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Bath return to the real world

Gloucester 29 Bath 45
Gloucester may escape an inquiry over who, if anyone, threw the punch which the Bath captain, Phil de Glanville, claimed he saw an instant before it flattened his already much broken nose, but there may yet be repercussions into the contrast between their crushing defeat against Harlequins and this heroic performance which rattled the defending Courage League champions.

No one could criticise Bath if they chose to make an issue of the short- lived policy by Gloucester which allowed Quins to run up 75 points in that league opener. Against this spirited side, Bath were never going to be allowed to do that.

Gloucester's pack outplayed Bath's and prompted the England flanker Steve Ojomoh to admit afterwards that "we won the game but lost the battle. That was the first physical game we've had all season. It was back to the old days. There was none of the airy-fairy stuff we've seen so far this season. This was for real. Maybe we'd gone soft." Ojomoh was nominated man of the match by the Gloucester sponsors, but that accolade should have gone to Phil Greening of Gloucester, who is surely England's next hooker.

It was impossible not to single out Greening, who shone in an outstanding performance by the Gloucester forwards: his tackle count was phenomenal; he lived in the faces of the Bath midfield; he smothered any threat through the middle, and was frequently on the charge through the Bath pack.

It was one of these bovine rushes which ended with a deserved try for Greening, although it came far too late to help Gloucester, who remain pointless but in no way hopeless this season.

Bath should have been a distance in front by half-time except that, uncharacteristically for him, Jon Callard was unable to master the fickle breeze. He missed all three conversions of his side's first-half tries. On the other hand, Mark Mapletoft missed just one penalty goal attempt in that period to keep Gloucester in the hunt.

The chunky Gloucester stand-off's vividly dyed hair prompted the club's lively fanzine to acknowledge Mapletoft's undoubted talents and colour sense by running the line: "The future's bright... the future's orange."

Some gritty tackles, canny kicks and barrelling runs by Mapletoft caused Bath no end of problems, but with little to alarm the opposition outside him, his efforts were nearly always in vain and lent a sense of frustration.

It was Bath's ability to counter-attack in telling fashion and a lack of midfield bite in the Cherry and Whites that was the difference. But it was never easy for Bath. Any other side would have lost to Gloucester, and Bath had to withstand periods of pressure that would have buckled a boiler plate.

Bath conceded too many penalties and picked up two yellow cards (Nigel Redman and John Mallett) for persistent infringing - Ian Smith was similarly done in the first half. These and unnecessary mistakes littered their game like so much wastepaper.

Gloucester: Tries Deacon, Sims, Greening; Conversion Mapletoft; Penalties Mapletoft 4. Bath: Tries Nicol, Adebayo 2, Ojomoh, Catt, Callard, J Robinson; Conversions Callard 2; Penalties Callard 2.

Gloucester: C Catling; P Holford, C Emmerson, M Roberts, M Lloyd; M Mapletoft, C Mulraine (L Beck, 50); 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, 26-32), A Nicol; D Hilton, G Dawe, V Ubogu (J Mallett, 55), M Haag, N Redman, A Robinson, N Thomas, S Ojomoh (E Peters 18-26).

Referee: B Campsall (Halifax).