Key Clash Preview: Bath v Gloucester

Date: 18/2/12
Venue: The Recreation Ground
Kickoff: 14:30
Referee: Wayne Barnes

Bath:

2012 has started well for Sir Ian McGeechan’s side. Unbeaten in four games at home this year, Bath returned to the Aviva Premiership with a narrow win over Newcastle last weekend. Immediately it appears as though the club have turned a corner on the back of making the LV=Cup semi-finals. The emergence in recent weeks of winger Olly Woodburn and tighthead prop Anthony Perenise has been very welcome at the Rec.

Gloucester:

A late penalty from fly-half Freddie Burns grabbed Gloucester the win at home to Northampton Saints last weekend, where winger Charlie Sharples once again impressed. The Cherry & Whites had a clear lead at half-time, but let Northampton back into the match through Ryan Lamb’s boot, giving away far too many penalties. Gloucester have not won away from home since beating Connacht 14-10 back on December 10th.

What to Expect:

Plenty of niggle. If this game doesn’t produce at least one barbaric tussle between both sets of players, then you have every right to feel short-changed. Bath scrummed well last week against Newcastle, scoring a penalty try, but Gloucester’s pack coped well against a very physical Northampton outfit. Both teams kickers, Olly Barkley and Freddie Burns, will be under pressure to take their chances. There is plenty of pace and attacking intent in both back threes as well, so let’s hope for some tries.

Head to Head: Francois Louw v Akapusi Qera

Two players integral to their teams. Louw as Bath captain has endured an up and down season so far, but his commitment and leadership are first class. Watch his work at the breakdown, and attempt to count how many tackles he makes in open play. Another astute signing from Bruce Craig’s pocket. His opponent has recently signed a new deal to stay at the Gloucester until 2014. During his time with at Kingsholm, Qera’s powerful athletic bursts upfield have become iconic.

One to Watch: Anthony Perenise & Jonny May

Who doesn’t love a prop that scores tries? In his last two matches at home, Perenise has crossed the whitewash, and it’s a run that he’d no doubt like to keep going. Alex Corbisiero spoke on Wednesday about the set-piece coming first and anything else being a bonus, and Perenise’s all round game has been excellent. The Aviva Premiership Player of the Month for January, Jonny May will hope to add to his five tries in the Premiership this season against Gloucester’s closest rivals.

Prediction:

Hard to choose between the two. The winner will be whichever side plays the breakdown better under the watchful eye of Wayne Barnes. Every shot at goal is crucial in games like these, but Gloucester’s firepower out wide could prove the difference. Gloucester by 4.

by Ben Coles