Gloucester take West Country spoils

07th Sep 2009, 15:51

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Alsadair Strokosch: Taking Bath on

Alsadair Strokosch: Taking Bath on

Gloucester bounced back from last season's disappointment with an excellent 24-5 opening-day win over Bath.

Gloucester bounced back from last season's disappointment with an excellent 24-5 opening day win over neighbours Bath in the Guinness Premiership.

Wing James Simpson-Daniel's try double, and an assured display by Wales international fly-half Nicky Robinson on his Premiership debut punished a tepid Bath performance.

Robinson impressively eased his way into the season, scoring 14 points that included a late interception try when he gathered Bath centre Tom Cheeseman's speculative pass.

Former Bradford Bulls rugby league centre Shontayne Hape claimed a consolation touchdown for the visitors, but their cause was not helped by some hapless goalkicking.

Ryan Davis missed three penalties, and when he was eventually replaced as chief marksman, wing Matt Carraro drifted a conversion attempt well wide.

Bath, minus the influential presence of injured backs Olly Barkley and Butch James, lacked a creative spark. Their attacking game was laboured and strewn with errors.

The visitors had been eager to start emerging from English rugby's summer of shame by launching their domestic campaign in style.

Three Bath players - last season's co-captains Michael Lipman and Alex Crockett, together with wing Andrew Higgins - received nine-month Rugby Football Union bans in early August for failing to take drug tests requested by the club.

International forwards Matt Stevens and Justin Harrison also quit the Recreation Ground following respective two-year and eight-month suspensions imposed after they both admitted taking cocaine.

It all left head coach Steve Meehan facing a rebuilding job, but the early signs did not look promising as Gloucester took charge against a Bath side containing four debutants.

The home team proved superior in all departments, providing a richly satisfying afternoon for their new head coach Bryan Redpath.

With Robinson relishing his playmaking role, Gloucester patiently built through the phases and established territorial control after Robinson's opposite number Davis botched two early penalty chances.

Robinson kicked Gloucester into a ninth-minute lead, before efficient recycling work by the home forwards enabled Robinson to utilise space and create an opening that Simpson-Daniel finished off.

Robinson added the extras for a 10-0 advantage, but it could have been much worse for Bath as half-time approached.

The visiting defence came under increasing pressure, and a relentless Gloucester forward drive almost resulted in their second try before full-back Tom Voyce knocked on with team-mate Charlie Sharples unmarked outside him.

Davis' goalkicking torture continued when he completed hat-trick of misses just before the break, and Gloucester maintained control despite being temporarily reduced to 14 men.

Flanker Andy Hazell, a livewire influence throughout the opening 40 minutes, was sin-binned for stamping, and Bath knew they needed to make a mark on the scoreboard in his absence.

It did not happen though, with Davis' drained confidence illustrated when he sacrificed a 35-metre penalty chance by opting for touch instead.

Bath had no obvious alternatives in the goalkicking department, and their task became even harder midway through the third quarter when Gloucester struck in opportunist fashion.

Bath's Australian flanker Julian Salvi set up a promising position by galloping into the Gloucester 22, but skipper Michael Classens' pass bounced free and Simpson-Daniel gathered it for a 70-metre breakaway effort.

Robinson added the extras, taking Gloucester 17 points clear and easing the pain of losing injured captain Mike Tindall, who was left battered and bruised after a typically no-nonsense contribution.

Tindall's midfield partner Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu continued to hurt his former club through some direct running and deft passing that lit up an often drab affair.

But a late tackle by the Samoan centre handed Bath an attacking platform that led to a well-taken try for Hape, even if it was a case of too little, too late.

And it was Robinson who deservedly had the final say, racing clear for a touchdown that confirmed Gloucester's supremacy and left Meehan - not for the first time this summer - seeking answers.

The scorers:

For Gloucester:
Tries: Simpson-Daniel 2, Robinson
Cons: Robinson 3
Pen: Robinson

For Bath:
Try: Hape

Yellow card: Hazell (37, Gloucester)

Gloucester: 15 Tom Voyce, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Mike Tindall (capt), 12 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 11 James Simpson-Daniel, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Rory Lawson, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Andrew Hazell, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Alex Brown, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawiduik, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Pierre Capdevielle, 19 Marco Bortolami, 20 Akapusi Qera, 21 Apo Satala, 22 Dave Lewis, 23 Freddie Burns.

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Joe Maddock, 13 Tom Cheeseman, 12 Shontayne Hape, 11 Matt Carraro, 10 Ryan Davis, 9 Michael Claassens (c), 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Andy Beattie, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Stuart Hooper, 3 David Wilson, 2 Pieter Dixon, 1 David Flatman.
Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 David Barnes, 18 Duncan Bell, 19 Peter Short, 20 Jonny Faamatuainu, 21 Scott Bemand, 22 Nicky Little, 23 Matt Banahan.

Referee: Andrew Small