Bath keep European dream alive after sweeping Gloucester aside
A bonus-point victory kept Bath on course for the top six.
Bath kept alive their hopes of European Champions Cup qualification by sweeping aside west country rivals Gloucester 43-20 at Kingsholm.
A bonus point victory kept Bath on course for the top six – they host relegated London Irish next weekend – after first-half tries from hooker Tom Dunn, fly-half Rhys Priestland, wing Aled Brew and full-back Tom Homer’s spectacular solo effort left Gloucester reeling.
Priestland kicked four conversions and a penalty for a 16-point haul, while substitute wing Cooper Vuna claimed a fifth Bath try after Gloucester briefly threatened a fightback, then centre James Wilson’s score, converted by Freddie Burns, confirmed an emphatic success.
Gloucester, European Challenge Cup finalists next month, saw their lingering play-off hopes disappear as a result after lock Ed Slater and full-back Jason Woodward claimed touchdowns and 10 points from Billy Twelvetrees’ boot left them well short.
Bath still need other results to work in their favour, but they have at least given themselves a fighting chance to salvage something from an erratic campaign.
Bath blasted out of the blocks and rocked Gloucester with a try after just 75 seconds when slick handling and high-class support play ended in Dunn crossing and Priestland converting for a 7-0 lead.
It was an immediate shot across Gloucester’s bows, yet the home side responded positively and thought they had cancelled out that score as flanker Lewis Ludlow powered over Bath’s line, but referee Wayne Barnes ruled it out for a double movement after Tom Homer and Max Clark tackled him.
Woodward was fortunate to escape punishment after challenging airborne Bath scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i, yet Bath soon gave their opponents more to worry about as they claimed a second try.
Flanker Francois Louw made light work of Gloucester’s defence 25 metres out, then made headway before delivering a scoring pass to Priestland, who finished off near the posts and then converted for a 14-0 advantage after 14 minutes.
Twelvetrees opened Gloucester’s account with a penalty after Bath’s scrum infringed, only for normal service to quickly resume as another error – Gloucester hooker James Hanson passed straight to Bath lock Charlie Ewels – and Ewels sent Brew away.
The Wales international finished impressively, with Priestland’s third successive conversion taking Bath 18 points clear before Gloucester stirred and skipper Slater touched down from close range before Twelvetrees’ conversion made it 21-10.
Bath, though, were not to be denied a fourth try as half-time approached, and this time it was a dazzling effort from Homer, who set off on an angled run from inside his own half, beat two Gloucester defenders then outsprinted their covering tacklers, and the visitors were once again in complete control.
Twelvetrees kicked another penalty before the break, but Gloucester still had it all to do, trailing by 13 points at the interval.
A Priestland penalty took Bath further clear, only for Gloucester to hit back after 52 minutes following number eight Ben Morgan’s powerful run, before quickly recycled possession found itself to an unmarked Woodward and Twelvetrees converted from the touchline.
It gave Gloucester a glimmer of hope, yet that was soon extinguished when Vuna scored and Priestland converted to take Bath past 30 points, before Wilson claimed an interception try five minutes from time.