A dominant set-piece display from Gloucester United steered them to a 36-26 victory over Bath United in the Premiership Rugby A League at Kingsholm.
The driving maul in particular was a powerful tool for Gloucester, and they looked to utilise it close to the line after 15 minutes as fly-half Carwyn Penny sent a kickable penalty to touch. They worked the ball to the centre of the pitch, forwards picking and going to try and tire the United defence, before a looping pass was sent out to Mason Tonks on the right wing. The number 11 had space in front of him, but superb covering defence from Darren Allinson and Zach Mercer bundled the winger into space, preventing the score.
The home side broke the deadlock not long after though, with another lineout and driving maul setting up play for David Halaifonua to crash over from short range. Penny added the conversion to take his side 7-0 up.
The fly-half was instrumental in his side’s second try – his break through the midfield three minutes later led to Aaron Hinckley sliding over in the corner to extend Gloucester’s lead. 12-0.
With 25 minutes gone, United had patiently worked themselves up into the Gloucester 22. Wil Partington cut a sublime line to run on to the pass from Allinson, rode the tackles of the home defence and stayed on his feet to score under the posts. Josh Lewis added the extra two. 12-7.
With the rain getting heavier, United were ending the half on top. An awkward bounce saw Tonks fail to gather the high ball and instead it fell in the path of Jack Wilson. The centre reacted quickest, picking up the ball and racing away to level the scores.
Half-time: Gloucester United 12 – Bath United 12.
Levi Davis went close to taking the lead for the visitors after the break, but he couldn’t quite control the ball over the line. Instead, the home side regained control with a try from Charlie Chapman. The scrum-half showed his individual skill, chipping over the defence and gathering before using his speed to race away from the chasing defence. Perry added the extras. 19-12.
Two quick tries from replacement hooker Joe Mullis - both from clinical driving mauls – extended Gloucester’s lead going into the final 10 minutes. 29-12.
It was a frantic end to the game, with three tries scored in the closing stages. United turned to their own driving maul on the 70th minute - replacement Michael van Vuuren getting the touchdown under a pile of bodies. Lewis was on target with the extra two points.
The powerful presence of Halaifonua was the key to Gloucester’s final try – the on-rushing winger coming inside and bursting through the centre, and found replacement Alex Ducker with the pop pass. Penny added the conversion.36-19.
But United kept up the fight, and after a sustained period of pressure, Lewis sold the show-and-go and cantered over the whitewash. The fly-half converted his own try with the final meaningful play of the game.
Final score: Gloucester United 36 – Bath United 26.
Pictures courtesy of Martin Bennett/ Gloucester Rugby