8th September 2002 Bath v Saracens
Result Saracens 28 v Bath 3
The visitor’s points came from a solitary Olly Barkley penalty in the early stages of the first half. Captain Danny Grewcock was sent-off just before half time for ‘illegal use of the boot’. After the final whistle, Team Director Mike Foley praised his side who conceded just one second-half score despite being reduced to 14 men.
14th September 2002 Bath Rugby v London Wasps
Result Bath 27 London Wasps 27
The early stages gave no indication of the tension to follow as Bath eased into a six point lead via a brace of penalties from Chris Malone. King replied with a penalty success of his own as both sides struggled to break down the fiercely organized defences, with the most notable moment of the opening exchanges being Alessio Galasso flattening Trevor Leota as the Samoan hooker tried to stop the burly French prop advancing. Indeed, it wasn’t until Lyle was harshly sent to the sin bin, adjudged to have been guilty of killing the ball that the match opened up.
Unfortunately for Bath, Wasps took full advantage of the extra man, laying siege to the Bath line in a ten minute spell of concerted pressure. Kenny Logan and Josh Lewsey both knocked on with the line at their mercy, before King’s cross field kick was gathered by Lewsey who managed to touch down under pressure from Simon Danielli. King converted and was on hand to add the extras three minutes later after Lewsey’s second try.
Mike Catt, playing at full back, attempted a long miss pass that was perfectly read by Wasps wing Shane Roiser. Roiser intercepted and raced seventy metres before being hauled down by the covering Tom Voyce. Lewsey was in support though to take the scoring pass. It was a disastrous five minutes for Bath Rugby, who up until that point had looked very much in the match.
The second half seemed to bring a rejuvenated Bath side as Nathan Thomas, enjoying a fine match at number eight, and skipper Danny Grewcock began to make yards with the ball in hand. After a typically thrusting run from Gavin Thomas, Wasps were penalized for offside and Malone landed his third penalty of the contest to reduce the arrears.
Ten minutes later Bath Rugby were staring down the barrel. Former Wales international scrum half Rob Howley accelerated away from a ruck in midfield, breaking a flimsy tackle by David Barnes to race clear. He drew Catt and fed inside to the awaiting Phil Greening who failed to take the pass. This was, according to referee Nigel Whitehouse, because Barnes had taken the England Sevens star out before he received the ball and thus awarded a penalty try. King’s conversion put Wasps 24-9 in front.
This time last season with the club shy of confidence and on a three match losing run the team may not have had the heart to respond, and yet, under the tutelage of their Australian coaching quartet, Bath have rediscovered the steely resolve of old and proceeded to fight their way back into a contest that seemed beyond them.
After sixty minutes Bath gave themselves a lifeline with a superbly worked try, their first of the season. Danielli gathered a speculative clearance kick and fed the ball inside to Malone. Malone straightened the back line and found Kevin Maggs who released Mike Tindall into space. The England international centre needed no second invitation to cruise over in the corner and run round towards the posts. Malone converted to make the score 16-24 and shortly after kicked a fourth successful penalty as Bath came roaring back.
Another Malone penalty five minutes from time set up a grandstand finale, and Bath amazingly took the lead in stoppage time with a quite breathtaking try. Catt took a long kick on his 22 and threw a pass wide to the waiting Tom Voyce. Voyce took off showing the pace and elusiveness that earned him a full England cap in 2001, dancing and weaving his way past defender after defender on a seventy-metre run. He was hauled down deep into Wasps territory yet managed to offload to Grewcock who kept the movement alive. The ball was recycled and Catt joined the line finding Lyle on his shoulder.
The US Eagle still had a lot to do but managed to hold off a challenge and reach over for the score. Malone’s attempted conversion drifted just wide. From the re-start Wasps showed their mettle. Lyle and Greening challenged for the ball that ricocheted kindly into the path of King who tied up the scores with his monster drop goal.
Bath Rugby Head Coach Michael Foley said afterwards, “I am very, very pleased with the way the team fought. The players were determined today, and they hope to be more consistent.” If they can show the fighting spirit that was in evidence in the second half for the rest of the season then Bath’s loyal supporters can look forward to an excellent campaign.
Bath Rugby: Mike Catt, Simon Danielli, Kevin Maggs, Mike Tindall, Tom Voyce, Chris Malone, Gareth Cooper, David Barnes, Jonathan Humphries (Lee Mears 74), Alessio Galasso (John Mallett 61), Andy Beattie (Andy Lloyd 71), Danny Grewcock, Gavin Thomas, Dan Lyle, Nathan Thomas
Replacements not used: Ross Blake, Rob Thirlby, Alex Crockett, James Scaysbrook
London Wasps: Josh Lewsey, Shane Roiser (Paul Sampson h/t), Stuart Abbott, Mark Denney, Kenny Logan, Alex King, Rob Howley, Craig Dowd (Will Green 53), Trevor Leota (Paul Volley 24), Darren Molloy, Simon Shaw, Joe Beardshaw (Richard Birkett 64), Joe Worsley, Phil Greening, Lawrence Dallaglio
Replacements not used: Ben Gotting,
21 September 2002 Northampton v Bath
Result Northampton 24. Bath 3.
Mike Foley’s side were undone by an impressive first half performance by the Saints which saw former England full back Nick Beal contribute heavily to three tries, one for Oriol Ripol and a brace for Peter Jorgensen.
However, despite creating opportunities and dominating in the scrum, Bath Rugby were unable to capitalise on good field positions and had just one Olly Barkley penalty in the first half to show for their efforts.
The second half saw a much more resolute performance by Bath Rugby, but despite setting up camp inside the Saints 22 on several occasions, the visitors were unable to break a determined Northampton defence.
Indeed any chance of a second-half fight back was quashed when Mike Tindall was shown the yellow card for deliberately ‘slapping down’ a Peter Jorgensen pass. It was a close call by referee McHugh, who had earlier let a similar action go unpunished earlier in the half (ironically from a Tindall pass).
Against 14 men in the final ten minutes, the Saints looked to take advantage of the natural overlap in the backs. However, it was not until the 78th minute when Bath’s stalwart defence finally cracked as Nick Beal worked Ben Cohen over in the corner for the only score of the second half.
28th September 2002 Bath v Gloucester
Result Bath 21 Gloucester 21
Trailing 15-21 midway through the second half, Bath showed great spirit and determination to take the game to the Premiership leaders and would have been disappointed not to wrap up what would have been a remarkable victory at the death.
“I am not particularly happy with the draw, but then who is?” enthused Mike Foley. “However, I am very happy with the commitment of the players and the result is a sign that we are heading in the right direction.”
The home side opened proceedings after just two minutes with a long range Chris Malone drop-goal, before just minutes later Gloucester showed just how dangerous thay can be on the break with Simpson-Daniel coming off his wing to cut a path past Crockett and Tindall. Although he was hauled down by Olly Barkley, the visitors had shown their intent. However, it was not to be long before the Premiership leaders bagged their first points through the boot of Frederick Mercier after Bath collapsed a scrum inside their own 22.
Gloucester continued to apply the early pressure and Mercier missed with a second penalty attempt before landing one from 29 metres after 13 minutes. Gloucester searched to break free, but Bath to their credit, battled hard in defence with Alex Crockett and Mike Tindall looking commanding. It took the previously free-scoring Cherry and Whites until the 18th minute to register their first try after Simon Emms missed a tackle to allow Andy Gomarsall to break through the line. The impressive flanker James Forrester was on hand to score.
Gloucester should have used the score to settle, but Bath did not let them. With renewed vigor the home side fought back into the game and Olly Barkley landed his first penalty of the afternoon to make the scores 6-11 after Henry Paul was penalized for holding onto the ball.
Bath continued to press and after some excellent phases of possession, Gloucester conceded a penalty after their backs were caught offside. Barkley from 25 metres added the simple three points which brought the scores to within two points at the interval.
Gloucester, though are not at the top of the table for nothing and could have increased the lead within a minute of the restart after Nathan Thomas knocked on. From the resulting scrum, the ball was spun wide, but what would have been a scoring pass from Simpson-Daniel was superbly intercepted by Man of the Match Alex Crockett.
After another Mercier miss, Gloucester came close again in the 50th minute. An impressive forward drive took the pack over line, but referee Layshon awarded Bath a penalty as Gloucester held onto the ball. Again, the pressure had been relieved by a stern Bath defence.
After 55 minutes, Mercier finally found his target after Bath were pressurised at the scrum. It was to be a short-lived advantage though, as from the restart, Bath were awarded a penalty for offside. Barkley coolly stepped up to add the three points, again reducing the deficit to just two points.
Gloucester responded by upping the tempo and scored their second try in the 63rd minute, Gomarsall’s break from the scrum created an overlap for Henry Paul to score in the corner. Paul converted his score.
Barkley added another penalty in the 67th minute, before some excellent play from the Bath backs resulted in Gloucester conceding another penalty. From a similar position to his previous attempt, Barkley added the three points.
Gloucester-clearly rattled by their inability to shake off a spirited Bath side, were facing wave upon wave of attacks. In the dying moments the match built into one hell of a crescendo, and after Gloucester infringed in their desperation in defence, Barkley added the penalty to tie the match. The Rec went wild, and moments later Mr. Leyshon blew for full time.
5th October 2002 Leicester v Bath
Result Leicester 22 Bath 16
During the week, the Bath Rugby Team Director had called on his side to start matches stronger, and the players did not let him down. In a much-improved performance Bath dominated the early stages and went ahead through an Olly Barkley penalty from 25 metres. The full back then added another penalty to give Bath a 6-0 lead at the half hour mark.
Leicester had their opportunities, but met a resolute Bath defence every time and with the usually reliable Stimpson missing two first-half penalty opportunities, it looked as though the visitors might hold on until the interval.
But on the stroke of half-time Healey chipped the ball to the left corner, Neil Back tapped it down to Corry who scored the first try of the afternoon but Stimpson’s conversion attempt from out wide was well wide of the right upright as Bath led 6-5 at the interval.
Leicester took the lead for the first time early in the second half when Stimpson finally found his range with the boot from five metres inside his own half.
The home side then camped on the Bath line first with Healey held up over the line, then Tierney spilling the ball five metres from the line, before the Tigers forwards broke loose for hooker Dorian West to touch down and Stimpson to convert.
Bath were reduced to 14 men when Catt was sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes for a straight-arm tackle on Corry, and although Leicester capitalised with Neil Back’s try, being a man down seemed to make the visitor’s even more determined to get back into the game.
With time running out, Bath threw everything at Leicester and dominated both in terms of possession and territory. After a period of intense pressure the inevitable try came from Ireland international centre Kevin Maggs in the 78th minute with Olly Barkley adding the conversion. In the second minute of injury time Tindall crashed over to give the visitors hope. However, after both Austin Healey and James Scaysbrook were sent to the sin bin, time ran out as Leicester held out for victory.
Tries: Corry, West, Back.
Cons: Stimpson 2.
Team: Stimpson, Booth, Lloyd, Kafer, Tuilagi, Healey, Tierney, Rowntree, West, Tournaire, M. Johnson, Deacon, Moody, Back, Corry.
Subs: Chuter, Kay, Garforth, W. Johnson, Gelderbloom, J. H
2nd November 2002 Harlequins v Bath
Result Harlequins 18 Bath 9
The Bath Rugby co-coach had no defence for his side’s performance-stating that it was the worst of the season. “It was not a professional performance and it was extremely disappointing. We failed to turn good pressure into points and made too many individual handling errors. If it were a tennis match you would say that there were too many unforced errors.”
Mike Catt was a late withdrawal on medical advice prior to kick-off with a hamstring strain and Bath missed his experience from fly half during a match where too many balls bounced off of chests or failed to go to hand-it was a day for bread and butter rugby.
The visitors started well with Olly Barkley, Matt Perry and Simon Danielli coming close to the line as Bath dominated the opening quarter in terms of both possession and territory. However, a single Barkley penalty was all Smith and Foley’s side had to show from the opening quarter-after that it was all Quins.
The match swung when Simon Emms was sent to the sin-bin in the 33 minute for pulling down a maul and the home side scored the opening try of the match almost immediately after the Welshman’s departure. Stand-in fly half Will Greenwood went over after a good take from Tony Diprose at the lineout and a drive from the Quins pack. Nathan Williams converted.
Bath looked to have repelled further threat before on the stroke of half time Matt Moore touched down in the corner after an electrifying break from Nick Duncombe-who beat three defeanders. Olly Barkley prevented a further score with a try-saving tackle on Williams on the line.
After the interval Barkley landed two penalties to hand the visitiors a glimmer of hope, but the scores served to lift the home side as Quins finished the stronger. Olly Barkley made another try-saving tackle on Matt Moore before Williams slotted over two penalties in the final quarter to close out the match.
15 Perry, 14 Danielli (r19), 13 Maggs, 12 Tindall (r20), 11 Barkley 3p, 10 Malone, 9 Cooper, 1 Emms (yellow), 2 Humphreys (r17), 3 Galasso (r18), 4 Borthwick, 5 Grewcock, 6 Scaysbrook, 7 Lyle (r22), N.Thomas (r21)
reps 16 Williams, 17 Long, 18 Mallett, 19 Voyce, 20 Crockett, 21 Lloyd, 22 Beattie
9th November 2002 Sale v Bath 20-14
A first-half try from Tom Voyce and a penalty try awarded after Simon Danielli was brought down close to the line after kicking ahead were enough to seal victory for the home side.
Chris Malone made certain of the win with a late drop goal, although the Sharks kicked a last-minute penalty to gain themselves a bonus point.