Bath Rugby v Gloucester Rugby | Friday 5 January | Recreation Ground | 21:45
The international season may be starting in Europe this week, but there’s still plenty domestic action on the go. Our first port of call for the weekend is an Aviva Premiership fixture between Bath and Gloucester. Both teams are coming off the back of narrow defeats that saw them fall further away from the semi-final places.
The duo are rather evenly matched, which means this one should be quite a close game. Let’s see if we can find the winner.
To Win (80 Mins)
Bath’s topsy-turvy season continued last week as they let a 14 point half-time lead slip against the Saracens. Mike Ford’s side put in an almighty shift in the first stanza but couldn’t see off a late show from the Saries. An early Reece Priestland penalty and a Tom Horner try saw the away side take an early advantage in the game. Things were to get even better for Bath when Priestland stepped up and slotted a penalty on the 40-minute mark to give his side a healthy lead as the teams went into the change rooms.
Bath had managed to keep their opponents scoreless in the first stanza. Not to be outdone by their domestic rivals, Saries emulated the trick in the second half. The Wolf Pack racked up 19 unanswered points on their way to a vital six-point victory over Mike Ford's men.
While It’s never a pleasant feeling to let a huge half-time lead slip, I think Ford will be proud of his charges efforts. Saries have been in immaculate form this season and to have them on the ropes as Bath did is quite an achievement. The defeat has left Bath in ninth place on the Aviva Premiership, though, and Ford will be desperate to claim the full points haul this week and get their season back on track in the process.
In terms of team news, Bath will be without four of their key men who have been called up to national squad for the Six Nations. Anthony Watson, Jonathon Josephs, Ollie Devoto and George Ford are all away on national duty, which must be rather worrying for Mike Ford as that group of players have been the real standouts for his struggling side. He will also be without his backup fly-half, Rhys Priestland who will be on the bench for Wales when the Dragons take on Ireland this coming Sunday.
So as you can see, Mike Ford has a massive selection dilemma heading into this weekend’s game.
This part of the season could get really interesting for Gloucester. They’re one of the sides to have been that badly affected by Six Nations call-ups. While they have lost Greig Laidlaw and Ross Moriarty to the Scottish and Welsh Six Nations squads, Gloucester still look in good shape. Unlike their opponents, they have avoided having the spine of their side ripped out by national calls. This could stand them in good stead during the coming weeks as they try to climb the log.
Like their opponents for this weekend’s encounter, Gloucester come into this one off a narrow defeat to one of the teams occupying the upper echelons of the log, the Leicester Tigers. Having gone into the half time break leading by leading 15-7, Gloucester looked good value for the win. However, a late second half blitz by the Tigers condemned Gloucester to their fifth loss of the season.
One of the positives to come out of that defeat was their pack. Considering the forward talent Leicester have at their disposal, Gloucester’s forwards did well to front up to their opposition. They’re going to need to replicate that showing this week as Bath’s pack also put in a great performance last week. It may just end up being the team that dominates the set wins the game.
Verdict: Gloucester 5/2
Bath have lost their last five games in a row and while I do expect them to come give a good account of themselves at the Rec this weekend, I think Gloucester have a bit more in the tank then their opponents Back the away side to emerge victorious at 6/4.
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