TWO TRIES apiece from full-back Ollie Goss and centre Jack Cuthbert steered Bath to victory over Gloucester in the Guinness A League at Kingsholm last night.
The final 42-28 scoreline was a touch flattering for the visitors - given the fact two of their six tries came in the final three minutes as Gloucester pushed for an unlikely victory themselves.
There was plenty to recommend in Gloucester's effort against a physically bigger and more experienced line-up. They drove the ball wonderfully well through the forwards, scrum-half Dave Lewis buzzed about to keep his troops on the front foot and the hosts scored three tries of their own.
But in the end, Bath's extra power and additional man - Gloucester's Ejike Uzoigwe was red carded for two technical offences - eventually told.
Bath cut Gloucester's early 3-0 lead with their first try after seven minutes. Centre Cuthbert, a big, powerful midfield runner, chased after his own kick and scored to the left of the posts after re-gathering possession well.
However, Gloucester refused to lie down and when Lewis combined with number eight Dan Williams from the back of a scrum Ian Biggs and Nathan Bressington pushed play back into Bath's 22.
When the pressure mounted up front, Bath lost lock Adrian Griffiths to the sinbin for killing the ball and from the line-out drive, prop Jack Forster was driven over for the score to emphasise Gloucester's potential potency.
Gloucester traded well up front - Forster and Alasdair Dickinson got through plenty of work, while Uzoigwe's pace and Williams' work-rate caught the eye.
What Gloucester couldn't do was keep hold of the ball for long enough. They were turned over far too frequently in the contact area and when Mark Davies' clearance kick went dead, Bath scored again. Charlie Perry made a solid midfield break and was aware enough to send Goss over for his first try and establish a 14-10 lead.
Uzoigwe then got his first yellow card and Bath took advantage. They had made particular inroads through midfield and immediately after the re-start, Goss went in again, cutting back against Gloucester's drift defence to score by the sticks.
Luke Cozens made no mistake with the conversion and Gloucester were 21-10 behind and in a bit of bother.
But credit where credit is due. The hosts responded well and reverting to the facet of play that had served them best - a tight, powerful drive - scored again after 45 minutes when hooker Dan Oselton was bundled over.
And when Davies landed a long-range penalty Gloucester trailed by only three points. The contest could have gone either way then but Bath's extra power was a key element to their success and after a period of sustained pressure close to the line, flanker Chris Goodman dived in to score to take Bath 28-18 ahead.
However, from a wonky line-out after 53 minutes, Uzoigwe reacted quickest to the loose ball and turned Bath over before Gloucester launched a penetrating backs move that allowed winger Ollie Winterbottom to score in the corner and bring Gloucester to within five points at 23-28 behind.
Kingsholm roared its approval with a third Gloucester try that tied the scores. Already a man down after Uzoigwe's red card, Gloucester managed to control a line-out throw before delivering the knock-out blow.
The only surprise was that there was no Dave Sims or Ian Smith poking through the top of a relentless driving maul. It went on and on - rumbling closer and closer to the Bath line before hooker Oselton emerged from a pile of steaming bodies with a try and levelled the scores.
If there was a momentum swing, Bath didn't show it. It was to their credit they maintained their composure in the last few minutes and as Gloucester hunted the win, were picked off. First, Cozens and John Gravier made a great break down the left and lock Griffiths arrived in support to score.
Cozens again converted and then in the final minute Cuthbert added insult to Gloucester's injury with a sixth and decisive try.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees told GRTV after the win in Brive that the game could have been a tough one to get up for, but that his Gloucester team mates did themselves proud on the night and got a big result.
Reflecting on the 31-20 victory in Brive on Thursday evening, Director of Rugby David Humphreys said that clinching a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final was the overall aim and duly achieved.
Gloucester may have already clinched a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys wants his side to finish the pool stages on a winning note in Brive on Thursday evening.
Speaking after Saturday's win, James Hudson was happy to record a bonus-point win against a hugely physical Oyonnax side as Gloucester secured their passage into the European Rugby Challenge Cup Quarter Finals
Billy Burns was a try scorer on his first European start for Gloucester and, speaking after the game, admitted that it was good to get the five points although there are still things to work on before the trip to Brive.
Connacht's 30-20 win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening means that they are the third best placed runners up and will come to Kingsholm for the quarter-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup in early April.
Gloucester Rugby today confirmed that supporters who have renewed their Club Membership for next season by March 27th 2015 will receive a free ticket for this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final at Kingsholm in April.