task of righting those wrongs against London Wasps next weekend.
Playing bitter derby rivals Gloucester is never going to be easy. Even when benefitting from the fresh approach of the new faces at Bath Rugby, the opening match in the race for Twickenham was bound to prove a challenge. However, whilst Bath played with grit and aggression, it was not enough to defeat their hosts, but, in their defeat, the team will undoubtedly now be looking to analyse their mistakes and ensure that next time these sides face each other, the points will most definitely be in Bath Rugby's favour.
An early penalty looked to put Bath Rugby into an instant lead, following some aggressive play from Ryan Davis, Andy Beattie and David Flatman. However the offence that was forced on Gloucester failed to award Bath with the points as the kick from Davis went wide of the right-hand post.
Nine minutes later and Gloucester, playing with the same venom as Bath, were offered the chance to slot three points as Nicky Robinson was tasked with a penalty kick following a fumble of the ball by Joe Maddock who had attempted to catch a high kick from the Gloucester fly half. The Gloucester 10 booted the ball between the posts and the hosts took the lead.
The points clocked up again for the home team in the form of James Simpson-Daniel as he shot over the line in the corner for the first try of the match. The winger had been fed the ball from ex-Bath player Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu who tapped it to his new cherry and white team mate to finish the move. Robinson made the conversion, taking Gloucester up to a 10-0 lead after 18 minutes. With Maddock having halted a similar action from Mike Tindall just minutes earlier, the score deficit was a bitter disappointment to Bath, but it was also a catalyst to spur them on.
With Gloucester playing dangerously close to the try line, a good defensive display from Nick Abendanon and Matt Carraro gave Bath back the possession as Gloucester were penalised for a knock-on. Ben Skirving came strongly off the back of the scrum and made up some good ground, but it wasn't enough to force entry inside their opposition's 22 and instead a series of kicks up and down the pitch ensued as the clock counted down the last five minutes of the first half. Bath were unable to garner any points before the whistle and even with Gloucester down to 13 men after a yellow card to Andy Hazell, Bath went to the changing rooms 10-0 down.
The visitors came back on after the interval with a vengeance, as Abendanon made a rapid break midfield towards Gloucester's 10 metre line. It failed to award the visitors with their much needed points however as Bath were penalised for crossing inside the 22 and Gloucester used the offence to try and turn the luck in their favour. However a missed penalty kick by Robinson did not afford them any points.
It was not long before the cherry and whites were able to make amends for the missed penalty and swapped the three-points for seven after a second try from Simpson-Daniel. The Gloucester winger had mirrored the 40 metre break made by newcomer Julian Salvi who had managed to slip through the midfield inside the opposition territory, but the sheer pace of Simpson-Daniel back towards Bath's 22 was too much for the chasing Bath defence. After a successful conversion from Robinson, Gloucester led by 17-0 after 50 minutes.
Bath, benefitting from the fresh legs of replacements Jonny Faamatuainu, Peter Short and Duncan Bell, displayed greater defiance and energy and looked close to grabbing some points and Davis made a kick to the corner in Gloucester's 22 for a line out and the boys in blue, black and white used the chance to drive hard for and over the line. The referee was forced to consult the TMO however and the try was not awarded - but this did not matter - because mere minutes later Hape shot over the try line for Bath's first try of the game at 66 minutes. Carraro stepped up to take the conversion but did not convert.
Bath continued to pile on the pressure through the form of Hape, as he made a powerful break back inside Gloucester's 22. A knock-on created by a Gloucester tackle on the centre led to a scrum, but was rapidly replaced by a penalty kick being awarded to Gloucester after Bath gave 'back-chat' to the referee. Whilst Bath held on and looked set to make amends for the lost scrum, a pass from Tom Cheeseman was intercepted by fly half Robinson and he sprinted from the halfway all the way to cross for five. Converting his own try, the number 10 handed the hosts a 24-5 lead after 76 minutes.
Despite some brave attempts by Bath Rugby to drag back the score divide it was not enough and the Rec contingent were left defeated at Kingsholm with a final score of 24-5 to Gloucester. However with just six days until Bath face London Wasps at home, there will be no time to feel disheartened but to feel confident of resolving the mistakes made this afternoon.
Man of the Match - Matt Carraro
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15. Tom Voyce, 14. James Simpson-Daniel, 13. Mike Tindall (c), 12. Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 11. Charlie Sharples, 10. Nicky Robinson, 9. Rory Lawson, 1. Nick Wood, 2. Scott Lawson, 3. Greg Somerville, 4. Dave Attwood, 5. Alex Brown, 6. Alasdair Strokosch, 7. Andrew Hazell, 8. Gareth Delve
16. Darren Dawidiuk, 17. Alasdair Dickinson, 18. Pierre Capdevielle, 19. Marco Bortolami, 20. Akapusi Qera, 21. Apo Satala, 22. Dave Lewis, 23. Freddie Burns
15. Nick Abendanon, 14. Joe Maddock, 13. Tom Cheeseman, 11. Matt Carraro, 10. Ryan Davis, 9. Michael Claassens (c), 1. David Flatman, 2. Pieter Dixon, 3. David Wilson, 4. Stuart Hooper, 5. Danny Grewcock, 6. Andy Beattie, 8. Ben Skirving
16. Lee Mears, 17. David Barnes, 18. Duncan Bell, 19. Peter Short, 20. Jonny Faamatuainu, 21. Scott Bemand, 22. Nicky Little, 23. Matt Banahan