James Hook showed Wales just what they will be missing in this year’s Six Nations as he kicked a last-gasp conversion to earn Gloucester Rugby a 17-17 draw against West Country rivals Bath Rugby.
It had looked as though fellow Welsh international Rhys Priestland would prove the difference as he kicked 12 points for the home side.
Aled Brew seemed to have won the game for Bath with under five minutes to go with a score in the corner but Gloucester responded immediately and after Ben Vellacott had burrowed over from close range, Hook struck the all-important conversion.
Gloucester started like an express train and put West Country rivals Bath under continuous pressure in the opening ten minutes as they mastered the rainy conditions at the Recreation Ground.
The Cherry and Whites dominated the early possession and after Bath were penalised for not rolling away after a period of sustained pressure from the visitors, Gloucester made their neighbours pay.
Thank you for your company tonight. Lots of hard work by Gloucester, game looked lost, but super spirit to earn a draw. #BATHvGLOS
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) January 27, 2017
Hook kicked the penalty to touch and from the resulting line-out, Gloucester’s Darren Dawidiuk bundled his way over the try line, with Hook adding a fabulous kick from the touchline to make the score 7-0.
Bath battled back into the game as it approached the midway point of the first half and enjoyed some rare territory but the poor conditions encouraged a kicking match between Priestland and his opposite number Hook.
Gloucester thought they had scored again just past the half hour mark as Dan Thomas raced away towards the corner but wing Brew produced a try saving tackle.
It took 30 minutes but Bath finally got their attacking game going, with fly half Priestland pivotal in all that was good about Bath’s play.
And the home side’s attacking intent was rewarded on 32 minutes as Priestland fired over a penalty to bring Bath back into the game 7-3 down at the break.
Fair play to @bathrugby supporters 70% of the ground is uncovered & it’s packed 👏🏻☔️💦🏉🍻 great support 👍🏻
— Matthew J Watkins (@mattjwatkins) January 27, 2017
Bath continued their resurgence after the interval, they changed their approach and No.10 Priestland started to target the space behind Gloucester’s defence, giving his forward pack some much needed go-forward.
After Gloucester conceded a penalty two minutes into the second half, Priestland found a great touch and after a catch and drive, Bath seemed destined to score their first try of the game but Brew knocked on with the try-line firmly in sight.
It didn’t take long though for Bath to get themselves back on the scoreboard as Gloucester were once again penalised at the breakdown and Priestland struck his second penalty to make the score 7-6.
Brew was having an eventful start to the second half and on 51 minutes he was penalised for a high tackle in his 22.
It encouraged a period of sustained Gloucester pressure, with Hook eventually handed the chance to kick for a goal and extend the Cherry and Whites lead to 10-6 after a Bath infringement in midfield.
Gloucester’s Sione Kalamafoni was guilty of using his hands in the ruck immediately from the restart and his costly error handed Priestland the chance to bring Bath back within a point of the Cherry and Whites at 10-9.
Bath were now firmly in control of proceedings and after a clever chip through and collect from Brew in midfield just before the hour mark, the home side thought they had scored through Chris Cook but the No.9 knocked on a metre short of the line.
After consulting the fourth official, referee Andrew Jackson brought the game back for a high tackle and from the resulting penalty Priestland knocked over his fourth penalty of the evening to put Bath in front for the first time at 12-10.
Priestland had the opportunity to further extend his side’s lead on 72 minutes but after continued Bath pressure, the Welshman fired his straightforward drop kick wide of the posts.
Jeff Williams thought he had scored Bath’s first try just minutes later but he was held up short after collecting a kick through but the home side recycled the ball and eventually Brew went over in the corner.
Priestland missed the conversion and it proved very costly as Gloucester went straight down the other end and scored.
Vellacott then sneaked his way over from close range and Hook’s conversion brought Gloucester level with just a minute left to play at the Rec.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) January 27, 2017