Bath keep play-off hopes alive
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Toby Faletau scored a hat-trick as Bath kept their hopes of reaching the Premiership semifinals alive with a 44-20 victory over Gloucester at The Rec.
It means the race for the final place in the top four will go down to the final weekend as the hosts ran in five second-half tries with the Welsh loose forward starring.
Aled Brew, Max Clark and Robbie Fruean got the other Bath scores while Jonny May, twice, and David Halaifonua crossed for the visitors in an entertaining second 40.
Bath have lost just once at the Rec in any tournament in 2017 while Gloucester have only a single success on the road in the Premiership since September.
After a tense and scrappy opening quarter, Rhys Priestland opened the scoring with his first effort at the posts after Richard Hibbard was penalised for coming into a maul from the side.
James Hook levelled the scores shortly after while Gloucester flyhalf Billy Burns received treatment.
But immediately from the restart, Bath had the first try of the afternoon. Brew rose brilliantly to claim the kick-off and scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali'i chipped over for Faletau to dot down.
Priestland added the extras to the Welsh loose forwards' fine score as Bath led 10-3.
England's Jonny May brought the visitors back into the game though as he found acres of space out wide and was picked out by an inch-perfect Henry Trinder kick to cross in the corner.
Two quickfire tries at the start of the second half put Bath in control with wing Brew flying over in the corner, despite the attentions of Willi Heinz, after a long pass from Ben Tapuai.
Barely five minutes later, centre Clark raced away from the Gloucester defence from first phase ball after another fine Tapuai pass.
Priestland converted both scores and added a further three points with 55 minutes played as Bath moved 27-8 ahead and one try away from a bonus point.
Replacement Robbie Fruean demonstrated his strength and speed to secure the vital fifth point after another offload from Fotuali'i which Priestland converted.
Faletau had his second of the afternoon after a surging break from substitute Kane Palma-Newport as Bath added further gloss to their final home performance of the season.
A Charlie Sharples break allowed May to get across for his second try of the game but Bath weren't finished just yet as Faletau crossed in the corner for his hat-trick.
Halaifonua added a further consolation for Gloucester with Greig Laidlaw adding the extras as the visitors unsuccessfully chased a try bonus point of their own.
Tries: Faletau 3, Brew, Clark, Fruean
Cons: Priestland 4
Pens: Priestland 2
Tries: May 2, Halaifonua
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Max Clark, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Rhys Priestland (captain), 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Francois Louw 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Chris Brooker, 1 Nathan Catt.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Tom Ellis, 21 Chris Cook, 22 George Ford, 23 Robbie Fruean.
Gloucester: 15 James Hook, 14 Jonny May, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 David Halaifonua, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (captain), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Mariano Galarza, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Josh Hohneck.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 23 Charlie Sharples.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Wayne Falla, Adam Leal
TMO: Keith Lewis