Bana­han re­turns to Bath in blaze of glory

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union - By Paul Bolton at the Re­cre­ation Ground

Matt Bana­han saved Glouces­ter’s blushes with a late try, his first for them, against the club he left four months ago on a dra­matic re­turn to the Rec.

The for­mer Eng­land wing was un­happy Bath gave him only a week to ac­cept a new con­tract on the same money he had been on since 2013 so he quit and joined their West Coun­try ri­vals.

Bana­han was given a warm re­cep­tion by the Bath fans be­fore the match but there were few cheers when he crossed on an over­lap two min­utes from time to help Glouces­ter snatch three points.

Billy Twel­ve­trees’ nerve­less con­ver­sion gave Glouces­ter a share of the spoils from a match they looked like win­ning eas­ily but al­most threw away.

Glouces­ter were 21-0 up af­ter 34 min­utes and Bath ap­peared to be head­ing for a sec­ond West Coun­try derby de­feat af­ter los­ing at Bris­tol.

But they hit Glouces­ter with two tries ei­ther side of half-time and al­most pulled a sen­sa­tional win out of the fire – quite lit­er­ally – when hooker Tom Dunn and re­place­ment lock El­liott Stooke ploughed over late on.

A van parked in the ground caught fire caus­ing thick smoke to drift over the pitch. Emer­gency ser­vices put it out but the blaze co­in­cided with the start of Bath’s fight­back.

“The fire gave us a bit of spark and we were on fire in the sec­ond half,” quipped Bath di­rec­tor of rugby Todd Black­ad­der. A draw was a fair re­sult but Glouces­ter will re­gard it as two points lost af­ter Danny Cipri­ani had pro­duced an­other master­ful dis­play watched by Eng­land head coach Ed­die Jones. Cipri­ani set up the first of two tries for blind­side flanker Ruan Ack­er­mann with a clever chip out of de­fence which was snaf­fled by Cal­lum Bra­ley and sup­ported by Twel­ve­trees. Glouces­ter’s pack kept the squeeze on and Ack­er­mann ploughed over from close range.

Cipri­ani then handed Ack­er­mann his sec­ond try with a pass which wrong-footed Bath. When Bra­ley went over it looked like a rout but Glouces­ter couldn’t main­tain their in­ten­sity.

“We played good rugby and showed char­ac­ter at the end but a big les­son was learned in that sec­ond half to be more clin­i­cal and ac­cu­rate,” said Glouces­ter coach Jo­han Ack­er­mann.

Bath’s fight­back be­gan with a long Fred­die Burns pass which al­lowed Semesa Roko­duguni to get the bet­ter of Bana­han on the stroke of half-time.

The alarm bells rang again, this time for Glouces­ter. Cipri­ani put in a tackle to deny Joe Cokanasiga a try but James Han­son’s line-out throw went straight to Dunn who dot­ted down for a soft try.

A long de­lay, while wing Char­lie Sharples was treated for a head in­jury, fur­ther in­ter­rupted Glouces­ter who saw their lead erased within two min­utes of the re­sump­tion when Dunn ploughed over. Twel­ve­trees and Rhys Pri­est­land traded penal­ties be­fore Stooke re­gained Bath’s lead then Bana­han clinched a dra­matic draw.

Des­per­ate de­fence: Danny Cipri­ani fails to stop Bath’s Tom Dunn crash­ing over

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