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Northampton 19:45 Gloucester

Bath sink their neighbours

By Ben Blackmore.   Last Updated: 03/12/05 7:45pm

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Powergen Cup, Saturday December 3, KO 17.30

Bath booked their place in the last four of the Powergen Cup for the second consecutive year, after they edged a tense battle 21-12 against neighbours Gloucester.

After losing in the final to Leeds Tykes last season, Bath were desperate to wipe out those disappointing memories with a successful campaign this year, and they remain on course after topping Pool A.

Both sides knew that a win would see them through to the March double-header in the Millennium Stadium, and it was the home side that emerged victorious with tries from Olly Barkley and Joe Maddock.

Barkley, starting at inside centre, produced a fantastic first half display to move his colleagues into the driving seat, before injury disappointingly brought a premature end to his afternoon.

The England man touched down after 20 minutes thanks to the creativity of fly half Chris Malone, who picked the perfect moment to chip over the top of the Gloucester rearguard for Barkley to run onto.

It was a score of unfamiliar flair from a Bath side who have struggled to open up opposition defences this season, and it reflected the hosts' good early territorial work.

With the likes of Matt Stevens, Lee Mears, Steve Borthwick and Danny Grewcock all back in the starting XV, the home side were back to their formidable best upfront and Gloucester struggled to cope.

By contrast, the Cherry-and-Whites were without England man James Simpson-Daniel, and the dazzling back's absence was notable as the visitors were forced to rely on the boot of Ludovic Mercier.

Barkley's try interrupted the early exchanging of penalties between the two sides, and it was soon followed by Bath's second score as Maddock extended the lead to 15-3.

Once again the touchdown came from the clever work of a Bath player's boot, as Nick Walshe this time chipped towards the corner for the pacy wing to dive over.

With such a commanding lead, the home side let their forwards control the game, restricting their opponents to the odd penalty.

Barkley's departure after the interval coincided with a loss of invention in the Bath backline, and they further lost the initiative as Alex Crockett spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin for stamping.

To their credit, Gloucester fought to get back into the match, but all they could muster was another Mercier penalty as Bath clung on to their six-point lead until Malone made things safe with a last minute kick.

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