Chris Harris beats Ruaridh McConnochie of Bath to score for Gloucester
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Bath 20 Gloucester 40
When he first arrived at Gloucester last year, George Skivington’s top priority was to add some bite and fear factor back into the Gloucester pack.
All that hard work is now beginning to pay off because while this was in-form Gloucester’s sixth win in their last seven matches, what must have pleased Skivington and the travelling Gloucester faithful attending this West Country derby more than anything will have been the way Gloucester completely manhandled Bath upfront for most of this comfortable victory – not just through their maul but also at the breakdown – with the try bonus point secured by half-time thanks to two scores from the Gloucester maul and a brace for Scotland centre Chris Harris. Jordy Reid, the Gloucester flanker was a menace around the ruck throughout.
"We spent 18 months working on the scrum and the maul, and I think we’re starting to get the dividends now for a lot of hard yards over many months," admitted Gloucester head coach George Skivington. "The boys were really smart today, unbelievably disciplined in defence. Dom Waldouck has to take credit for [the breakdown], hours and hours of work. It’s nice to see bits and pieces coming together."
Mass change is coming at Bath but despite an improved second half, this was a fairly desperate performance. New defence coach Brent Janse van Rensburg has plenty to sink his teeth into while Johann van Graan, the incoming head coach, must have a busy notepad already. The lack of relegation this season could not have come at a better time for Bath, who weren’t helped by losing England flanker Sam Underhill to an early concussion with several other senior back-rows already out.
"Conceding 40 points at home to Gloucester is not acceptable, absolutely," admitted Bath’s Stuart Hooper. "Collision-wise we were poor, and we didn’t stop the lineout drive and if you don’t do that particularly against these guys who are the best at it, you’re in trouble."
Following Orlando Bailey’s opening penalty for Bath and Underhill’s departure Gloucester genuinely threw away a try-scoring chance right on Bath’s line, when Ben Meehan, following a great carry by Mark Atkinson, rather than using his forwards throwing a speculative pass out wide which was picked off by Ben Spencer, allowing Bath to escape.
A turnover penalty from Russian tighthead Kirill Gotovtsev, becoming a fan favourite at Gloucester, kept Bath pinned back in their 22 and the hosts would have then gone behind had it not been for some good work by Lewis Boyce to hold up a Gloucester maul as it crashed over the line.
Referee Matthew Carley’s patience was already beginning to wear thin with Bath’s breakdown discipline by the 20-minute mark – Tom Ellis, the most experienced member of Bath’s back row left, seeing yellow – and by this point it seemed bizarre that Gloucester were not ahead. Soon they were, a penalty try for collapsing Gloucester’s maul and a second yellow card, this time for Boyce, putting Gloucester ahead and Bath down to 13.
A second penalty from Bailey kept Bath in the hunt despite a bruising previous 10 minutes but then Gloucester made them pay after Tom de Glanville mis-timed his chase after a high kick. The ball fell into Ollie Thorley’s lap, and through good support work from Ruan Ackermann and then Meehan, Gloucester combined to send Chris Harris free into space for their second try.
Things were about to get even better for Gloucester, with Bath’s efforts to stop the rolling maul completely helpless. The Gloucester pack practically sprinted over, Jack Singleton dotting down. Even the scrappy attacks were going Gloucester’s way – Hastings’ grubber kick knocked back infield off Louis Rees-Zammit’s leg for Harris to scoop up and run in the bonus-point try, as Bath’s defence stood watching on with Gloucester comfortably leading 26-6 at the break.
Bath had the time and enough young talent to stage a comeback but would their execution hold up? They were certainly sharper after half-time, winning more aerial 50-50s and spending long periods camped in Gloucester’s 22. Spencer’s quick thinking with a tapped penalty before diving over under the posts gave Bath a glimmer of hope.
But Bailey’s knock-on over the line, forced by a Harris tackle, denied Bath a second try and killed off their momentum. Gloucester’s maul was not as wasteful, with Fraser Balmain bundled over before Kyle Moyle finished the rout adding Gloucester’s sixth try following Hastings’ slick cross-field kick.
If anything the final score did Gloucester a disservice given the current gulf between these two sides, with Gloucester trending upwards towards the play-offs and Bath well adrift at the bottom of the table.
Scoring sequence: 3-0 Bailey pen, 3-7 penalty try, 6-7 Bailey pen, 6-12 Harris try, 6-17 Singleton try, 6-19 Hastings con, 6-24 Harris try, 6-26 Hastings con, 11-26 Spencer try, 13-26 Bailey con, 13-31 Balmain try, 13-33 Hastings con, 13-38 Moyle try, 13-40 Hastings con, 18-40 Fox try, 20-40 Bailey con
Bath: T de Glanville; S Rokoduguni, J Joseph (W Butt 69), M Ojomoh, R McConnochie (G Hamer-Webb 74); O Bailey, B Spencer (O Fox 71); L Boyce (A Cordwell 62), T Dunn (J du Toit 69), W Stuart (D Rae 62), M Williams, C Ewels (c), T Ellis, E Richards, S Underhill (N Merigan 10)
Not used: W Spencer
Yellow card: T Ellis 19, L Boyce 21
Gloucester: L Evans (K Moyle 68); L Rees-Zammit, C Harris, M Atkinson (B Twelvetrees 75), O Thorley; A Hastings, B Meehan (C Chapman 58); V Rapava-Ruskin (J Ford-Robinson 61), J Singleton (S Socino 58), K Gotovtsev (F Balmain 53), F Clarke (A Davidson 75), M Alemanno, J Reid, L Ludlow (c), R Ackermann (J Clement 68)
Referee: M Carley
Lewis Boyce cools off during a defeat that increases the sense of crisis around Bath
Credit: Bob Bradford – CameraSport via Getty Images