Taulupe Faletau scored a hat-trick as Bath Rugby recorded a six-try, 44-20 victory over Gloucester Rugby in the Aviva Premiership West Country derby.
Rhys Priestland got the first points on the board for the home side, a penalty coming after the visitors pulled a strong maul down illegally. 3-0.
Priestland’s Welsh compatriot, James Hook, levelled the scores five minutes later after a sustained period of attack from the Cherry and Whites. 3-3.
The re-start lead to the first try of the game, and it came courtesy of Bath’s Welsh back-rower Faletau. Aled Brew leapt high to claim a long kick ahead, Kahn Fotuali’i chipped from the base of the ruck, and the Lions number eight was on hand to gather and slide over the try-line, despite the close attention of the Gloucester defence. Priestland added the extras to give Bath a seven-point lead.
Such was the see-sawing nature of the first-half, Gloucester came back at the home side, another patient passage of attack eventually allowing Henry Trinder to put in a delicate cross-field kick for Jonny May to run on to and score. Billy Burns missed the conversion, meaning Bath had a slender lead going into the break.
Half-time: Bath Rugby 10 – Gloucester Rugby 8.
Two quickfire tries saw Bath take control of the game early in the second-half, with Ben Tapuai involved in both.
First, a long, looping miss-pass from the centre found winger Brew who flew over in the corner under pressure from Willi Heinz. Then, just five minutes later, Max Clark stormed through a gap in the defence and away to touchdown after another neat pass from his midfield colleague.
Priestland added the conversions for both tries and then a further three points from the kicking tee to take the score to 27-8 with 55 minutes played.
Bath were one try away from the bonus point, and replacement Robbie Fruean was quick to oblige. A no-look pass from Fotuali’i found the onrushing New Zealander in space, and he powered away to cross the whitewash. Priestland continued his fine afternoon with the boot with a further two points. 34-8.
With the bonus point secured, Bath continued to control the game. Replacement Kane Palma-Newport burst through the line to start a move that saw George Ford and Luke Charteris both involved, before the ball found its way to Faletau to go over from close range. 39-8.
May crossed the line for his second try of the game to add some consolation to Gloucester, but Bath put the gloss on the win with their sixth try – Faletau cantering down the left wing to score.
David Halaifonua added further consolation with a try going into the final minutes, and the visitors had a sniff of a try bonus point of their own with time up on the clock, but the ball was snaffled by Bath hands and kicked out to start the jubilant celebrations at the final home game of the season.
The win guarantees Bath a top six finish in the Aviva Premiership, meaning a place in the European Rugby Champions Cup is secured, and a top four finish is still possible with one weekend left to play.
Final score: Bath Rugby 44 – Gloucester 20.