Finn Russell is no stranger to a rivalry, having featured in Calcutta Cups, Paris derbies and the 1872 Cup, but a first West Country derby was always going to be different, writes Paul Eddison.
It was never going to take long, but four games into his Bath career, he is already writing his name into the club’s folklore and Friday’s night’s exploits at Kingsholm will feature very high on the legacy he leaves at The Rec.
Russell had already provided a delightful inside ball for Max Ojomoh that almost set up Bath’s opening try in the first half. But trailing 20-10 at half-time, Bath were up against it.
When Will Muir crashed over in the corner to cut the deficit to five, Russell stepped up and slotted the touchline conversion before shushing the Cherry & Whites supporters on his way back to the restart.
Engaging with the Shed is dangerous business at the best of times, let alone in a derby when you are trailing and still have half an hour left to play.
But Russell is one of a kind. This is a man who can shrug off throwing an intercept pass and go for the same daring miss-pass the very next time he touches the ball. Where some might cower at the potential repercussions to such a response, Russell simply enjoys it.
And having taken on the home crowd, he then masterminded the swing in momentum as Bath used their powerful back to overwhelm Gloucester and march to a 45-27 success.
Up to third in the table and just two points off leaders Harlequins, it is too early to say whether Bath are title contenders just yet.
But in Russell, they might just have the most box-office player in the entire league, and one of very few who could pull off the shush without immediately being cast as the party villain.
Only Exeter Chiefs have scored more points than Bath this season, and since Russell came into the starting line-up, they are averaging more than 30 points a game.
Where this season goes remains to be seen, but one thing is certain, it will be fun. And for Bath fans, the sight of their fly-half shushing the Shed before pulling the strings in a big win at Kingsholm is about as good as it gets.
Sometimes raw power does the trick
The more professional rugby union has become, the less space there is for attacking teams.
As much as we long for the good old days of fly-halves stepping their way through gaping holes and leaving defenders trailing in their wake, it simply is not possible with the increased speed of every forward on the park.
That is why we end up raving about the patterns of attack employed by the most potent sides in the game, or the moments of genius by the aforementioned Finn Russell, not to mention Sale Sharks’ George Ford.
Sometimes though, we are given a reminder that the other way to break down a defence is simply to overpower it. We got evidence of that in spades on Friday night at Kingsholm.
Chris Harris got the ball rolling, turning down the overlap to carry Ben Spencer – one of the bigger scrum-halves in the league – all the way to the line.
Anything his opposite number could do, Ollie Lawrence felt like showing he could do better, bouncing out of a double tackle and away to get Bath on level terms.
Then, just before the Russell shush, we got the pick of the bunch. Will Muir collected a wide pass almost stood still, but then ramped it up and left Santiago Carreras looking back at his own goal-line as ‘Horse’ crashed through him and over for a crucial score.
To paraphrase Michael Rosen in ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt’ – If you can’t go over it, if you can’t go under it, you’ve got to go through it!
Drop goal king Ford back at it
George Ford has never been averse to a drop goal, in fact, over the last decade, he has slotted at least one in every season of his career bar 2018/19.
His hat-trick of drop goals against Argentina will go down as perhaps the pinnacle of the skill for him, or at least until he nails the match-winner in a final with a droppie a la Jonny Wilkinson.
But against Bristol Bears, Ford was back in pragmatic mode, grabbing three points when they presented themselves at Ashton Gate to help Sale Sharks build a lead.
Where his drop goals would have taken Argentina by a surprise a couple of months ago, we are now at the stage where defence coaches are going to have to start to factor in the potential for Ford to drop back in the pocket.
His kicking motion is fast enough that there is not a huge amount that can be done, but if this weekend was anything to go by, we have not seen the last of the Ford drop goal this season.