Gloucester climbed to third in the Gallagher Premiership after claiming a bonus-point 29-15 victory over west country rivals Bath at Kingsholm. Bath’s recent Premiership resurgence came to a grinding halt as they were outscored 4-0 on tries.
Full-back Jason Woodward, flanker Freddie Clarke, number eight Johan Ackermann and replacement lock Gerbrandt Grobler all crossed the whitewash, with Billy Twelvetrees kicking two conversions and Danny Cipriani one, while Twelvetrees added a late penalty.
Bath relied on five Rhys Priestland penalties for all their points, but they lost a three-point advantage when Gloucester hit them with two converted touch downs in rapid succession midway through the second half. It saw Gloucester overtake Sale Sharks and move into the top three, and Bath could have few complaints after offering little attacking spark apart from an occasional burst by England centre Jonathan Joseph.
Woodward made a first appearance since mid-November for Gloucester, but number eight Ben Morgan was sidelined due to injury and wing Louis Rees-Zammit failed a late fitness test, which meant former Bath player Matt Banahan replacing him on the bench.
Bath fielded an all-international back-row of Francois Louw, Sam Underhill and Taulupe Faletau together for the first time – injuries had mainly prevented it previously happening – and scrum-half Chris Cook replaced Will Chudley.
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Bath enjoyed early territory and possession, but they were rocked when Gloucester scored from their first attack after five minutes. Gloucester skipper Willi Heinz’s pass found lock Franco Mostert space, and when he was held up, Woodward touched down from close range and Cipriani landed the touchline conversion.
Priestland opened Bath’s account with a penalty four minutes later, and he then cut the gap to a point with a second strike after Cipriani missed a straightforward penalty chance. Bath, though, should have been further ahead, but England wing Anthony Watson passed to Faletau when an outside ball to an unmarked Louw would have given the South African an unopposed run-in.
Priestland completed a penalty hat-trick in the 22nd minute, but neither side could make sustained headway after that as errors abounded during a scruffy and scrappy second quarter, with Bath taking a 9-7 interval lead.
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It took Gloucester just five minutes of the second period to go back in front, and it was their forwards that did the damage. They battered away at Bath’s line, and Clarke emerged from underneath a pile of bodies to claim the try, although Cipriani sent an easy conversion attempt wide.
And he was punished for that blunder when Priestland kicked a fourth successful penalty, making it 12-12 with just over 30 minutes left. Gloucester’s poor discipline continued to give Priestland chances, and his fifth penalty from six attempts put Bath back in front.
Gloucester were not helped at times by some indecisive work from Cipriani, particularly with the ball in hand, yet their pack continued to make headway. And their third try arrived in the 58th minute when substitute lock Grobler worked his way over, and Twelvetrees – who replaced Cipriani as kicker – added the conversion for a four-point advantage.
But it was only the start of Bath’s troubles, as Gloucester hit them with another try four minutes later, with Ackermann crossing and Twelvetrees kicking the touchline conversion attempt.
Bath were knocked out of their stride by Gloucester’s scoring blitz, and it remained one-way traffic during the closing stages as the home side warmed up impressively for a return to Heineken Champions Cup action next weekend when they host Montpellier.
– Press Association
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