Christmas derby rewards Bath with strong victory

What better way to say 'good riddance' to 2009 than with a comprehensive victory over our old rivals from Gloucester.

This first home Guinness Premiership win in the season was never so welcome and for a change the result was not in doubt until the final whistle.

Once the home forwards got to grip with the visiting pack, disrupting their line-out and scrum, and Julian Salvi and Luke Watson took control of the breakdown, there was only going to be one result, especially after the big men behind the scrum, Jack Cuthbert and Matt Banahan, crossed for tries.

In fact, things went pretty much to plan, as Head Coach Steve Meehan reflected. "At half-time it was pretty close but we all felt pretty confident," he said. "We felt we were the most dangerous side and then in the second half the little half-chance and passes were sticking and overall I thought we played the better rugby.

"Apart from some attacking decisions that put us under the pump in the last few minutes and led to their try, I thought our defence was excellent. Our scrum was very good and although we lost a couple of line-outs early on, that got better and better. That was the trend and we just improved over the 80 minutes."

Asked how much the win would boost confidence in the squad, he added: "The outside perception is that there is not as much confidence in the camp as there really is. While we've been dropping some games it's only been by one or two points. Today proved that if you stick to your guns for 75-76 minutes you can come away with a victory."

Former Bath player Gareth Delve led out Gloucester on a pitch softened by overnight rain and a shower just before kick-off. Gloucester lost control of the already slippery ball at the kick-off and Bath kept possession until Shontayne Hape spilled in contact. Just to show that local derby traditions never die, there were flare-ups at both of the first two scrums.

Bath were quickest into their stride as Hape threaded a kick deep into the visiting 22, forcing Tom Voyce to concede a 5-metre scrum but Gloucester put on the wheel and won a penalty.

Nicky Robinson's boot propelled his side downfield and then provided the first points of the game on eight minutes as Luke Watson was guilty of not rolling away from the tackle on half-way.

Nicky Little could have evened things up immediately as Gloucester obstructed at the restart but the fly-half's kick was wide from in front of the posts.

Neither set of backs was likely to shine on a sticky pitch but even James Simpson-Daniel was flung a pass to the ground and then Bath indulged in some finger-tip passing, with the same result.

Every scrum also seemed to need a reset but Watson was already making a nuisance of himself at the breakdown, forcing a penalty turnover after 18 minutes.

The first half continued to be littered with errors, as much from over-eagerness as anything. David Flatman and Lee Mears found themselves contesting the same floated pass. While Hape was off the field being treated for a head wound, Ryan Davis filled in at inside centre. In a little cameo of 12 minutes he first found Matt Carraro with a clever miss pass and then prodded a kick through to the visitors' 22. On both occasions, however, promising positions were lost at the line-out.

The tide began to turn on 36 minutes when Gloucester lost hooker Scott Lawson to the sin-bin for an illegal tackle on Salvi. Bath worked their way upfield and Little drew the sides level with a straightforward penalty kick just short of half-time.

Nick Abendanon was being treated for a shoulder injury at the time and did not appear in the second half but Little quickly sent another penalty into the hospitality boxes to edge Bath 6-3 ahead. Straight from the restart, Mears, Watson and Claassens broke upfield but Gloucester escaped further punishment until Little kicked his third penalty on 56 minutes.

By this time, Bath were well in command of the loose exchanges and Gloucester's pride was further dented when their scrum was penalised and referee Sean Davey sent them back a further 10 metres for dissent.

On the hour, Delve high-tackled Claassens and Little made it 12-3 from 30 metres while Robinson missed a more difficult chance at the other end.

A neat grubber by Mears might have created the first try for Hape in the left corner but Charlie Sharples was back to save just in time. Bath were not to be denied for long though as the now dominant Bath scrum created momentum for Little to set up a ruck under the posts from which Claassens fired out a pass to Cuthbert. The full-back had plenty to do but forced his way over in the right corner on 68 minutes, leaving Little with a kick which was just a shade too difficult.

Five minutes later came the clinching score as Gloucester suddenly began to run with rather more ambition. Unfortunately for them, fly-half Robinson fired out a too-hopeful pass which was gleefully claimed by Banahan just inside his own half and the big wing ambled the 50 metres to the posts for Little to add the conversion.

Still in party mood, Bath tried to run the ball out from their own 22, lost possession and it was a simple matter for Simpson-Daniel to send prop Dickinson in for an unconverted try.

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