BATH 31 GLOUCESTER 25
THREE incidents of Television Match Official drama and controversy swung this intriguing battle one way then the other.
But despite huge frustrations for Gloucester boss Nigel Davies, he still conceded it was set-piece supremacy that won this contest for Bath.
Gloucester could not grind anywhere near parity in either scrum or lineout – and in the end that cost them a sixth-straight Premiership victory over their bitter rivals.
The TMO ruled Charlie Sharples’ tackle denied Tom Biggs a score, awarding a penalty try after five minutes.
Then Jonny May’s pass inside to Mike Tindall was ruled forward, chalking off a try for Freddie Burns after 16 minutes.
And with half an hour to play, referee Tim Wigglesworth referred a tackle from Darren Dawidiuk to TMO Geoff Warren.
Warren ruled the challenge on Dave Attwood was a tip tackle, and Dawidiuk was duly sent off.
Gloucester fought manfully with 14 men for half an hour.
When Tom Biggs blasted in for a try just past the hour, cutting off his left wing, there would have been no shame in Gloucester folding.
Instead they ground back, and May scooted in for his second try, after a fine tap-penalty break from Dan Robson.
This absorbing encounter deserved the hurtling, skirmishing finale that ensued – but in the end the slightly better team perhaps deservedly shaded it.
Lamenting the red card, Davies explained: “I thought it was very harsh, it could have potentially been a yellow, but a red was very harsh.
“I think it certainly wasn’t a lift, his hand wasn’t above the horizontal, though the player’s feet went above his head.
“There were three huge calls there today, and they ultimately proved the difference.
“The try that we scored, I think that was perfectly fine, I didn’t see any reason to go to the TMO for that.
“And you can argue whether their penalty try could have been awarded, Charlie was in the act of making the tackle, he thought the guy had the ball – it’s a difficult one.”
Admitting Gloucester probably used up all their luck with the last-gasp penalty try call that edged them home 29-23 against Worcester last weekend, Davies said ultimately Bath’s tight-game power guided them home.
Davies continued: “We had a big call last week which helped us, so you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth.
“More importantly the difference is we couldn’t control that game from set-piece.
“But the heart, guts and determination to stay in the game with 14 men for half an hour was fantastic once again.”
Bath’s penalty try score stunned Gloucester at the start.
Matt Banahan cut inside Mike Tindall – the bullish skipper’s sole mistake on his 150th competitive Gloucester appearance – and booted deep for Biggs to chase.
The blonde bombshell outpaced Sharples to the bouncing ball on the Gloucester tryline.
Sharples tackled the former Leeds man, and the ball bumbled dead.
First TMO call, the result: penalty try.
Fit-again Burns missed a long-range penalty on eight minutes, and then Gloucester got lucky.
Trinder charged down Nick Abendanon’s clearance, scooped up the loose ball and score a smart try.
Buoyed by their riposte, May cut down the left flank and fed Tindall breaking inside into the Bath 22.
His pass somehow found a way to Burns, who dotted down, expecting the try to be given.
Instead TMO call number two robbed Gloucester of the score, May’s pass to Tindall judged forward.
Undeterred, Gloucester struck a fine score, owing everything to Burns’ delayed pass to Trinder.
The fly-half held an extra split-second, committing the Bath defence, allowing Trinder to find May on the left flank, and the arch finisher did the rest.
Once again the TMO was asked to intervene, but he ruled Cook’s dummy run was not obstruction – definitely the correct call, and no controversy about this one.
Bath rallied though, Heathcote scything Gloucester’s line to send the impressive Eastmond home.
Burns failed with a straightforward penalty, before Cook took over and slotted a goal – the ball bouncing on the bar and over.
Somehow Gloucester scrambled to the break just five points down, at 20-15.
Heathcote and Cook traded penalties to open the second half – and then came the red card.
A classic derby power struggle ensued, completely compelling for all packed into The Rec.
Biggs did his bit, May responded, and everyone settled in for a grandstand finish.
It never quite came, with Bath holding on for victory without adding a flourish, and Gloucester just unable to steal the spoils.
Both sides will have just about been satisfied with their lot though – perhaps the rarest West Country derby outcome of all.
BATH: Tries: Penalty (5), Eastmond (31), Biggs (63). Cons: Heathcote 2 (5, 31). Pens: Heathcote 4 (3, 26, 43, 57).
GLOUCESTER: Tries: May 2 (24, 65), Trinder (13). Cons: Burns (24), Cook (65). Pens: Cook 2 (38, 45).
GLOUCESTER: Dawidiuk (50).
BATH: Fearns (58).
REFEREE: T Wigglesworth.