This was definitely not one of the prettiest West Country derbies as Bath travelled to Kingsholm Park to meet their old adversaries, Gloucester. And it was one that saw referee Tim Wigglesworth running the show and emptying his pocket of cards in the last ten minutes. So how did this game warrant two reds and five yellows?
Gloucester’s composure looked strong early on but their lack of control and handling errors saw the Cherry and Whites scrambling for possession and they were fortunate when a Bath try, by Horacio Agulla, was disallowed for obstruction as he ripped through the Gloucester defence.
Then came the first of many cards to leave Mr Wigglesworth’s pocket. It was initially Carl Fearns who was yellow carded for being off his feet, flying in and flailing like a flounder on a pile of others, over the ball. On his return to the pitch, Matt Garvey was the next to come off after a high tackle on Gareth Evans.
To be clear, it was an unexciting and abysmal first half with a narrow lead for the hosts at half-time, 9-6.
Back on the pitch and it was Bath who showed promise when they did have possession, but the whistle kept blowing and play kept stopping. The frustration was palpable for both players and fans alike.
A fair red card, however, was shown to prop Sila Puafisi for a ridiculously high and dangerous tackle. Damaging for Gloucester being down to fourteen men, there was ample opportunity for Bath to score; and they did. A driving maul took captain Stuart Hooper quickly over the line.
With Gloucester minus a prop, play was reduced to uncontested scrums, This definitely took momentum out of the game and in my opinion play now seemed more like League with neither side able to showcase any real phases of play.
Dave Attwood was then binned with fourteen minutes to go â€“ the third Bath player to be yellow carded in one game. An unusual sight you might think, but little did we know there were more to come!
Bath were deflated in defence and with ten minutes to go, it was Henry Trinder who ran a fabulous line to extend Gloucesterâ€™s lead.
But the cards kept flying as the limelight shone on the man in the middle. Next to be binned was Gloucesterâ€™s Mike Tindall, followed by Huia Edmonds and all in under a minute! And the bench was creaking. Considering they were down to 11 men, Gloucester’s defence was surprisingly solid in the last five minutes with six defending on their own try line. But it was a penalty try in the 79th minute that finally earned Bath a controversial victory over their West Country rivals in this bitter match that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Before the conversion could be taken, frustrations erupted like Mount Etna and the second red card was â€˜awardedâ€™ to Gloucesterâ€™s Tavis Knoyles, who believing his head was trodden on deliberately, took three steps and threw three punches at Leroy Houston. A mass brawl ensued and it was not only disgraceful and upsetting – it was unbelievable. The game had trulyÂ spiraledÂ out ofÂ control.
It was absolutely extraordinary. Never have I seen a game turn from being fairly pedestrian and composed to painfully disjointed and brawling in the last ten minutes, so much so, I couldn’t watch for fear of what would happen next. In the back of my mind I kept thinking, ‘surely not another card?’ But thankfully not, as the game drew to a fiery and embarrassing close.
The Aviva Premiership â€˜Man of the Matchâ€™ went to Stuart Hooper and rightly so. A man of strength and character, who under such enormous pressure, kept his composure and led his team to a one-point victory. After the game he said:
â€œIt was incredible wasn’t it? I couldn’t keep up with who was going off and who was coming on.â€
But from a technical perspective my MOTM was Nick Abendanon.
He demonstrated fabulous flare on several occasions. For example, in defence he looped to cover the extensive Gloucester overlap, managing to shut down their attack. Similarly on the attack, looping to create depth and open up the wing, which again shows his versatility.
If Gloucester want to be regarded as a respected team within the Premiership, then they will need to analyse and correct their self-discipline. Credit to Bath who dug deep to take away the win and a job well done in extraordinary and challenging circumstances.
But in the wake of the disgraceful scenes at the end – what are the ramifications? Much will now be scrutinised. The ugly brawl. The bottle that was thrown at the referee after the match; and the rule regarding uncontested scrums. Then thereâ€™s the inconsistency of refereeing decisions which can totally ruin a game. But self-discipline and respect must remain key elements of rugby, if it is not to fall into disrepute.
On a different note, the top four positions are starting to appear a little more cemented and as the play-off stages loom, it’ll be Bath looking to secure a place in the Aviva Premiership Final.
By Rhiannon Chandler-Day
To see more from Rhiannon, please check out her blog at: rhiannonsrugbyunionblog.blogspot.co.ukrhiannonsrugbyunionblog.blogspot.co.uk