A late penalty try handed Bath an 18-17 derby win over Gloucester in an action-packed game with five yellow cards and two red.
A late penalty try handed Bath an 18-17 derby win over Gloucester in an action-packed game with five yellow cards and two red dished out.
England internationals Billy Twelvetrees and George Ford exchanged penalties in the early stages at Kingsholm as space and try-scoring opportunities were at a premium in the customary heat of a West Country derby. Carl Fearns' absence for 10 minutes for interfering illegally in a ruck threatened to create a bit more room for the home side just before the half hour mark but still the only points came from the boot as Twelvetrees added two more penalties to one from Ford.
Bath have not won away at Kingsholm since February 2006 and the task of overturning that sequence of results was made even more difficult as another yellow card was brandished in the direction of Matt Garvey just moments after Fearns had returned and right on the stroke of half-time with the score at 9-6.
Those two yellow cards were just the start of the disciplinary issues in an ill-tempered match that exploded into action in the second half but not, perhaps, for any of the right reasons. Garvey had no sooner returned to the fray when Gloucester's replacement prop Sila Puafisi was given a straight red card for a dangerously high tackle on Nick Abendanon.
The visitors immediately took advantage of their one-man advantage as they produced a textbook catch and drive from a line-out and captain Stuart Hooper rumbled over the line with ease at the back of the rest of his pack.
Dave Attwood was the next man – the third Bath player – to be sent to the sin bin after conceding a penalty that Twelvetrees kicked to put Gloucester back in front and then a rare moment of quality put the hosts further ahead.
The ball was spun wide after a turnover and Mike Tindall showed all of his experience to hold his man before offloading to his centre partner Henry Trinder and giving him enough space to get over the line out wide. Crucially, Twelvetrees missed the conversion to leave the Cherry and Whites just six points in front, but nobody could have foreseen the pandemonium that occurred in the game's closing stages.
First, both Tindall and Huia Edmonds were sent to the sin-bin within seconds of each other to leave Gloucester desperately defending their line with just 12 men. That was a task that would prove impossible and referee Tim Wigglesworth's decision to award a penalty try with two minutes left on the clock sparked a mass brawl, which pretty much summed up this ill-tempered and ill-disciplined West Country derby.
Replacement scrum-half Tavis Knoyle, who was the instigator as he threw a series of punches, became the second recipient of a straight red card and Gloucester finished the match, somewhat embarrassingly, down to 11 men.
Amid all of the controversy and chaos, at least one man managed to keep his head as 21-year-old George Ford calmly slotted over the conversion to the penalty try from in front of the posts to give Bath a vital win. The victory not only gives them the bragging rights and a first away win in the West Country derby for eight years but also means they retain some breathing space above Harlequins in the fight to make the playoffs and rivals Gloucester lose ground in the race to finish in the now all-important seventh place in the Premiership.
Pens: Twelvetrees 4
Yellow cards: Tindall (foul play), Edmonds (maul infringement)
Red cards: Puafisi (high tackle), Knoyle (punch)
Pens: Ford 2
Yellow cards: Fearns (hands in ruck), Garvey (high tackle), Attwood (hands in ruck)
Gloucester: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Mike Tindall, 11 Jonny May, 10 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Gareth Evans 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Will James, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Dan George, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 James Hudson, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Rob Cook
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 George Ford, 9 Micky Young, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Carl Fearns, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 David Wilson, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise 19 Dominic Day, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Peter Stringer 22 Gavin Henson, 23 Anthony Watson.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant Referees: Andrew Pearce and Gareth Copsey
TMO: David Sainsbury