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 led Gloucester Rugby to European glory on Friday evening, scoring the crucial try on a memorable night for the Cherry and Whites. After the game, he paid tribute to his team's performance under pressure in the latter stages as they withstood a ferocious late Edinburgh fightback.
Speaking to GRTV, James Hook admitted that, after a superb opening, Gloucester really had to pass a test of character to hold off Edinburgh and lift the European Rugby Challenge Cup. He paid tribute to his team mates for all their hard work on what was a great day for the club.
Speaking to the assembled media this week, Gloucester Rugby club captain Billy Twelvetrees explains that the squad are ready for the final and that it will be an honour to lead the Cherry and Whites out in the Challenge Cup final.
Gloucester Rugby scrum half Greig Laidlaw will line up against former team mates Edinburgh Rugby on Friday evening, but the focus is firmly on his own roles as the Cherry and Whites gear up for the EPCR Challenge Cup final at The Stoop.
Speaking to the media ahead of Friday evening's European Rugby Challenge Cup Final against Edinburgh, Director of Rugby David Humphreys stressed that his improving Gloucester team will need to perform at their best to prevail against a tough Edinburgh side.
Dan Robson, a second half try scorer in the 42-40 win over Newcastle on Saturday, admitted that Gloucester had started slowly but that the second half comeback showed real character and maintains momentum going into Friday's European final.
Gareth Evans was a first half replacement for the Cherry and Whites on Saturday afternoon, but the back rower's impressive carrying kept the hosts on the front foot when they needed it most to snatch a dramatic comeback win.
After his last ditch try clinched the 42-40 Aviva Premiership victory over Newcastle at Kingsholm on Saturday, Billy Burns told GRTV that all the Gloucester team deserve credit for hanging in there against a Falcons team who really made life tough for the Cherry and Whites.
Speaking after the European Rugby Challenge Cup triumph on Friday evening, Director of Rugby David Humphreys was thrilled with how the Cherry and Whites managed the game and secured the first major European silverware for nine years.
Friday night saw the Cherry and Whites lift the European Rugby Challenge Cup following the 19-13 victory over Edinburgh Rugby. The club photographer caught the best of the action and celebrations from The Stoop.
Once again for Gloucester, it went right to the very last whistle, the 14 men in Cherry and White hanging on heroically to win the European Rugby Challenge Cup by 19 points to 13 over Edinburgh at the Stoop on Friday evening.
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