Desperate Derby: Gloucester v Bath
By P G Tips
April 24 2018
Bath will face a desperate derby date but without destiny when they play Gloucester at Kingsholm on Saturday. With top European qualification now the slimmest of possibilities, frustrated fans are looking for a bright end to the season. Some accuse the squad of lacking motivation – this is most unlikely. Bath are however, struggling to translate training ground preparation and good intentions into performance and results on the field. Is an away derby the time to recover their mojo?
Francois Louw spoke of “silly mistakes” before the latest loss, a six try battering by Saracens. Prophetic words as most of the host’s tries resulted directly from counter attack off Bath errors. This was particularly frustrating as early signs from the match looked promising, Bath playing bright and positive attacking rugby. The errors though handed the initiative, and the result, to Saracens. Similar poor execution on Saturday will almost certainly bring another heavy defeat.
Gloucester lie sixth in the Premiership table with European Champions Cup rugby the prize if they can maintain that position. With Sale breathing down their necks they must first see off Bath before facing Saracens away in their final league fixture. Sale play Exeter away and Leicester at home in the final two rounds, so a bonus point win over Bath would all but guarantee Gloucester a sixth placed finish. If any additional motivation is needed for this ancient derby, surely that is it?
Coach Johan Ackermann has revitalised Gloucester’s forward play, getting the best out of seasoned campaigners like Afoa, and Galarza and giving late carer shots in the arm to Slater, and Morgan. Supporting these he has hard nosed and predatory flankers in his son Ruan, plus Polledri and Ludlow. Behind the scrum Billy Twelvetrees has regained some of his midfield authority, Charlie Sharples and Henry Trinder are pacey and elusive in attack and the recent form of Jason Woodward has pundits purring and insisting he should be an England tourist in South Africa. Refound faith in core Glawster values, quality individuals in form at the right time and a baying home crowd –it all looks too much for the stuttering visitors, who will be missing three of their most potent strike force – Watson, Rokodoguni & Joseph.
Bath will be looking for some crumbs of comfort as they prepare. One is that Kingsholm has been less of a fortress recently than it seemed earlier in the season when they put a run of seven home Premiership wins together. Of the past three Premiership rounds played there, Gloucester have drawn with Wasps and lost to Newcastle. Perhaps those two sides hold the key to success on the Severn? Gloucester’s confidence and power grows through a game, especially when going forward. Forced to defend for long periods they look less assured and cracks begin to appear. Bath must take the game to them, preferably ball in hand, with multiple attacks, but if kicking is the chosen means of attack it must be pointedly accurate and followed up hard.
A chance to refresh the team should also bring a shot of optimism. A week’s layoff plus likely return of Mercer and Perenise could do wonders for morale given the positive demeanour of both. At centre it may be time to recall Max Clark after three full outings for United, to see if his brand of direct running can take the game into the heart of the Cherry and White defence.
Whoever is selected, Bath can only make the top European tier next year if they grab maximum points. That will require a performance not seen since the Worcester and Benetton matches in January. Desperation can provide unexpected surges of strength and ingenuity. Bath fans will hope the team can channel that desperation to bring derby delight.
Obano, Dunn, Perenise,, Stooke, Ewels Capt.),Ellis Louw(Faletau. Fotuali’i, Priestland. Banahan, Tapuai, Clark, Brew. Homer.
Replacements: Noguera, Walker, Knight, Phillips, Mercer. Green, Burns, Wilson
Hohneck, Hanson, Afoa, Slater, Galarza, Ackermann, Polledri, Morgan. Braley, Burns. Trinder, Twelvetrees, Atkinson, Marshall. Woodward.
Replacements: McAllister, Matu’u, Balmain, Savage, Ludlow. Vellacott, Symons, Sharples.pqs: qs:
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2018:05:01:18:37:32 by P G Tips.