Barkley shines as Bath tide overwhelms rivals

Bath 21 Gloucester 12
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The Independent Online

One of the few Powergen Cup matches to boast a genuinely knockout nature was reduced to the knockabout by the awful conditions but Bath, with first-half tries by Olly Barkley and Joe Maddock, made it through to the semi-finals.

With their full complement of four England forwards back in harness, and this tournament's short route into Europe offering an alluring antidote to poor league form, Bath settled for winning ugly. The pretty stuff is generally reckoned to be in store in the new year when Brian Ashton comes down off his mountain - or at any rate his post at England's Academy on the Bath University campus high on Claverton Down - to succeed the recently departed head coach, John Connolly.

Gloucester went down to 14 men after six minutes when their full-back Olly Morgan was sent to the sin-bin for an ankle-tap on his opposite number, Matt Perry - the problem was that Perry was in midair at the time, fielding Morgan's kick. The sides had already collected a penalty each - Gloucester first, through Ludo-vic Mercier when Peter Richards chased a hack upfield and forced the retreating Alex Crockett into illegally holding on. Olly Barkley responded straight from the restart as Gloucester were guilty of blocking off the Bath chasers.

This being a venue where after any noticeable rainfall the match officials check the height of the River Avon along with the pitch markings, it was no surprise the surface was trickily greasy. No surprise either that the fly-halves, Mercier and Bath's Chris Malone, applied boot to ball as often as not.

Still, if the pitch was a bit of a pudding, the proof of the tactic was in the eating. Morgan had just returned when Malone chipped over Gloucester's line defence at a ruck and Barkley slithered through for a try near the posts. Barkley's conversion made it 10-3, and it quickly got worse for Gloucester when again a kick from a ruck caught them napping. Nick Walshe dabbed towards the right-hand corner and Joe Maddock held off James Bailey to apply the scoring touch.

Two tries for Bath represented two more than they have man-aged at home all season in the Premiership. So much for the solace Gloucester might have snatched at beforehand that their solitary win at the Rec in 34 years was in the Cup in November 2000. No wins in 15 visits in the League seemed more like it. Mercier landed penalties after 27 and 36 minutes, with one in between by Barkley, and Bath led 18-9.

The rain reappeared for the second half, but Barkley did not after straining a quad muscle, and the 20-year-old utility back Ryan Davis took his place. So Malone took the tee for a short-range effort to the left of the posts and missed. Not that Mercier fared any better soon after.

The line-out was Bath's domain, with Steve Borthwick and Danny Grewcock enjoying themselves. Richards, the Gloucester scrum-half who was on England's bench for the final autumn Test without winning a debut cap, raised a smile when he looked for somewhere to wipe the mud from his hands and chose a touch-judge's jersey.

Otherwise Gloucester clung grimly to the hope that their majority of possession would have its reward. Mercier's penalty after 51 minutes cut the margin, shortly before Bath lost Alex Crockett to the sin-bin for flopping over the Gloucester flanker Andy Hazell after the whistle. But all the huff and puff of the visiting forwards counted for nothing when they conceded a penalty with six minutes left and Malone restored his side's two-score advantage.

Bath: M Perry; J Maddock, A Crockett, O Barkley (R Davis, 40), F Welsh; C Malone, N Walshe; D Barnes (D Bell, 60), L Mears, M Stevens, S Borthwick (capt), D Grewcock, J Scaysbrook, G Delve (I Fea'unati, 64), M Lipman.

Gloucester: O Morgan; M Foster, M Tindall (T Fanolua, 65), A Allen, J Bailey; L Mercier, P Richards (H Thomas, 60); N Wood (G Powell, 71), M Davies, P Vickery (capt), A Eustace, M Cornwell, P Buxton, A Balding (J Forrester, 65), A Hazell.

Referee: N Whitehouse (Wales).

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