Men against boys but young­sters will learn from chas­ten­ing loss

Gloucestershire Echo - - BRAIN TEASER - BY ROBERT ILES

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

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