How did it go down?
There was action from the first minute at The Rec as Henry Trinder found a gap in Bath’s defence during the first five minutes. Trinder cut between highly-rated youngster Zach Mercer and Semesa Rokoduguni before finding Willi Heinz in space and running an intelligent dummy line to draw the covering defence and allow the scrumhalf to score in the corner. Trinder’s opposite man Jonathan Joseph wasn’t to be outdone and he gave the same treatment to Owen Williams and Billy Twelvetrees minutes later, before releasing Anthony Watson and Rokoduguni outside him for a score in the corner. Both conversions were missed and the first half calmed down after its hectic start, so it was three points from the boot of Rhys Priestland that separated the teams at the break, with a score of 8-5 to Bath.
A penalty kick each way stretched the score to 11-8 early in the second half before tighthead John Afoa spotted a gap in Bath’s ruck defence and delivered an outrageous offload to Heinz who went over for his second. The score was converted giving Gloucester the lead at 11-15 in the fifty-second minute. Bath were failing to put away the visitors and by the atmosphere was getting tense as time went on. They couldn’t find a way through though and the second half remained tight until Rokoduguni brushed off Ollie Morley to touchdown in the 75th minute, securing what looked like a close win for Bath. The drama wasn’t complete however as a TMO referral late into added time showed that Gloucester lock Ed Slater had managed to touch the ball down. Owen Williams slotted the conversion to give Gloucester a memorable 21-22 away victory.
So what did we learn?
It’s still difficult to judge where these sides are – I was hoping that the Premiership had settled down with a hierarchy established as Newcastle, Northampton, Leicester and Bath emerged as the second tier of sides behind Exeter and Saracens. It is looking like this assessment was premature, with Northampton and Bath losing at home to Wasps and Gloucester respectively raising further questions about where the balance of power lies and who will claim the third and fourth playoff spots. Todd Blackadder and his men will be hoping that this result was a blip and that they will return to winning ways, whereas Gloucester will have to wait until after the LV Cup to prove that this victory wasn’t a fluke and that they can string together some consistent performances.
Joseph and Trinder go blow for blow – It felt like it might be a long and interesting afternoon when Henry Trinder sliced through the Bath defence so easily, so early on. The fact that he is still able to threaten top level defences as a runner after so many injury problems is a testament to his ability as a player in of itself. There is a suspicion that Jonathan Joseph saves his best performances for the bigger games and the fact that he was immediately able to hit back with a linebreak and assist of his own will do nothing to dispel that. Both men looked dangerous but their battle didn’t quite continue at the pace it started. In the end blows were landed but none decisive.
Willi Heinz is a quality scrumhalf – Gloucester had a headache last year when it was announced that Scotland captain and B&I Lion Greig Laidlaw would be leaving the club. It turns out that his replacement was already within their ranks and since then Heinz has flourished as the number one option at Kingsholm. Heinz, who is now club captain, is a canny operator of the territorial game that Laidlaw was so adept at, but also seems to have added more attacking options to Gloucester’s arsenal. It raised some eyebrows when Heinz, aged thirty, was brought into the England squad for last summer’s tests but on current form it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him there again.
So how did that prediction go?
Another poor one this week. In fairness I don’t think there were many predicting a Gloucester win, but it certainly does look like I was a little premature in singing Bath’s praises. It was the victory against Llanelli that sold it for me and perhaps this is another indication that one-off European results aren’t the best indicator of where a team are in the league. Still, Bath have had some impressive victories and will be hoping to prove that this disappointing result was a one-off.