Friday rugby betting preview: Bath v Gloucester

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We're backing Bath to win but Gloucester to come good in the second half when the West Country rivals clash at The Rec on Friday night.

Bath v Gloucester, Friday 19 February, ko 7.45pm, BT Sport 2

In any normal season, this match would attract a capacity crowd to The Rec, especially given the presence of box-office names like Louis Rees-Zammit (pictured), the new king of Wales.

While the lack of fans and the decision to abandon relegation for one season (hopefully) has taken some of the sting out of this bottom-of-the-table scrap, the pride in winning the fixture means much more than putting four or five league points on the board.

The confidence that Rees-Zammit will have gained from scoring three tries in two Six Nations appearances will come as a timely boost to a Gloucester side short on self-belief after another close defeat in their last outing (18-17 to Bristol).

Stephen Varney, the returning Italian scrum-half, has that in abundance at the moment, too, following his impressive displays for the Azzurri and those two young guns, 20 and 19, respectively, and Chris Harris, who is enjoying a strong Six Nations with Scotland, will inject some life into a squad down on its luck.

Even so, Bath will be expected to win and should, in reality, cover off the four-point handicap with the quality they have in their side. But backing a Gloucester win at 6/4 wouldn’t be the most foolish thing in the world to do.

The headline team news for the home side is the inclusion of Taulupe Faletau in the back row. Faletau joins Rees-Zammit in temporarily swapping Wales’ Six Nations campaign for a Premiership scrap and that has resulted in Josh Bayliss moving into Bath’s problem area of second row.

Number crunching

Breaking down the figures, this is a game between two teams who typically fare much better in the first 40 minutes than they do in the second half.

Bath have been in front in four of their nine Premiership matches (only two have been won) but have been outscored in all but one game in the second half. 

The blue, black and whites are one of only three top-flight teams in England to score more tries in the first half as opposed to the second (11 to 8), while two-thirds of the penalties they kick also come in this period (10/15).

Meanwhile, 80% of Gloucester’s penalties (12/15) have been kicked before the break and they have been ahead or level at half-time in five of their nine matches. 

Half of the 34 tries scored against Bath (the most in the league) are conceded in the first half, so that should give Gloucester hope of getting on the scoreboard early.

All this points to plenty of points being scored in the first half, at least relative to the second, which is why we are going to recommend going for over 20.5 first-half points (5/6).

Bath: 15. Tom de Glanville, 14. Semesa Rokodoguni, 13. Max Clark, 12. Josh Matavesi, 11. Will Muir, 10. Rhys Priestland, 9. Ben Spencer; 1. Juan Schoeman, 2. Tom Dunn, 3. Christian Judge, 4. Josh Bayliss, 5. Mike Williams, 6. Taulupe Faletau, 7. Miles Reid, 8. Zach Mercer
Replacements: 16. Jack Walker, 17. Jamie Bhatti, 18. Henry Thomas, 19. Tom Ellis, 20. Ethan Staddon, 21. Will Chudley, 22. Tian Schoeman, 23. Jonathan Joseph.

Gloucester: 15. Jason Woodward, 14. Louis Rees-Zammit, 13. Chris Harris, 12. Tom Seabrook, 11. Ollie Thorley, 10. Billy Twelvetrees, 9. Willi Heinz, 1. Val Rapava-Ruskin, 2. Henry Walker, 3. Fraser Balmain, 4. Ed Slater, 5. Alex Craig, 6. Jordy Reid, 7. Lewis Ludlow (c), 8. Ruan Ackermann.
Replacements: 16. Santiago Socino, 17. Alex Seville, 18. Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19. Ollie Atkins, 20. Freddie Clarke, 21. Stephen Varney, 22. George Barton, 23. Henry Trinder.

 

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