Burns proves too hot for smouldering Bath
Gloucester 16 Bath 10: Fly-half leads Gloucester's second-half comeback amid TMO controversy
The Television Match Official experiment raises more hackles than a full moon during a werewolves' convention, even when it is not directly implicated in an incorrect decision. Video replays showed the Gloucester wing Shane Monahan was wrongly judged by the assistant referee Robin Goodliffe to put have a foot in touch as he passed for Henry Trinder to ground what would have been a crucial try.
Under the current trial in the Premiership, the TMO can be called in for many misdemeanours – and a series of reviews did both delay this match and right a couple of potential wrongs – but he cannot tell the touch judge 'Er, sorry old chap, you got that wrong'.
The scoreline at the time Trinder went over with about 10 minutes left was a precarious 13-10 to Gloucester. For the sake of justice and the nerves of the majority in a packed Kingsholm, an unimpeachable score followed soon afterwards. Bath fumbled a line-out, Gloucester won two penalties at the subsequent scrums as they went for the kill but the home side's replacement prop Dan Murphy blew that position by sticking his hand in where it was not allowed.
Soon enough, though, an insistent Gloucester had their reward when Freddie Burns chipped over a drop goal from behind a ruck on the 22. Burns may only be in England's second-string Saxons squad but the 22-year-old fly-half is stringing together performances that make a good case for promotion. His pair of first-half penalties and conversion of full-back Rob Cook's first try for the club after 51 minutes helped Gloucester overturn an early 10-point deficit and move above Saracens to fourth in the table.
That fourth placing would have been Bath's had they won. Their South African head coach, Gary Gold, shouted "cheats" during the first half and it was clear Gloucester going off their feet after the tackle was the subject getting his goat.
This was the last match for the experienced Test referee Dave Pearson before he takes a coaching job with the Six Nations, and Bath will not remember it fondly. An alternative view was that they did not do enough over the ball, such as when their wing Tom Biggs made a final-quarter break upfield but Stephen Donald, following up, made no impact on the developing ruck.
To be fair to Donald, the All Black who reassumed the Bath No 10 jersey after Olly Barkley's midweek departure to Racing in Paris, he is working his way to full fitness. He may sidestep like a drunk looking for a wall to lean against, but he was devastating in a straight line with a try to rock Gloucester back after just 33 seconds. The Bath props, Paul James and David Wilson, made charges to suck defenders in and Donald picked a lovely line of least resistance past Gloucester's loosehead prop Nick Wood.
When the Gloucester tighthead Rupert Harden was penalised for slipping his binding after 19 minutes, Donald added a penalty to the conversion of his try and Bath could begin to think about avoiding a ninth defeat in 10 league matches against their local rivals.
In between times the TMO, David Grashoff, had correctly ruled against a "try" by Nick Abendanon due to Bath's Kyle Eastmond having a foot in touch. "From a coach's and a team's point of view, we want facts, so we encourage the TMO trial," said Toby Booth, one of Gold's assistants. "The bigger problem is we don't have it in every game." Perhaps it just was a tribute to the 50th anniversary of James Bond that the Gold finger was pointed so demonstrably at Mr Goodliffe at the end.
After Donald's kick for 10-0, Bath might have had another penalty against Harden for turning in but they chose to attack. They look like a team gradually marrying the wide game with a much-needed improvement in the tight. Gradually, though, Gloucester got on top with the latter, perhaps due to second-half changes from the bench.
Monahan's 40-metre burst after a loose Bath kick narrowly failed to produce a try when he grounded the ball short and took too long to place it over the goalline – another correct TMO call. Cook's finish in the left corner was deemed worthy of another review. It was fine, and the way James Simpson-Daniel completely foxed Donald before passing to Cook emphasised the crying shame that "Sinbad" has given up on England ever recalling him. Simpson-Daniel should have won many more caps. Others such as Burns have much more to look forward to.
Nigel Davies, Gloucester's director of rugby, said: "It's been quite evident for a couple of years Freddie has a fantastic skillset but it is about managing games, kicking goals and pulling it all together. He's certainly doing that at the moment."
Gloucester R Cook; S Monahan, H Trinder, B Twelvetrees, J Simpson-Daniel; F Burns, D Robson (J Cowan, 58); N Wood (D Murphy, 62), H Edmonds (K Britton, 62), R Harden (S Knight, 58), T Savage (W James, 46), J Hamilton (capt), S Kalamafoni, B Morgan, A Qera.
Bath N Abendanon; K Eastmond, D Hipkiss (J Cuthbert, 69), S Vesty, T Biggs; S Donald (O Devoto, 78), M Claassens (M McMillan, 52-56, 69); P James (N Catt, 69), L Mears (capt; R Batty, 63), D Wilson (A Perenise, 63), D Day (W Spencer, 60), D Attwood, C Fearns, S Taylor (W Skuse, 52), B Skirving.
Referee D Pearson (Northumberland).
Pens: Burns 2
Drop goal: Burns
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