Banahan returns to Bath in blaze of glory
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