Rugby Union: Discarded Peters shows his talent

Bath 47 Gloucester 3
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THERE have been times this season when Bath would have struggled to call themselves the best side in north Somerset, let alone Europe. They had the Heineken touch about them last night, though, and for all the grit and determination shown by a youthful Gloucester pack, the champions invaded parts of an unusually fast Recreation Ground pitch that the visitors would not have reached in a month of Sundays.

It was not an 80-minute performance by any manner of means; frustratingly for a home crowd depressed and deflated by the Kevin Yates affair, the feel-good factor was seldom in force for longer than 10 minutes at a time. Indeed, Gloucester did not concede a single point in a ragged second quarter notable only for the inaccuracy of Mike Catt's right boot. Time and again the England full-back, playing in his club position of outside-half, cost his club-mates both possession and field position by over-cooking his tactical punting.

Yet Bath were never in the remotest danger of losing and some of their most imaginative attacking movements were worthy of Brive or Toulouse at their most vibrant. Phil de Glanville, the former England captain, was heavily implicated in much of the Flash Harry stuff. The delayed pass to Adedayo Adebayo with which he unlocked the Gloucester defence as early as the ninth minute was an absolute pearl and with Matt Perry sharp and direct alongside him, Gloucester's midfield spent all evening in the descendent.

The Cherry and Whites were not within a country mile of Bath's forward skill levels, either; they had no Federico Mendez, no Martin Haag and no Dan Lyle to apply some shine to the sweat. Phil Vickery, the Gloucester tight-head, hit more than his fair share of rucks and mauls but his scrummaging was nowhere near heavy enough to warrant an immediate England call-up. On the other side, Victor Ubogu played like a man on the crest of a renaissance.

Ten points up at the break, Bath wrapped it up early with a supporting flanker's try from Russell Earnshaw. Then it was back to De Glanville, who scored on the hour following a strong drive from Haag and then pulled off the interception of the match to free Eric Peters, a back-row replacement for Lyle, for the first of a remarkable hat-trick of five-pointers inside 11 minutes. Needless to say, the likeable Scot was keeping his wallet to himself in the clubhouse bar.

Quite what the Scottish selectors would have made of Peters' predatory triple strike was anyone's guess. Jim Telfer and company flabbergasted the Bath club yesterday by omitting Peters from their squad to face France at Murrayfield on Saturday week. "They say they've been leaving him out because he hasn't been playing enough games, but he was outstanding for Scotland A last week," said Andy Robinson, the Bath coach, before kick- off. "Whenever Eric does play, he looks like an international loose forward."

Bath are now dangerously placed to break up the cosy little Newcastle- Saracens twosome at the head of the Allied Dunbar Premiership. Last night's canter took them into the top three and with matches in hand, domestic rugby's new order looks less secure today than at any point since the late autumn.

Bath: Tries Peters 3, Adebayo, Earnshaw, De Glanville; Conversions Callard 4; Penalties Callard 3. Gloucester: Penalty Mapletoft.

Bath: J Callard; I Evans, M Perry (R Butland, 74), P de Glanville, A Adebayo; M Catt, A Nicol (capt; R Pellow, 78); D Hilton, F Mendez (A Long, 74), V Ubogu (J Mallett, 74), M Haag, N Redman, R Webster, D Lyle (E Peters, 69), R Earnshaw.

Gloucester: A Lumsden; B Johnson (N Osman, 52), T Fanolua, R Tombs, C Emmerson; M Mapletoft, L Beck; A Windo (capt), C Fortey (N McCarthy, 48), P Vickery, R Fidler, M Cornwell, S Devereux, S Ojomoh, N Carter.

Referee: E Morrison (Bristol).