Players and coaches alike have described Bath Rugby's recent pre-season campaign as one of the best and most productive to date and with good preparation comes good results. With an equal share of 19-points each at the final whistle, the Mears and Hazell Testimonial match did not only end with a pleasing result for both teams but also a good indication on what worked and what needs to be worked on when the sides face each other again on September 5th.
For Bath Rugby, the second half of the match resulted in two tries and a conversion, which aptly reflected the change of pace and tempo after the half-time break. Head Coach Steve Meehan believed that the second 40 minutes were "much cleaner and with much quicker ball at the ruck." With 29-men taking to the field and Testimonial name sake Lee Mears only playing for 20 minutes, it was a perfect opportunity for the coaches to dissect what will make the team an even greater success in three weeks time.
The draw demonstrated that both teams' performances were nothing to be ashamed of, and Gloucester opened the match and set the tone of the first half with a penalty kick from Carlos Spencer after just three minutes.
In response, Bath newcomer Nicky Little put in a good challenge when offered the opportunity to kick and his boot sent the ball inside Gloucester's 22 and into touch for a line out. Once the ball was returned to the park from a Lee Mears throw in, Bath made some swift passes to deliver the ball from the right to left wing where Duncan Bell made a charge for the try line. However he was prevented from scoring by good Gloucester defence and instead the cherry and whites managed to make a successful enough series of manoeuvres back down the field for Gloucester's captain Gareth Delve to score five points instead. Spencer converted the ball to take the hosts into the lead by 10 to nil after 12 minutes.
With a further 10 minutes on the clock, it was vital that Bath reclaim some points and threaten their hosts and their chance came in the form of last season's Guinness Premiership top try scorer Joe Maddock, who, having been fed the ball from the line-out on the halfway line, broke through a gap in defence to make dangerous headway towards the home team's territory. A swift pass to Rhys Crane on the wing allowed the 24-year-old to sprint down the wing in an attempt to grab some points, but Gloucester's defenders held the visitors back once again.
As the match entered the remaining few minutes of the first half Gloucester looked set to put some more numbers on their side of the board, however, a strong run from Matt Carraro for Bath gave them the chance to put enough pressure on the hosts that their defence fell into disarray. With good pace, the visitors charged inside Gloucester's 22 and the centre was able to complete his earlier break by scoring his first five points in a Bath Rugby jersey. A conversion from Little took Bath to within three points of the leaders, however, just before the whistle for the half-time blew, Spencer kicked his side a further three ahead with a penalty kick at the interval.
Bath re-entered the fray fresh from the break and determined to play rugby. With Ryan Davis taking the restart, the impressive fly half instantly made an impact working with replacements Tom Cheeseman and Shontayne Hape to sprint immediately inside Gloucester's 22, where the number 10 fed the ball to Jack Cuthbert and Michael Stephenson who paved the way for Maddock to soar over the line in the top corner. Davis failed to make the conversion, but Bath were now trailing by just one point at 43 minutes.
A successful penalty kick five minutes later from Carlos Spencer once again gave Gloucester the advantage and with Gloucester now leading by four points, the energy and intensity heightened. The hosts had regained entry inside their opposition's 22, but Stephenson relieved some of the pressure by making a break into the midfield. With a further clearance kick from Davis, Gloucester were denied some of the good ground they had made up and a chip and chase by Cuthbert was supported by Carraro and Ben Skirving to enable Bath to flip the fortune in their favour as Bath threatened the Kingsholm contingent for a further eight minutes. Frustratingly for Bath, they couldn't quite reach the line.
The failure for Bath to win any further points at this stage did little to dampen their spirits though and, if anything, the challenge proved to inspire them. After Spencer kicked a further penalty at 68 minutes, Bath's fly half responded almost immediately afterwards. Davis chipped and chased, collecting his own kick and offloading to Hape who got inside a defender before finding Jonny Faamatuainu who passed back to Davis to dash inside Gloucester's 22 and crash over the line for his second try in four years. As Davis converted his five points, Bath were now equal with their opponents at 19-points each.
As the final whistle blew on a draw, no other conclusion could have been more fitting and as Mears enjoyed applause from The Shed, alongside his fellow-Testimonial player, Andy Hazell, Bath could be left confident that their pre-season campaign had put them in good stead for the rapidly approaching Guinness Premiership clash in three weeks time.
15. Tom Voyce, 14. Charlie Sharples, 13. Jonny May, 12. Carlos Spencer, 11. Lesley Vainikolo, 10. Freddie Burns, 9. Dave Lewis, 1. Alasdair Dickinson, 2. Scott Lawson, 3. Paul Doran-Jones, 4. David Attwood, 5. Alex Brown, 6. Peter Buxton, 7. Andy Hazell, 8. Gareth Delve (c)
16. Darren Dawidiuk, 17. Pierre Capdevielle, 18. Adam Eustace, 19. Dan Williams, 20. Rory Lawson, 21. Mike Tindall, 22. James Simpson-Daniel, 23. Nick Wood, 24. Marco Bortolami
15. Jack Cuthbert, 14. Joe Maddock, 13. Matt Carraro, 12. Ben Williams, 11. Rhys Crane, 10. Nicky Little, 9. Scott Bemand, 1. David Barnes, 2. Lee Mears (c), 3. Duncan Bell, 4. Scott Hobson, 5. Danny Grewcock, 6. Andy Beattie, 7. Josh Ovens, 8. Chris Cracknell
16. Rob Hawkins, 17. Aaron Jarvis, 18. Stuart Hooper, 19. Ben Skirving, 20. Mike Baxter, 21. Ryan Davis, 22. Michael Stephenson, 23. Pieter Dixon, 24. David Flatman, 25. Julian Salvi, 26. Jonny Faamatuainu, 27. Michael Claassens, 28. Shontayne Hape, 29. Tom Cheeseman