Cokanasiga’s re­turn helps Bath lift gloom with stun­ning come­back win

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Rugby Union -

De­spite gloomy con­di­tions, the crush­ing news five hours be­fore kick-off that 1,000 spec­ta­tors could no longer at­tend, and be­ing down 17 points head­ing into the fi­nal quar­ter, some­how Bath pro­duced a vic­tory to end a rough day on a high and give their Gal­lagher Premier­ship play-off hopes an enor­mous boost with a bonus-point win.

Tom Dunn’s late brace – re­ward for a fine per­for­mance in front of Eng­land head coach Ed­die Jones and Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions head coach War­ren Gat­land – plus Lewis Boyce’s try over­hauled a 17-point deficit, be­fore Joe Cokanasiga, mak­ing his come­back af­ter al­most a year out with a knee in­jury, put Ben Spencer away for the try bonus point. It was an un­be­liev­able turn­around, leav­ing Bath’s play-off as­pi­ra­tions in their own hands ahead of fac­ing Sara­cens in the fi­nal round.

Bath’s squad, pack­ing out the stands, gave Cokanasiga a thun­der­ous re­cep­tion when he came on af­ter 54 min­utes, play­ing in his first match since Sept 26 last year.

Bath direc­tor of rugby Stuart Hooper said: “Joe is ob­vi­ously box of­fice, and I’m sure you guys will write about that step and it will be shown on all the screens, but the real thing that de­fines him is the un­seen work. Af­ter 12 months out, he has worked so hard to get back.”

Win­ners of six of their seven pre­vi­ous matches since the restart, this time Bath found them­selves in a deep hole, with Glouces­ter in con­trol and im­press­ing up un­til the 60-minute mark, lead­ing 20-3 be­fore alarm­ingly fad­ing away.

“I think that was 60 min­utes of ex­e­cut­ing ex­actly what we talked about, but we are gut­ted to lose. You have to take your hat off to Bath, they had mo­men­tum and that was the dif­fer­ence,” said Ge­orge Skiv­ing­ton, Glouces­ter’s head coach.

Danny Cipri­ani was ab­sent but Glouces­ter fly-half Lloyd Evans pro­duced a stel­lar trib­ute act, fend­ing off Josh Matavesi to slip through a gap be­fore feed­ing Chris Harris on his inside for a smooth score, giv­ing the vis­i­tors a 10-0 lead af­ter an ear­lier Billy Twel­ve­trees penalty.

Rhys Pri­est­land en­deav­oured to bring Bath back into the con­test with a penalty be­fore Twel­ve­trees’ third penalty made it 13-3 to Glouces­ter head­ing into the break.

At that point, Glouces­ter looked in to­tal con­trol, a su­perb sec­ond try fin­ished off by Matt Bana­han af­ter a break from the pow­er­ful Jake Polledri giv­ing the vis­i­tors a mam­moth 20-3 ad­van­tage.

Bath looked to their maul for a life­line and grabbed one, with Dunn at the bot­tom of the pile for their first try. Re­turn­ing to the cor­ner for a sec­ond time worked too, even af­ter the maul was stopped, Dunn scor­ing his sec­ond with a low drive.

Im­pres­sive breaks from An­thony Wat­son and Sam Un­der­hill then put Bath on the front foot, Lewis Boyce com­plet­ing the come­back with Bath’s third try in 10 min­utes. Cue one fi­nal flour­ish, as Josh McI­nally’s off­load freed Cokanasiga, who beat two de­fend­ers be­fore find­ing Spencer to en­sure Bath picked up max­i­mum points.

Touch­ing down: Lewis Boyce scores the third try in Bath’s win over Glouces­ter which gave his team a shot at reach­ing the play-offs in front of Eng­land coach Ed­die Jones

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