A rowdy, scuffling, entertaining West Country derby ended sadly for Olly Barkley, who suffered a broken leg in a collision with a team-mate while Gloucester were building a bonus-point win that continued their fine recent run.
Barkley had begun the second half of his first appearance at the club where he spent an unfulfilling season in 2008-09 by missing the conversion of the Tom Biggs try that brought the scores level at 15-15. It was his first miss in 18 kicks.
Two penalties by Gloucester's Welsh fly-half Nicky Robinson – one of three internationals who will leave in the summer – and a try by the former Bath wing Tom Voyce stretched the home side's lead to 26-15. Then with 66 minutes gone came Barkley's unfortunate accident. James was bumped into just after he passed to Barkley, who slipped and had his leg prone as his fly-half fell on to it. Barkley was taken to hospital, having fractured his tibia and the same left fibula he broke in July 2009, soon after his return to Bath. That and subsequent complications kept the sometime England player out for seven months. This year's Premiership semi-finals are 10 weeks away.
The complications for Bath were mostly in the scrummage. Their head coach, Steve Meehan, complained that once Gloucester had won a couple of early penalties at the set piece the referee, Greg Garner, adopted a Cherry-and-White-tinted view of things. Gloucester were certainly on the front foot in the first half but they were unable to pull clear. Robinson, who is joining Wasps, kicked a penalty and for 10-0 converted a Henry Trinder try that was created by Olly Morgan's quality chip and chase and a neat box- kick by Rory Lawson.
That was followed by tries from both players who had been released from England duty. A single-phase strike move from Stuart Hooper's line-out take for Bath allowed Ben Williams to cut through Gloucester, from James's miss-pass, and Matt Banahan thundered through to finish. Barkley converted. After 35 minutes Gloucester did their best to muck up another attack – Jim Hamilton had already lost the ball in James's tackle with the line nearby – but Robinson's grubber bounced away from Pieter Dixon and towards Paul Doran-Jones. The prop, who is heading for Northampton, got a hand on it to send a packed Kingsholm wild.
Barkley's penalty just before half-time was followed by Biggs bursting past Nick Wood and Lawson just after. Neither side defended particularly well around the fringes, so Gloucester's primary possession was doubly valuable. By the 72nd minute they were kicking yet another scrum penalty to touch, seeking the bonus point. Hooper nicked the line-out but within a few seconds there was a ruck offence and Robinson kicked his fourth penalty for 29-15.
Williams scored a try and James converted when Simon Taylor and Luke Watson made ground from a Bath scrum but Voyce's joyful sprint to the left corner made an apt footnote. Gloucester will be tested by meeting Leicester, Northampton and Saracens in eight April days but they are flying right now.
Gloucester O Morgan; C Sharples (T Molenaar, 40), H Trinder, E Fuimaono-Sapolu, T Voyce; N Robinson (F Burns,74), R Lawson (J Pasqualin, 78); N Wood (Y Thomas, 78), S Lawson (O Azam, 66), P Doran-Jones (R Harden, 63), W James, J Hamilton (A Brown, 56), P Buxton (A Strokosch, 50-62), L Narraway (capt), A Hazell (Strokosch, 62).
Bath J Cuthbert (N Scott, 74); M Banahan, B Williams, O Barkley (S Vesty, 66), T Biggs; B James, M Claassens (M McMillan, 71); D Flatman (D Barnes, 65), L Mears (P Dixon, 12), D Bell (K Palma-Newport, 78), S Hooper, D Grewcock (I Fernandez Lobbe, 61), B Skirving (G Mercer, 75), S Taylor, L Watson (capt).
Referee G Garner (Warwickshire).
Tries: Voyce 2, Trinder, Doran-Jones
Pens: Robinson 4
Tries: Banahan, Biggs, Williams
Cons: Barkley, James