Bath won 18-16, maintaining their one hundred percent record over Gloucester in the league at the Rec, but it was the manner of the victory that was particularly impressive for a side that just seems to be building a little momentum at present. Olly Barkley, wracked with pain from a sore ankle, kicked the winning points (a fifty-metre) penalty, to snatch the points after Gloucester had seeming sewn up the game in the dying moments.
Indeed it was a day for heroics. The victory itself against an in-form Gloucester side would have been impressive enough for John Connolly's men, but to do it with fourteen men after Andy Higgins was sent off for two yellow cards towards the end of the first half, is just bewildering. Add to that the fact that Bath went on to dominate the game, marmalising the Gloucester eight with seven forwards and it was clear that we had witnessed something special. Oh yes, I almost forgot, Chris Malone dropped a fifty-five metre goal - the longest of a career that has seen a few beauties - to add gloss to an audacious Bath performance.
For Malone and company it was the sweetest victory they have tasted. But for some players in this Herculean Bath performance, it was career-defining. Seldom will you see a bigger performance than that of Danny Grewcock on Saturday. The thirty-two year old lock was in awesome form, smashing and bashing his way through the Gloucester defence, whilst inspiring a truly magnificent forward effort. On suchform it is difficult to see how the onlooking England head coach Andy Robinson could leave Danny out of his side for the three autumn tests. However, Steve Borthwick, Andy Beattie and David Barnes were not far behind. The latter's performance against Phil Vickery in the tight may well have secured an England place for team mate Matt Stevens.
However, it could have been so different when Rob Thirlby, the former Bath full back, outpaced Tom Cheeseman and the limping Olly Barkley to score in the corner inside the final ten minutes. Ludovic Mercier, who did not have his best day in a Gloucester jersey, added the extras to hand the visitors the lead.
However, the score inspired fourteen man Bath to up another gear (if that was possible) as they threw absolutely everything at the Cherry and Whites. A series of impressive scrums had Gloucester on the back foot before the tempo suddenly went off the scale as the game opened right up. It was difficult to know where to look at this stage. Indeed, some in the 10,500 capacity crowd barely could.
Breaks across the park, including one cracker from Olly Barkley playing at full back, could have resulted in scores, but with turn overs aplenty, the game remained balanced on a knife edge.
The drama had been created much earlier in a first half that left nothing much to talk about except for how fourteen man Bath were going to hold out after the sending off of centre Andy Higgins. The England Churchill Cup squad member had already spent ten minutes in the bin after a rather high tackle on James Simpson-Daniel before he appeared to trip Mike Tindall in the fortieth minute. Referee Pearson had no alternative than to reach for his pocket and produce the yellow card, quickly followed by the red.
At 6-6 there was always going to be one winner from that point on for most observers. After all, the Bath coaching team took a forward off and brought on Tom Cheeseman to ensure that there were maximum numbers to mark Gloucester out wide. However, no one had shown the Bath players the script. It is often said that team's list their game when their backs are against the wall, but what happened after the interval was truly heroic.
Rather than sitting back and defending, Bath continued to take the game to Gloucester and Gloucester struggled to get their hands on the ball for much of the half. Malone dropped his monster goal from what seemed like Bristol to extend the lead, whilst Barkley, on song with the boot, added two more penalties to extend the advantage to nine points midway through the half.
The drama intensified though when David Bory was judged to have killed the ball inside his own twenty-two and was given a ten minute rest for his efforts. Down to thirteen men, Bath's task was made even more difficult, but they held on for nearly all of the ten minutes before Thirlby touched down in the corner to set up a dramatic finish.
The Guinness Premiership now takes a breather as the Heineken Cup gets into full swing. However, on Saturday's evidence Bath will travel full of confidence. Indeed the manner victory will have been both character and confidence building, especially for the two nineteen year-olds Tom Cheeseman and Ryan Davis, who came of age on Saturday.
Bath: 15 Perry (Davis), 14 Bory, 13 Higgins (Red card), 12 Barkley (5p), 11 Welsh, 10 Malone (1dg), 9 Wood, 1 Barnes, 2 Mears, 3 Bell (Stevens), 4 Borthwick, 5 Grewcock, 6 Beattie, 7 Scaysbrook, 8 Feaunati.
16 Dixon, 17 Bell, 18 Delve, 19 Hudson, 20 Williams, 21 Davis, 22 Cheeseman
Ref: Dave Pearson
Man of the match: Danny Grewcock