Bath Rugby may have recorded their largest league win over Gloucester Rugby at Kingsholm but head coach Mike Ford insists his side’s defence was just as vital to their historic triumph.
Matt Garvey grabbed two tries late on to put some gloss on the scoreline but it was a resolute defensive display and the boot of George Ford that ultimately downed their West Country rivals.
The England fly-half scored 24 points in a superb kicking display to ensure his side stole a march on fellow Aviva Premiership Rugby top-four contenders Exeter Chiefs, who lost 18-11 to Sale Sharks on Friday night.
Despite the eventual margin of victory, the hosts were in contention for long periods but never gained the upper hand due to their struggles at the scrum and a resolute Bath defensive effort.
And while Ford admits the hard-fought first hour was perhaps one for the purists, he believes the manner of victory will bode well for his side ahead of a critical run of games.
“It may have been no oil painting for the fans but it was for the coaches and I thought we defended magnificently,” he said.
“There was a spell in the first half where they had 28 phases and then a couple in the second half but each time we took the sting out of their tail.
“We got a couple of late tries, which accelerated the scoreboard a little bit as it was a lot closer than that suggests.
“It’s always tough to win here, especially when you’re Bath but I’m pleased as we’ll have a good Christmas now.
“We’re in a good place and what I like about this squad is that it is a squad effort. There are players not playing who are very good internationals, which is fantastic.
“We’ll have a good Christmas although not a long one because we’ve got Exeter next week but we can’t wait to play that one now.”
Despite Greig Laidlaw kicking the home side into an early lead, Gloucester were behind for most of the contest, not least because of their set-piece woes that saw replacement prop Sila Puafisi sin binned just before the hour.
And while director of rugby David Humphreys acknowledged the defensive prowess of the visitors, he believes his own side were equally culpable in failing to exploit their territory and possession.
“We lost a game by 20 points but it didn’t feel like a 20-point game as I felt we played some good rugby,” he said.
“But credit to Bath as, despite the possession we had, a little bit in the first half but especially in the second half, their defence was outstanding.
“A couple of times decisions went one way and then the other so there was a bit of uncertainty as to who was at fault in the scrum.
“That’s something we will sit down and review over the next couple of days as we’ve got a tough run of games ahead.
“There’s two ways to look at our amount of possession – one is to credit Bath for their defence, particularly when it was in their 22 a lot of the time.
“But we’ve also got to look at being more accurate – to create that number of chances and not score is something we need to review.”
Gloucester Rugby: McColl (Halaifonua Tonga 52); Sharples, Purdy (Atkinson 49), Twelvetrees, May; Hook, Laidlaw (Robson 69); Thomas (Wood 46), Hibbard (Dawidiuk 66), Afoa (Puafisi 41), Savage, Palmer (Hudson 55), Kalamafoni, Kvesic, Moriarty (Stooke 65)
Sin bin: Puafisi 55
Bath Rugby: Watson; Rokoduguni (Burgess 68), Joseph, Eastmond (Devoto 52), Banahan; Ford, Cook (Young 53); James (Auterac 59), Batty (Webber 49), Wilson (Thomas 52), Hooper, Day, Fa’osiliva (Fearns 45), Louw, Houston (Garvey 60)
Penalties: Laidlaw 3
Tries: Penalty, Garvey 2
Conversions: Ford 3
Penalties: Ford 6
Referee: Greg Garner
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