Bath claimed third place in the standings after Gloucester suffered a defeat due to Englefield’s mistake.
Certain errors can be incredibly vexing to the point of outsmarting even the most advanced analytical models, completely altering the course of a game. In the midst of a match, Caolan Englefield, Gloucester’s scrum-half, provided a prime example of this phenomenon.
The guests headed south for their West Country rivalry match against Bath after losing eight consecutive games in the Premiership. However, they were ahead 10-5 at halftime. Ruan Ackermann and Zach Mercer were dominant in the back row, with Ackermann scoring the first try after a series of successful plays including a scrum penalty, a clean lineout, and a powerful carry from close range. Bath countered with a well-executed try by Tom de Glanville in the corner, but strong defense allowed the Cherry and Whites to maintain their lead.
Shortly after the game resumed, a key player, Will Muir, who had helped set up De Glanville’s try, found himself in a difficult situation on the left side. He kicked the ball forward, more out of desperation than strategy, while Englefield prepared to catch it. However, Englefield appeared to disappear as the ball rolled past him, allowing Muir to pick it up and score.
Finn Russell, who had been relatively unnoticed until then, made a significant impact as inside-centre Cameron Redpath took charge. Russell successfully converted the try, giving Bath the lead. Shortly after, Gloucester managed to prevent a try on their own goal line, but it was evident that the momentum had shifted heavily in favor of the home team.
Alfie Barbeary entered the game as a substitute and quickly dominated the field, making significant gains. Shortly after, Santiago Carreras received a yellow card for intentionally knocking the ball forward. Despite Gloucester’s passionate tackling efforts and successfully preventing Bath from scoring three times, it was inevitable that they would eventually break through their defense.
At the 60-minute mark, Joe Cokanasiga intercepted a pass and passed it down the line to Ollie Lawrence, who then gave it to De Glanville. De Glanville evaded a defender with a left-foot step and scored his second try.
Gloucester deserves credit for not giving up and consistently fighting on the outskirts. They had ample support from their teammates when they possessed the ball and effectively prevented Bath from scoring a fourth try for a bonus point. Towards the end, they had a chance to tie the score with two lineouts near Bath’s goal line and strong pushes just meters away. However, they were unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
“The Gloucester coach, George Skivington, expressed his disappointment with the Englefield mistake, stating that he believed a draw would have been a fair outcome had their accuracy been better in the final moments. However, he also acknowledged that he had no significant complaints and praised his team for sticking to their game plan. Skivington noted that the opposing team’s successful grubber kick, which resulted in a goal, affected their mindset for a brief period of time. However, once they regrouped, they were able to get back into their rhythm and play well. Overall, Skivington believes his team is performing well and playing quality rugby.”
Bath, league leaders just a fortnight ago, move into third in the Premiership table behind Harlequins on points difference. “Tonight’s game was in the bigger scheme of things and very important,” said the club’s head of rugby, Johann van Graan, who was already talking about next weekend’s Champions Cup match at home against French Top 14 leaders Racing 92, the following week’s trip to Toulouse and the next league game away to Bristol.
“We are facing a significant obstacle in the upcoming weeks,” stated Van Graan with a sense of caution. “I do not want to overhype these games. It is all about managing expectations and as a team, we have not set any specific expectations. However, I have great affinity for the Champions Cup and we will simply relish this week. We have everything to gain in the next two weeks.”
His team will need sharpening. This was a contest won through grit and good fortune, rather than the scintillating rugby that Bath are capable of producing. Perhaps this was to be expected, having made 11 changes to the team that lost to Leicester last week.
A more skilled team than Gloucester could have capitalized on their mistakes, and their upcoming opponents will not be as understanding. Skivington will be upset that his team could have succeeded on their own, if not for Englefield’s involvement.