Worcester Warriors suffered cup final heartbreak as they lost 24-16 despite a brave European battle in horrendous conditions at Kingsholm.
Mike’s Ruddock’s men produced a spirited display in the lashing rain in Gloucester but a first half double from Jonny Faamatuainu and Nick Abendanon always saw them chasing the game.
The boot of departing fly half Shane Drahm kept the Warriors in touching distance throughout the second half as they looked for a way back into an absorbing clash.
But there was to be no fairytale cup final win – despite a late try from Thinus Delport – as the Heineken Cup rugby just evaded Warriors despite a stunning second half of the season at Sixways Stadium.
A pumped up and sell out crowd filled Kingsholm despite the atrocious conditions that greeted them in Gloucester with torrential rain and high winds.
Director of Rugby Ruddock named his strongest possible line-up with prop Tony Windo handed a start on his final Worcester appearance before retirement.
Full back Thinus Delport, back on his former ground, flanker Drew Hickey and fly half Drahm were all handed starting spots before departing to Japan this summer.
The Worcester supporters that had come in their thousands to Gloucester for the game were making a huge noise as the team was read out and the arrival of the two teams was met with a deafening roar.
Both teams traded early possession before Worcester were penalised at the breakdown by referee Christophe Berdos for not releasing the man. That handed Olly Barkley the chance to open the scoring but the England international made a terrible connection with his kick and it sailed flat and wide.
Worcester hit back with Drahm producing a dancing run and Sam Tuitupou looking to spread he ball wide. Aleki Lutui then popped up on the right wing to power forward before Drahm played the territorial game and kicked behind Bath using the slippy surface to see the ball skid out.
Bath were looking to run from deep and only a superb tackle from Greg Rawlinon stopped Alex Crockett as he broke through before skipper Pat Sanderson brilliantly turned possession over at the breakdown with Bath guilty of holding on.
Both teams were playing quick rugby at every opportunity with Delport forced into a hurried clearance after Barkley’s low grubber before a knock on by Miles Benjamin finally saw play stopped after an electric period of action with both teams going at each other at full tilt.
Warriors turned over possession at a scrum after they wheeled around Bath but from the next put in prop Tevita Taumoepeau was penalised and Bath kicked for the corner only to make a total mess of the lineout and loose the ball forward.
Sanderson was penalised for hands in the ruck after a series of big defensive hits from Warriors and this time Barkley’s kick just had the legs to make it over to give Bath a 3-0 lead.
From the restart Bath again looked to use the width of the Kingsholm pitch but Joe Maddock knocked forward as he was tackled by Benjamin. Bath were enjoying the bigger share of territory but were repeatedly smashed back before Drahm crunched a huge clearance that spun out dead by the Bath line.
Bath made a complete mess of the lineout and it was taken on by Tuitupou who was just hauled up short before a cynical offence of coming in the side from Danny Grewcock allowed Drahm to slot an easy conversion to level the scores.
A turnover at the restart saw full back Delport scamper through and forced Butch James to hurriedly hack into touch. Drahm’s drop goal dropped horribly short but turnover ball saw Worcester come back that them at pace and centre Dale Rasmussen fed Greg Rawlinson who powered towards the line. Bath and Grewcock again cynically played the ball on the floor to hand a penalty to Warriors – with referee Berdos again opting not to reach for his pocked – that was kicked to touch. However, Worcester returned the favour by conceding possession on the line and letting relieved Bath off the hook.
Bath struck on 33 minutes when they went right at pace and despite what appeared a blatant forward pass the ball found Jonny Faamatuainu who dived over. Barkley added the extras to rub salt in the wound for Warriors who appeared very harshly done by.
Barkley tried to add another penalty a minute later after Sanderson was penalised for hands in the ruck but it struck the post and almost ran for the Bath runners as the luck again went against Warriors.
Seconds later the ball was spun right and despite a big tackle from Benjamin the ball found Nick Abendanon who dived over to put Bath in complete control. Barkley was wide with his kick but Bath led 15-3.
Worcester had the chance to cut the lead just before the break when Bath were guilty of hands in the ruck. Drahm made no mistake to eat away at the lead before the half time whistle went.
Butch James missed an early drop goal attempt for Bath at the start of the second half before Worcester were again handed rough justice. A charge down by Powell saw Warriors away and Drahm looked to chase down the loose ball only to be dragged back off the ball by Lee Mears. Worcester were incensed by the off the ball tackle but referee Berdos again only opted for the penalty, despite huge boos from Worcester fans, that Drahm easily slotted over to cut the lead.
A minute later a knock gave the ball to Benjamin who pressed the gas to tear away only to be hauled back for two knock ons as the noise inside Kingsholm from Worcester fans went through the roof.
Hickey and Windo were replaced by Netani Talei and Matt Mullan to signal the end of their Worcester careers before Warriors again came piling forward to heap more pressure on Bath.
Drahm’s intelligent flick over the top almost unlocked Bath while Garvey almost collected a cross-field kick from the fly half to cross in the corner only to lose control of the greasy ball.
Barkley’s penalty on 55 minutes edged his side further ahead before Chris Horsman replaced Tevita Taumoepeau two minutes later as Ruddock looked for fresh legs to inject added urgency into his side.
Worcester’s continued to be infuriated by the display of referee Berdos with a number of puzzling decisions going against the men in white and sparking an ironic chorus from the Worcester travelling faithful.
Ryan Powell replaced his namesake Matt just after the hour as the tense atmosphere continued to grow inside Kingsholm and Warriors looked for a way back into the game.
Barkley slotted a drop goal to put Bath further ahead and make the Warriors task even harder before Will Bowley and Rico Gear joined the cup final from the bench.
Delport slid over for a late and deserved consolation try, after a thrilling cross field move, but it was all too late as Bath were crowned champions and the curtain fell on Worcester’s season.
16m Barkley p 0-3
24m Drahm p 3-3
33m Faamatuainu t Barkley c 3-10
37m Abendanon t 3-15
39m Drahm p 6-15
45m Drahm p 9-15
55m Barkley p 9-18
67m Barkley dg 9-21
78m Barkley p 9-24
79m Delport t Carlisle c 16-24
Warriors: 01 Tony Windo (Mullan 52), 02 Aleki Lutui, 03 Tevita Taumoepeau (Horsman 57), 04 Greg Rawlinson, 05 Craig Gillies (Bowley 68), 06 Drew Hickey (Talei 49), 07 Pat Sanderson, 08 Kai Horstmann, 09 Matt Powell (Ryan Powell 65), 10 Shane Drahm (Carlisle 78), 11 Miles Benjamin, 12 Dale Rasmussen (Gear 68), 13 Rico Gear, 14 Marcel Garvey, 15 Thinus Delport
Replacements: 16 Chris Horsman, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Will Bowley, 19 Netani Talei, 20 Ryan Powell, 21 Joe Carlisle, 22 Rico Gear