McGeechan is mystified by Bath defeat

Gloucester 23 Bath 6: Gloucester find their fire in second half to take victory in full-blooded West Country derby
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The Independent Online

When Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu was banging on about the inequality of certain teams he was talking about his country, Samoa, rather than his club, Gloucester. Nevertheless, there were those questioning the status of the Cherry and Whites after their beating at Harlequins last week.

There is nothing, however, like a West Country blood match torestore a semblance of pride. As Luke Narraway, the injured Gloucester captain reduced to the role of water boy, remarked: "If you can't motivate yourself for a fixture like this then you might as well pack it in."

Gloucester had a dismal first half. They looked awful and one of the wonders of the universe was that at half-time they led 10-6. They weren't in it. Bath took up residency in their half and won more ball than they knew what to do with. Michael Claassens, their scrum-half and captain, had cause to have several chats with the referee, JP Doyle, not least when the South African scrum-half crossed the line but the try wasn't given.

Bath wasted a number of chances and their finishing was woeful – they showed poor passing, poor handling and a poor choice of options.

"We gave them a lifeline," said Sir Ian McGeechan, their director of rugby. "With better execution we could have got a few tries. When you control so much of the first half... it's very disappointing."

Bath's only rewards were penalties by their fly-half Sam Vesty after 20 and 25 minutes. Two minutes before the break, Gloucester's pack drove a line-out penalty, the hooker Darren Dawidiuk sneaking in behind a wedge of his forwards to score the try. Some referees are happy with it, some see obstruction and/or offside.

"I'm not sure of the legality of the try," Sir Ian said. "Our players couldn'tget near the ball-carrier."

Tim Taylor's conversion and a penalty gave Gloucester the lead and they emerged in the second half with more belief, more devil. The tackles were getting harder, the pace faster and it was Bath whose game began to unravel. After Vesty kicked the ball out on the full, Claassens went across to have a word with him. While he was doing so Gloucester had taken a quick throw-in and were advancing down the left touchline.

Taylor kicked two more penalties and Vesty miskicked at goal. Perhaps it was the shock of hearing, seconds earlier via the match announcer, that his old club, Leicester, had conceded50 points at home.

Young Tom Heathcote, Vesty's replacement, was hit high by Lesley Vainikolo, who was cheered to the rafters as he ran to the sin-bin. The penalty-taker, Jack Cuthbert, was booed. And then, in the final seconds, Heathcote dropped a pass close to the home line, Freddie Burns banged the ball downfield and Charlie Sharples picked up for a simple score.

"We had to put the Quins defeat to bed," said Bryan Redpath, the Gloucester coach. "It would be naïve to think that for this match there wouldn't be bags of passion and determination."

Gloucester O Morgan; C Sharples, J May, L Vainikolo, T Voyce; T Taylor (F Burns, 59), N Runciman; N Wood, D Dawidiuk (M Cortese, 75), R Harden (D Chistolini, 55), W James, T Savage, P Buxton (capt), B Deacon, M Cox.

Bath N Abendanon; J Cuthbert, M Carraro (N Scott, 71), D Hipkiss, T Biggs; S Vesty (T Heathcote, 68), M Claassens (capt; M McMillan, 68); N Catt (C Beech, 64), R Batty, D Bell (K Palma-Newport, 53), D Attwood, R Caldwell, C Fearns (A Beattie, 79), B Skirving, G Mercer.

Referee JP Doyle (London).


Tries: Dawidiuk, Sharples

Cons: Taylor, Burns

Pens: Taylor 3


Pens: Vesty 2