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Seven up for Bath

Bath cruised into the Aviva Premiership play-offs and a home semi-final against Leicester after a seven-try demolition of west country rivals Gloucester.

A second-string Cherry and Whites line-up collected a four-try bonus point from their 50-30 defeat, to boost morale for their own play-off against Connacht for a European Champions Cup spot.

Bath's victory only looked a certainty when England's Anthony Watson sped down the left wing to score their fifth try. Others went to Kyle Eastmond, George Ford, Sam Burgess, Ollie Devoto, Semesa Rokoduguni and Horacio Agulla.

Left wing Steve McColl touched down twice for the visitors and their other tries were scored by number eight Lewis Ludlow and replacement scrum-half Dan Robson.

With flanker Matt Kvesic joining the list of suspended players, Gloucester had made a dozen changes for a match that had no real significance on final Premiership placings. The good news was the return of full-back Rob Cook after a six-month lay-off with a shoulder injury.

They could not have asked for a better start, taking the lead with just three minutes gone.

Centre Brendan Macken set off down the right, found wing Steph Reynolds in support and his pass bypassed an attempted intercept by Peter Stringer to present Ludlow with a try that went unconverted.

Gloucester continued to look dangerous until Matt Banahan bust his way through after 10 minutes. Burgess and Devoto made further ground and, when Stringer switched back to the left, Eastmond danced through to score.

Ford converted and added a second try himself just a few minutes later. Devoto and Eastmond again did the damage with offloads and England fly-half Ford was on hand to swoop on a rebound to touch down in the corner. He converted his own try.

Gloucester continued to attack with plenty of energy and fly-half Aled Thomas kicked a penalty after 24 minutes.

Bath had a decided edge in the scrum though and when Gloucester's eight folded again, Ford tapped to number eight Leroy Houston. Another thrust by Dom Day then gave Ford the chance to send Burgess through Henry Purdy's tackle for the third try, converted by Ford.

The one weak area of Bath's game was in the line-out - not that Gloucester's was much better. But the visitors capitalised with a try for McColl in the right corner after Purdy's arcing run had left the home defence flat-footed. Thomas could not convert and Bath went in with a 21-13 lead.

Bath's sloppy work exiting their 22 was punished by another Thomas penalty and although Ford responded quickly from 40 metres, the young maestro then inexplicably fumbled a simple pass, as if his mind was already on next weekend's semi-final.

Ten minutes into the second half, Bath had already brought on six replacements, and Gloucester soon added to the traffic on and off the bench.

A yellow card for skipper Nick Wood told the story of Gloucester's troubles in the scrum and Bath soon made the numerical advantage count with the bonus-point try by Devoto. Ford converted and then left the field, his work done for the day.

Gloucester were far from finished, however. A loose pass from Eastmond on the hour was run back by Elliott Stooke and Macken to give McColl his second try, converted by Thomas.

That stung the home side into an instant response, as Devoto's deceptive running drew a hesitant Gloucester defence and a smart transfer by replacement prop Nick Auterac created space for Watson to cross in the corner. Tom Homer's conversion was wide but Bath led 36-23.

Rokoduguni added a sixth Bath try after 71 minutes, emerging from a gaggle of players to score at the posts, leaving a simple conversion for Homer. Agulla ran in the seventh on the whistle, with Homer again adding the conversion.


From Belfast Telegraph