Gloucester spring surprise on Bath

Gloucester 16 Bath 10
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The Independent Online

Gloucester 16 Bath 10

The championship which had seemed deeply ensconced in Bath's pocket was powerfully removed at an impassioned Kingsholm last night when Gloucester's pickpockets produced as sensational a result as the English First Division had seen all season.

"Life has its moments you have to cherish; it was one of those moments when you feel it's almost too good to be true," Richard Hill, the former Bath scrum-half who is Gloucester's director of rugby, said afterwards. Hill's disbelieving jubilation was in diametric contrast to the disbelieving depression of the Bath coach, Brian Ashton. "The word incompetent springs to mind," Ashton groaned.

Leicester, two points behind, have a game in hand on Bath but a significantly inferior points difference. Gloucester, meanwhile, are suddenly out of the relegation zone, above Bristol and Saracens on points difference.

Bath have quite properly basked in the adulation attracted by their weekend performance against Harlequins, and they were evidently still basking when they kicked off here because within 10 minutes Gloucester were 10 points ahead.

Now that the Rugby Football Union has finally confirmed that there will be relegation after the season's end, Gloucester are in desperate need of anything they can get but a try after three minutes had probably not entered even their most optimistic calculations.

Scott Benton, their scrum-half from Yorkshire, took a free-kick so quickly that not a single Bath player was in position to defend and before the cover had regrouped Benton had sprinted 50 yards to put Paul Holford over in the corner.

Tim Smith's touchline conversion followed by an easy penalty gave the relegation candidates their unlikely cushion. And though Bath had more territory through the rest of the first half they looked the more relieved to reach half-time no more than seven points down after Richard Butland had kicked only one of three penalty chances.

Bath found the absences of Jonathan Callard and Jeremy Guscott too much to bear, Callard for the obvious benefit of his goal-kicking and Guscott not just for his individual qualities but for the pressure his presence invariably removes from the rest of the midfield. Until their belated try Bath had next to no penetration.

Butland missed another penalty at the start of the second half and, after Smith had then missed three in five minutes, the Gloucester full-back finally hit the target again with 18 minutes left.

Though Mike Catt put Phil de Glanville over for a Bath try which Butland converted, to a rapturous reception Smith had the final word with a final penalty.

Gloucester: Try Holford; Conversion T Smith; Penalties T Smith 3. Bath: Try De Glanville; Conversion Butland; Penalty Butland.

Gloucester: T Smith; P Holford, D Cummins, M Roberts, L Osborne; M Kimber, S Benton; A Windo (H Brown, 76), J Hawker, W Bullock, P Miles, D Sims (capt), A Stanley, C Raymond, I Smith.

Bath: A Lumsden; J Sleightholme, P de Glanville (capt), M Catt, A Adebayo; R Butland, A Nicol; D Hilton, G Dawe, J Mallett, M Haag, N Redman, B Clarke (E Pearce, 67), E Peters, A Robinson.

Referee: N Cousins (London).