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.
Defence Coach Jonny Bell admitted this week that the European Rugby Challenge Cup victory in Bayonne was a welcome one, stressed that Benetton Treviso will pose a tough test on Saturday at Kingsholm but that Gloucester are determined to deliver in front of their own fans.
Motu Matu'u is looking to make up for lost time this week as the Cherry and Whites head to Basque Country to take on Bayonne in the European Rugby Challenge Cup opener. The Samoan hooker made his first appearance in the jersey last weekend, and is hoping to contribute to the team this weekend.
Gloucester's attentions turn to Europe this weekend as they travel to Bayonne for their opening fixture of this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup. Forwards Coach Trevor Woodman told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will be aiming to top their pool as they've done for the past two seasons, but is well aware of how tough it is to win in France.
Although understandably disappointed at seeing victory slip away at the last minute, Ben Morgan said after the game at Exeter that there were plenty of positives that Gloucester could take from the game.
Speaking after a last-gasp try from Exeter earned the Chiefs a 27-27 draw at Sandy Park on Saturday, Charlie Sharples admitted to mixed feelings. The game saw him score a try on his 200th competitive appearance for the club, but the frustration from not closing out the win was clear.
David Humphreys was minutes away from a winning interview on Saturday afternoon, but a late try from Exeter Chiefs meant the points were shared at Sandy Park. Humphreys spoke with the local media after the 27-27 draw.
Speaking to the media ahead of Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture away at Exeter Chiefs, Director of Rugby David Humphreys reiterated that there are elements of Gloucester's game that are in good shape at present, that the performance against Bath was a step forward from Newcastle but that individual errors are costing the Cherry and Whites dear.
Centre Matt Scott, a try-scorer in Bayonne last weekend, insists that Gloucester are taking nothing for granted when they welcome Benetton Treviso to Kingsholm on Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup (kick off 3pm).