Gloucester 15 Bath 18: Mercier's miss helps Bath edge passionate battle

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The Independent Online

On Calcutta Cup day, the Scots believe themselves to have a monopoly of rugby passion. Clearly they know little of the passion distilled in over a century of matches between these great West Country rivals.

Bath and Gloucester almost took the passion count off the dial in a riveting match at a sold-out Kingsholm. It bristled with intent and crackled with movement from start to finish.

Bath may be in the lower reaches of the Premiership but they had no difficulty in getting up for this one, although they did have the added incentive of climbing away from the relegation zone if they could put third-placed Gloucester away. By half-time they were leading 12-3 thanks to tries by Andy Beattie and Lee Mears and a conversion by Chris Malone. Gloucester's outside-half, Ludovic Mercier, kicked a penalty. To the distinctive scent of passion was added the sweet aroma of upset.

Apart from one brief spell which seemed to announce Gloucester's expected forward superiority, Bath suffered from no sense of inferiority as they worked their way into any number of promising positions. The Gloucester defence was stretched to the limits as Andy Higgins, Beattie, Mears and Nick Walshe opened them up with surprising ease.

Commenting on his side's sloppy first half, Gloucester's head coach, Dean Ryan, lamented a seventh loss in the last eight meetings between the clubs. "For the first 40 minutes we were sluggish and off the pace, especially around the fringes," he said. "We should have closed the game out much earlier."

They should have made it safe midway through the second half when Mercier began a 70-metre gallop, having intercepted Walshe's pass. Mercier is not the quickest thing on two legs, but the Frenchman was making a decent fist of going all the way before Higgins covered across and cut him down in his final stride. Mercier had every chance to capitalise on his interception, but he chose to ignore the unmarked James Simpson-Daniel on his right and a certain try went begging.

Gloucester did mark up tries by James Bailey and Mark Foster, the first converted by Mercier. They then threw the kitchen sink into a pounding finish but Bath, with a mite more passion and steadiness at vital moments, were able to hang on.

Gloucester: J Goodridge; J Bailey, J Simpson-Daniel, R Keil (T Fanolua, 51), M Foster; L Mercier, P Richards; P Collazo (N Wood, 28-35), R Elloway (J Parkes, 74), G Powell (J Forster 75), A Eustace (J Pendlebury, 68), A Brown, J Boer (capt; S Amor, 75), A Hazell, A Balding (L Narraway, 52).

Bath: M Stephenson (A Dunne, 52); A Higgins, A Crockett, J Maddock, D Bory (S Finau, 22); C Malone (Dunne, 2-13), N Walshe; D Flatman (C Loader, 74), L Mears, T Filise, J Hudson, P Short (R Fidler, 71), A Beattie, M Lipman (J Scaysbrook, 72), I Feaunati (capt).

Referee: D Rose (West Midlands).

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