Men against boys but youngsters will learn from chastening loss
It was a complete mismatch
A RECORD defeat with 52 points shipped and none scored makes unpleasant reading for Gloucester fans but it wasn’t totally unexpected given the different approaches of the teams.
It was men against boys - almost literally - as Bath fielded a side full of internationals, while Gloucester named a young side with six academy players aged 21 or under.
Once again it highlighted the problem with the much-maligned Premiership Rugby Cup which throws up some bizarre results with teams fielding completely different sides from one round to another.
It has often been referred to as a development competition but with no quota in place that could ensure all clubs give chances to their young homegrown players, there will always be mismatches like this one at The Rec.
Bath were well within their rights to put out a strong team, just as Gloucester have done in the competition at times in the past, as they decided that would be the best way for the game to serve a purpose for them but the contrast in selections made for a one-sided affair that can’t be good for rugby.
Did Gloucester get the selection right?
TO purely look at the scoreline the answer to this would be no but there was a bigger picture to Gloucester’s selection.
It has caused much debate over the last few days, which has only been fuelled by the result with a defeat to Bath - particularly in the manner that this came - always a hard one to take for fans.
By fielding a weakened side Gloucester had effectively written off the Premiership Cup, showing clearly where it lay in their list of priorities despite still having a slim chance of reaching the semi-finals when the team was named before two postponements and other results rendered the fixture a dead rubber.
There is a risk that by leaving out the big stars, a number of them will be rusty by the time Gloucester next play against Exeter in the Premiership on Friday, February 15 as they will have gone four weekends without a game having sat out the final Heineken Champions Cup pool game against Castres too.
Head coach Johan Ackermann has decided to use the middle part of the season to allow his players to rest and recuperate after a gruelling few months that saw the injuries pile up and he would not have wanted to lose any more players in a game that had little significance.
Perhaps it will be better to judge selection not on the result of this game but the crucial block of Prmeiership fixtures coming up - four wins over Exeter, Saracens, Bristol and Harlequins to cement their place in the top four would make this game quickly forgotten by Gloucester fans.
What will Gloucester’s youngsters have taken from it? GLOUCESTER’S selection would also have been influenced by the desire to give some of their youngsters a chance and backs coach Tim Taylor felt afterwards they would have learnt a lot from playing in a West Country derby at The Rec.
There would have been some value in this as it offered a big step up.
Jacob Morris, making his first Gloucester start at the age of 18, came up against one of the top wingers in the country in Semesa Rokoduguni and should have been able to take away some valuable lessons.
The same could be said for Alex Craig going up against internationals Dave Attwood and Luke Charteris in the lineouts and Dom Coetzer, who was bright with the ball in hand, would have learnt what is required defensively at full-back against a rampant Bath outfit, while the front row of Alex Seville, Henry Walker and Ciaran Knight continued their education this season against more seasoned pros.
Jack Reeves, Cam Terry and Charlie Chapman also came on in the second half to pit themselves up against more experienced players.
It will be important for them now not to get too disheartened as the concern would be that such a heavy defeat would have dented their confidence.
Bath took their chances
WHILE the scoreline had a lop-sided look, the big difference between the sides was that Bath were much more clinical than Gloucester.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic as Gloucester did have some spells in the Bath 22 but they were unable to come away with anything, either turning the ball over and on one occassion losing a five-metre lineout, an area that once again proved problematic.
Even early in the second half Gloucester had a bright spell but were unable to penetrate the Bath defence before they capitulated in the final 25 minutes.
By contrast, Bath took their chances when they came with deadly finisher Rokoduguni making the most of some poor defending by scoring four tries.
The first came from a 60-metre run, powering past Coetzer before changing his angle to beat former team-mate Matt Banahan, but the other tries were gift-wrapped as he was virtually able to walk over the line such was the space he had.
Third time lucky
FROM two postponements to a mismatch on the pitch, this West Country derby episode felt like one big farce.
Heavy snow and freezing temperaratures led to the game being called off firstly on Saturday and then Sunday before it was third time lucky.
However, when it did go ahead there was a flat atmosphere as the Monday night kick-off meant a lot of fans who had planned to go were no longer able to make it with just 7,644 showing up in the end.
At least there was some common sense shown as Bath gave refunds for those who purchased tickets in advance and could not attend.
But all in all it was a strange affair.
Jack Reeves of Gloucester attempts to get past Jack Walker of Bath
Lewis Ludlow leads the Gloucester side off after the game