Bath flatter to deceive

Gloucester 29 Bath 45
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The Independent Online
IF these are dismal times for Gloucester they are not altogether reassuring for Bath. Their victory which reversed the sequence of two consecutive League defeats and which, midway through the first half, had seemed a mere formality, was ultimately squeezed from grudging and spirited opponents, sealed in the final seconds with a try from Jason Robinson.

Once again it was a substantial score without being a game of any substance. Bath are clearly uncomfortable with the new game imposed upon them by a combination of the law changes and the need to entertain those whose attention span may be measured in milliseconds. They were, admittedly, better equipped at Kingsholm yesterday than they were last week against Wasps when they omitted their captain Phil de Glanville and flanker Andy Robinson. A genuine open side is more important than ever and although he is less sprightly nowadays, Robinson's support of Bath's more extravagant manoeuvres was crucial.

There is a lack of shape and cohesion about Bath's play. They are neither intimidating up front nor particularly imaginative behind. Jason Robinson, their acquisition from Rugby League, is one of the most devastating runners in the country given time and space. He proved it thrillingly in the first half when he left the hapless Mike Lloyd transfixed. Later in the game a couple of electrifying jinks opened the way for Mike Catt's try. But it was surely not beyond Bath's creative skills to have engineered many more opportunities for their priceless gem on the wing.

Bath's tactical naivety has much to do with their decision to persevere with Catt at fly-half. Once again this marvellously instinctive and gifted player combined the sublime with the ridiculous. One minute he was scoring a try, the next he had his kick charged down by David Sims, whose try kept Gloucester in touch for the final quarter.

Gloucester also received grand service from Mark Mapletoft, who kicked four penalties and one conversion, Chris Catling, a most promising looking full-back, and their relentlessly combative hooker, Phil Greening.

Gloucester's problems are less to do with incompetence and inadequacy than rank inexperience. Their side is almost unrecognisable from the one which played last year and, given time, they should mature into a formidable unit. But with four defeats from four matches and a minimum of three sides to be relegated at the end of this season time is not on their side. They are making too many mistakes at crucial times.

In the first half, when Craig Emmerson intercepted an appallingly wild pass by Adedayo Adebayo, he made ground before being tackled, but in a prime attacking position unforgiveably surrendered possession. And later, when Jason Robinson was trapped inside his 22 and dispossessed, Gloucester completely ignored the gaping space on the blind side.

Their spirit however remained intact, not once did they flinch from the tackle and the margin of Bath's victory was falsely inflated by Robinson's try in injury time which cancelled out Greening's try six minutes earlier.

This had brought Gloucester back to within striking distance and had once again raised doubts about Bath's fitness which, the previous week, had looked suspect as Wasps indulged in an orgy of scoring in the closing stages. But with Callard belatedly finding his kicking range and adding a try for good measure Bath were spared the embarrassment of another stirling comeback and the ignominy of a third successive League defeat.

Gloucester: C Catling; P Holford, C Emmerson, M Roberts, M Lloyd; M Mapletoft, C Mulraine (L Beck, 49min); T Windo, P Greening, A Deacon, R Fidler, D Sims, P Glanville, I Smith, E Pearce.

Bath: J Callard; J Robinson, P de Glanville, J Guscott, A Adebayo; M Catt (C Harrison, 25-27min), A Nicol; D Hilton, G Dawe, V Ubogu (J Mallett, 55min), M Haag, N Redman, A Robinson, N Thomas, S Ojomoh (E Peters, 18- 25min).

Referee: B Campsall (Yorkshire).