MORTIFIED Dan Murphy has offered a sincere apology from Gloucester to the Cherry and Whites supporters for Saturday's derby drubbing at Kingsholm.
The red-faced loosehead prop lamented Gloucester's 32-5 home defeat to Bath – the heaviest in the professional era against their local rivals – and candidly said sorry to the fans.
More than 13,000 expectant supporters packed into Kingsholm for the LV=Cup clash, despite Gloucester having no chance of progressing to the semi-finals.
Even with the opening day of Six Nations action on TV, there were no signs of the Cherry and Whites faithful being tempted to put their feet up at home.
Frustrated front-rower Murphy conceded that Gloucester let down that unstinting support in both performance and result.
And now he has challenged himself and his team-mates to make amends – by winning at Northampton in Saturday's lunchtime Premiership clash (kick-off 12.30pm).
This comprehensive five-try defeat was Gloucester's first loss to Bath in six matches, and their first at home in a West Country derby since February 2006.
Ruing Gloucester's poor showing, Murphy explained: "Coming to Kingsholm and playing is an absolute joy with the supporters, the crowd and the fantastic atmosphere.
"There was an amazing turnout again, as always, on Saturday.
"And we're just so disappointed and sorry for not putting up the performance that they deserved for coming out in their thousands.
"So sincere apologies from all of us. As players you know when you've had a bad day.
"You don't need the coaches or the analysis to show that.
"It's on us to go back and put it right.
"We've got to take that pain up to Franklin's Gardens and really give them a good fight."
Gloucester return to Premiership action at Northampton on Saturday, the scene of an LV=Cup defeat just two weeks ago.
Nigel Davies' side face a pivotal four-match Premiership month now: they must emerge in win credit to keep their top-four play-off hopes alive.
Murphy said the Cherry and Whites are fuming with Saturday's Bath loss, and are well aware there is no more time to pull their approach together.
The 27-year-old explained: "Losing at home by 30 points is awful against anyone, but against your local rivals, it's even worse.
"But it's not the end of the world, even if it feels like it.
"We don't become a bad team overnight.
"We tried to use this as a stepping stone towards the Premiership, we had two good Amlin games to reach the quarter-finals.
"And now we've got four big games to raise that challenge for the top four in the league.
"We really need to put pressure on the teams around us, to create a platform for the rest of the season.
"We still need to go there and get a win, nothing changes on that.
"The play-offs are our ultimate aim, and this week, Northampton are in our way.
"We need to get those four points at Franklin's Gardens.
"I actually feel it's a good thing to have such a big challenge ahead of us this week now, after Saturday.
"We've got to face up to a massive game.
"It's about time we got our game in order – so why not do it at Northampton.
"It's not so long ago that they came here and took four points from us, and we lost up there in the LV=Cup two weeks ago too.
"So there's plenty of fuel in the fire to go up there and get that win.
"We've got a big month, it will be tough going on all of us – but we've got to get out there and show what we can do.
"And none of us can wait: it's exciting times, especially as now we have a lot to put right."
Gloucester found themselves drawing 5-5 at half-time on Saturday despite several sticky moments.
Murphy said the Kingsholm men knew they had used up all their luck in that first-half – but still struggled to monopolise territory and possession as planned after the turnaround.
Bath scored four unanswered second-half tries, with Murphy not contesting Gloucester's poor finish.
He added: "We came in at half-time having defended for almost the whole half, but still were drawing at the break.
"That was our get-out-of-jail-free card, and we had to play in their half with the wind at our backs.
"We set up to go and attack them, but it just never happened.
"You defend for that length of time, it takes its toll in the last 20 minutes, and that's what happened.
"The amount of tackling and defending we'd had to do in the first-half took its toll.
"So if we can control the field better, play further up the pitch and create more attacking chances, hopefully the boot will be on the other foot this weekend at Northampton."