2007-2008

by BRIAN JENKINS

19th AUGUST 2007 BATH V RICHMOND

Bath Rugby racked up a third and final pre-season victory, winning a game of two halves against Leinster last night ahead of the first Premiership clash with Worcester.
Within the opening minutes Nick Abendanon, Tom Cheeseman and Jack Cuthbert commenced the game with some impressive passing that would set the precedent for the majority of the match and although Shaun Berne attempted a drop goal, for which he was just wide, he answered the miss by taking a successful penalty kick at the 4th minute.

Enterprising passing between new Bath favourite, Michael Claassens and the skipper, Crockett, gave Bath the opportunity to take the ball towards the opposition’s 22, which was met with a strong kick from Berne.

With a line out quickly won by Bath, and after a pass from Crockett, Nick Abendanon displayed the fiery pace that he has become renowned for, powering down the wing straight into Leinster’s 22, although their efforts were countered by a penalty kick at the 18th minute by Leinster’s fly half, Christian Warner.

Leinster were matching Bath’s efforts and shot the ball into the home 22, but Nick Abendanon was quick to retrieve and send it off the pitch where it thundered into the roof of Kronenburg stand. Gary Brown for Leinster saw to it that it was taken back into the home side’s enclave, and with a chance to move into the lead, Leinster’s fly half took a kick at 24th minute, but with the ball flailing too wide, Warner failed to score.

After half-time, with Leinster leading on 6 – 3, Bath brought on Rob Fidler for Peter Short and Daniel Browne for Zak Feaunati. The Bath Centre, Shaun Berne, was quick to answer the lead, striking the ball over the posts to take Bath back into the comfort zone.

The second half proved a much tighter match than the first, and although Jonathan Sexton sent the ball over the posts in 47th minute, Leinster’s efforts were not enough to keep them in the game for a victory.

Tom Cheeseman saw the opportunity to send the ball towards Leinster’s waiting defenders and with a pass to Nick Abendanon, Leinster were forced to employ two men in a bid to take him down, but he stayed on his feet long enough to give Bath the chance to win a penalty and Shaun Berne once again kicked it over the posts at 51st minute.

Leinster’s Number 11, Rob Kearney, made an explosive run straight down the middle and whilst it looked like it was going to result in a try, a forward pass put paid to that.

Cracking run from Berne and then making its way up to Banahan, afforded Bath the chance to make a further penalty kick by Berne. (15 – 9) at 62nd min. Rob Fidler made excellent headway, then it came across the pitch to Captain Crockett who set up the try for David Barnes who soared over the line in superman style to give Bath an 11-point lead, which soon increased with a successful conversion by Berne.

Electric final minutes of the match saw Matt Banahan explode up the wing to an awaiting Crockett, who slipped the ball to Davis and Walshe, who set up an excellent touch down by Aaron Jarvis in the 79th minute. Berne stamped his mark on the final seconds with a conversion that saw Bath victorious at 29 to 9.

Bath defence Coach Brad Davis said of the game: “What was important as far as lessons from this match go, was the fact that when we held on to the ball and put phases together, we showed we could open Leinster up. A number of the club’s younger players, like Tom Cheeseman, who was outstanding tonight – are really pushing their cases for Premiership rugby now.”

BATH RUGBY: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Jack Cuthbert, 13 Alex Crockett (capt), 12 Tom Cheeseman (Ryan Davis 65mins), 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Shaun Berne, 9 Michael Claassens (Nick Walshe 69mins), 1 David Barnes (Aaron Jarvis 69mins), 2 Pieter Dixon (Rob Hawkins 69mins), 3 Paulica Ion (Laurence Ovens 69mins), 4 Martin Purdy (Peter Short 73mins), 5 Peter Short (Rob Fidler 41mins), 6 Chris Goodman, 7 James Scaysbrook (Jonny Faamatuainu 11mins), 8 Zak Feaunati (Daniel Browne 41mins).

LEINSTER: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Gary Brown, 13 Luke Fitzgerald, 12 Michael Berne, 11 Fionn Carr (Fergus McFadden 61mins), 10 Christian Warner (Jonathan Sexton 41mins, Christian Warner 62mins), 9 Chris Whitaker (capt, Cillian Willis 41mins, Chris Keane 61mins)), 1 Stan Wright (Cian Healey 41mins), 2 Bernard Jackman (Brian Blaney 55mins), 3 Juan-Francisco Gomez (Steven Knoop 14mins, Stan Wright 65mins), 4 Trevor Hogan, 5 Devin Toner (Sean O’Brien 50mins), 6 Stephen Keogh (Kevin McLaughlin 65mins), 7 Keith Gleeson, 8 Kevin McLaughlin (Cameron Jowitt 41mins).

Scorers:
4: Penalty Berne, 3 – 0
19: Penalty Warner, 3 -3
30: Penalty Warner, 3 – 6
38: Penalty Berne, 6 -6
(Half time)
43:Penalty Berne, 9 – 6
47: Penalty Sexton, 9 – 9
51:Penalty Berne, 12 – 9
63:Penalty Berne, 15 – 9
68: Try Barnes, Conversion Berne, 22 – 9
79: Try Jarvis, Conversion Berne, 29 – 9

Attendance 3,448

31st AUGUST 2007 BATH v LEINSTER

Bath Rugby racked up a third and final pre-season victory, winning a game of two halves against Leinster last night ahead of the first Premiership clash with Worcester.
Within the opening minutes Nick Abendanon, Tom Cheeseman and Jack Cuthbert commenced the game with some impressive passing that would set the precedent for the majority of the match and although Shaun Berne attempted a drop goal, for which he was just wide, he answered the miss by taking a successful penalty kick at the 4th minute.

Enterprising passing between new Bath favourite, Michael Claassens and the skipper, Crockett, gave Bath the opportunity to take the ball towards the opposition’s 22, which was met with a strong kick from Berne.

With a line out quickly won by Bath, and after a pass from Crockett, Nick Abendanon displayed the fiery pace that he has become renowned for, powering down the wing straight into Leinster’s 22, although their efforts were countered by a penalty kick at the 18th minute by Leinster’s fly half, Christian Warner.

Leinster were matching Bath’s efforts and shot the ball into the home 22, but Nick Abendanon was quick to retrieve and send it off the pitch where it thundered into the roof of Kronenburg stand. Gary Brown for Leinster saw to it that it was taken back into the home side’s enclave, and with a chance to move into the lead, Leinster’s fly half took a kick at 24th minute, but with the ball flailing too wide, Warner failed to score.

After half-time, with Leinster leading on 6 – 3, Bath brought on Rob Fidler for Peter Short and Daniel Browne for Zak Feaunati. The Bath Centre, Shaun Berne, was quick to answer the lead, striking the ball over the posts to take Bath back into the comfort zone.

The second half proved a much tighter match than the first, and although Jonathan Sexton sent the ball over the posts in 47th minute, Leinster’s efforts were not enough to keep them in the game for a victory.

Tom Cheeseman saw the opportunity to send the ball towards Leinster’s waiting defenders and with a pass to Nick Abendanon, Leinster were forced to employ two men in a bid to take him down, but he stayed on his feet long enough to give Bath the chance to win a penalty and Shaun Berne once again kicked it over the posts at 51st minute.

Leinster’s Number 11, Rob Kearney, made an explosive run straight down the middle and whilst it looked like it was going to result in a try, a forward pass put paid to that.

Cracking run from Berne and then making its way up to Banahan, afforded Bath the chance to make a further penalty kick by Berne. (15 – 9) at 62nd min. Rob Fidler made excellent headway, then it came across the pitch to Captain Crockett who set up the try for David Barnes who soared over the line in superman style to give Bath an 11-point lead, which soon increased with a successful conversion by Berne.

Electric final minutes of the match saw Matt Banahan explode up the wing to an awaiting Crockett, who slipped the ball to Davis and Walshe, who set up an excellent touch down by Aaron Jarvis in the 79th minute. Berne stamped his mark on the final seconds with a conversion that saw Bath victorious at 29 to 9.

Bath defence Coach Brad Davis said of the game: “What was important as far as lessons from this match go, was the fact that when we held on to the ball and put phases together, we showed we could open Leinster up. A number of the club’s younger players, like Tom Cheeseman, who was outstanding tonight – are really pushing their cases for Premiership rugby now.”

BATH RUGBY: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Jack Cuthbert, 13 Alex Crockett (capt), 12 Tom Cheeseman (Ryan Davis 65mins), 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Shaun Berne, 9 Michael Claassens (Nick Walshe 69mins), 1 David Barnes (Aaron Jarvis 69mins), 2 Pieter Dixon (Rob Hawkins 69mins), 3 Paulica Ion (Laurence Ovens 69mins), 4 Martin Purdy (Peter Short 73mins), 5 Peter Short (Rob Fidler 41mins), 6 Chris Goodman, 7 James Scaysbrook (Jonny Faamatuainu 11mins), 8 Zak Feaunati (Daniel Browne 41mins).

LEINSTER: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Gary Brown, 13 Luke Fitzgerald, 12 Michael Berne, 11 Fionn Carr (Fergus McFadden 61mins), 10 Christian Warner (Jonathan Sexton 41mins, Christian Warner 62mins), 9 Chris Whitaker (capt, Cillian Willis 41mins, Chris Keane 61mins)), 1 Stan Wright (Cian Healey 41mins), 2 Bernard Jackman (Brian Blaney 55mins), 3 Juan-Francisco Gomez (Steven Knoop 14mins, Stan Wright 65mins), 4 Trevor Hogan, 5 Devin Toner (Sean O’Brien 50mins), 6 Stephen Keogh (Kevin McLaughlin 65mins), 7 Keith Gleeson, 8 Kevin McLaughlin (Cameron Jowitt 41mins).

Scorers:
4: Penalty Berne, 3 – 0
19: Penalty Warner, 3 -3
30: Penalty Warner, 3 – 6
38: Penalty Berne, 6 -6
(Half time)
43:Penalty Berne, 9 – 6
47: Penalty Sexton, 9 – 9
51:Penalty Berne, 12 – 9
63:Penalty Berne, 15 – 9
68: Try Barnes, Conversion Berne, 22 – 9
79: Try Jarvis, Conversion Berne, 29 – 9

Attendance 3,448

31st AUGUST 2007 BATHv LEINSTER

Bath Rugby racked up a third and final pre-season victory, winning a game of two halves against Leinster last night ahead of the first Premiership clash with Worcester.
Within the opening minutes Nick Abendanon, Tom Cheeseman and Jack Cuthbert commenced the game with some impressive passing that would set the precedent for the majority of the match and although Shaun Berne attempted a drop goal, for which he was just wide, he answered the miss by taking a successful penalty kick at the 4th minute.

Enterprising passing between new Bath favourite, Michael Claassens and the skipper, Crockett, gave Bath the opportunity to take the ball towards the opposition’s 22, which was met with a strong kick from Berne.

With a line out quickly won by Bath, and after a pass from Crockett, Nick Abendanon displayed the fiery pace that he has become renowned for, powering down the wing straight into Leinster’s 22, although their efforts were countered by a penalty kick at the 18th minute by Leinster’s fly half, Christian Warner.

Leinster were matching Bath’s efforts and shot the ball into the home 22, but Nick Abendanon was quick to retrieve and send it off the pitch where it thundered into the roof of Kronenburg stand. Gary Brown for Leinster saw to it that it was taken back into the home side’s enclave, and with a chance to move into the lead, Leinster’s fly half took a kick at 24th minute, but with the ball flailing too wide, Warner failed to score.

After half-time, with Leinster leading on 6 – 3, Bath brought on Rob Fidler for Peter Short and Daniel Browne for Zak Feaunati. The Bath Centre, Shaun Berne, was quick to answer the lead, striking the ball over the posts to take Bath back into the comfort zone.

The second half proved a much tighter match than the first, and although Jonathan Sexton sent the ball over the posts in 47th minute, Leinster’s efforts were not enough to keep them in the game for a victory.

Tom Cheeseman saw the opportunity to send the ball towards Leinster’s waiting defenders and with a pass to Nick Abendanon, Leinster were forced to employ two men in a bid to take him down, but he stayed on his feet long enough to give Bath the chance to win a penalty and Shaun Berne once again kicked it over the posts at 51st minute.

Leinster’s Number 11, Rob Kearney, made an explosive run straight down the middle and whilst it looked like it was going to result in a try, a forward pass put paid to that.

Cracking run from Berne and then making its way up to Banahan, afforded Bath the chance to make a further penalty kick by Berne. (15 – 9) at 62nd min. Rob Fidler made excellent headway, then it came across the pitch to Captain Crockett who set up the try for David Barnes who soared over the line in superman style to give Bath an 11-point lead, which soon increased with a successful conversion by Berne.

Electric final minutes of the match saw Matt Banahan explode up the wing to an awaiting Crockett, who slipped the ball to Davis and Walshe, who set up an excellent touch down by Aaron Jarvis in the 79th minute. Berne stamped his mark on the final seconds with a conversion that saw Bath victorious at 29 to 9.

Bath defence Coach Brad Davis said of the game: “What was important as far as lessons from this match go, was the fact that when we held on to the ball and put phases together, we showed we could open Leinster up. A number of the club’s younger players, like Tom Cheeseman, who was outstanding tonight – are really pushing their cases for Premiership rugby now.”

BATH RUGBY: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Jack Cuthbert, 13 Alex Crockett (capt), 12 Tom Cheeseman (Ryan Davis 65mins), 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Shaun Berne, 9 Michael Claassens (Nick Walshe 69mins), 1 David Barnes (Aaron Jarvis 69mins), 2 Pieter Dixon (Rob Hawkins 69mins), 3 Paulica Ion (Laurence Ovens 69mins), 4 Martin Purdy (Peter Short 73mins), 5 Peter Short (Rob Fidler 41mins), 6 Chris Goodman, 7 James Scaysbrook (Jonny Faamatuainu 11mins), 8 Zak Feaunati (Daniel Browne 41mins).

LEINSTER: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Gary Brown, 13 Luke Fitzgerald, 12 Michael Berne, 11 Fionn Carr (Fergus McFadden 61mins), 10 Christian Warner (Jonathan Sexton 41mins, Christian Warner 62mins), 9 Chris Whitaker (capt, Cillian Willis 41mins, Chris Keane 61mins)), 1 Stan Wright (Cian Healey 41mins), 2 Bernard Jackman (Brian Blaney 55mins), 3 Juan-Francisco Gomez (Steven Knoop 14mins, Stan Wright 65mins), 4 Trevor Hogan, 5 Devin Toner (Sean O’Brien 50mins), 6 Stephen Keogh (Kevin McLaughlin 65mins), 7 Keith Gleeson, 8 Kevin McLaughlin (Cameron Jowitt 41mins).

Scorers:
4: Penalty Berne, 3 – 0
19: Penalty Warner, 3 -3
30: Penalty Warner, 3 – 6
38: Penalty Berne, 6 -6
(Half time)
43:Penalty Berne, 9 – 6
47: Penalty Sexton, 9 – 9
51:Penalty Berne, 12 – 9
63:Penalty Berne, 15 – 9
68: Try Barnes, Conversion Berne, 22 – 9
79: Try Jarvis, Conversion Berne, 29 – 9

Attendance 3,448

8th SEPTEMBER 2007 BATH V LEINSTER

Bath Rugby racked up a third and final pre-season victory, winning a game of two halves against Leinster last night ahead of the first Premiership clash with Worcester.
Within the opening minutes Nick Abendanon, Tom Cheeseman and Jack Cuthbert commenced the game with some impressive passing that would set the precedent for the majority of the match and although Shaun Berne attempted a drop goal, for which he was just wide, he answered the miss by taking a successful penalty kick at the 4th minute.

Enterprising passing between new Bath favourite, Michael Claassens and the skipper, Crockett, gave Bath the opportunity to take the ball towards the opposition’s 22, which was met with a strong kick from Berne.

With a line out quickly won by Bath, and after a pass from Crockett, Nick Abendanon displayed the fiery pace that he has become renowned for, powering down the wing straight into Leinster’s 22, although their efforts were countered by a penalty kick at the 18th minute by Leinster’s fly half, Christian Warner.

Leinster were matching Bath’s efforts and shot the ball into the home 22, but Nick Abendanon was quick to retrieve and send it off the pitch where it thundered into the roof of Kronenburg stand. Gary Brown for Leinster saw to it that it was taken back into the home side’s enclave, and with a chance to move into the lead, Leinster’s fly half took a kick at 24th minute, but with the ball flailing too wide, Warner failed to score.

After half-time, with Leinster leading on 6 – 3, Bath brought on Rob Fidler for Peter Short and Daniel Browne for Zak Feaunati. The Bath Centre, Shaun Berne, was quick to answer the lead, striking the ball over the posts to take Bath back into the comfort zone.

The second half proved a much tighter match than the first, and although Jonathan Sexton sent the ball over the posts in 47th minute, Leinster’s efforts were not enough to keep them in the game for a victory.

Tom Cheeseman saw the opportunity to send the ball towards Leinster’s waiting defenders and with a pass to Nick Abendanon, Leinster were forced to employ two men in a bid to take him down, but he stayed on his feet long enough to give Bath the chance to win a penalty and Shaun Berne once again kicked it over the posts at 51st minute.

Leinster’s Number 11, Rob Kearney, made an explosive run straight down the middle and whilst it looked like it was going to result in a try, a forward pass put paid to that.

Cracking run from Berne and then making its way up to Banahan, afforded Bath the chance to make a further penalty kick by Berne. (15 – 9) at 62nd min. Rob Fidler made excellent headway, then it came across the pitch to Captain Crockett who set up the try for David Barnes who soared over the line in superman style to give Bath an 11-point lead, which soon increased with a successful conversion by Berne.

Electric final minutes of the match saw Matt Banahan explode up the wing to an awaiting Crockett, who slipped the ball to Davis and Walshe, who set up an excellent touch down by Aaron Jarvis in the 79th minute. Berne stamped his mark on the final seconds with a conversion that saw Bath victorious at 29 to 9.

Bath defence Coach Brad Davis said of the game: “What was important as far as lessons from this match go, was the fact that when we held on to the ball and put phases together, we showed we could open Leinster up. A number of the club’s younger players, like Tom Cheeseman, who was outstanding tonight – are really pushing their cases for Premiership rugby now.”

BATH RUGBY: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Jack Cuthbert, 13 Alex Crockett (capt), 12 Tom Cheeseman (Ryan Davis 65mins), 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Shaun Berne, 9 Michael Claassens (Nick Walshe 69mins), 1 David Barnes (Aaron Jarvis 69mins), 2 Pieter Dixon (Rob Hawkins 69mins), 3 Paulica Ion (Laurence Ovens 69mins), 4 Martin Purdy (Peter Short 73mins), 5 Peter Short (Rob Fidler 41mins), 6 Chris Goodman, 7 James Scaysbrook (Jonny Faamatuainu 11mins), 8 Zak Feaunati (Daniel Browne 41mins).

LEINSTER: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Gary Brown, 13 Luke Fitzgerald, 12 Michael Berne, 11 Fionn Carr (Fergus McFadden 61mins), 10 Christian Warner (Jonathan Sexton 41mins, Christian Warner 62mins), 9 Chris Whitaker (capt, Cillian Willis 41mins, Chris Keane 61mins)), 1 Stan Wright (Cian Healey 41mins), 2 Bernard Jackman (Brian Blaney 55mins), 3 Juan-Francisco Gomez (Steven Knoop 14mins, Stan Wright 65mins), 4 Trevor Hogan, 5 Devin Toner (Sean O’Brien 50mins), 6 Stephen Keogh (Kevin McLaughlin 65mins), 7 Keith Gleeson, 8 Kevin McLaughlin (Cameron Jowitt 41mins).

Scorers:
4: Penalty Berne, 3 – 0
19: Penalty Warner, 3 -3
30: Penalty Warner, 3 – 6
38: Penalty Berne, 6 -6
(Half time)
43:Penalty Berne, 9 – 6
47: Penalty Sexton, 9 – 9
51:Penalty Berne, 12 – 9
63:Penalty Berne, 15 – 9
68: Try Barnes, Conversion Berne, 22 – 9
79: Try Jarvis, Conversion Berne, 29 – 9

Attendance 3,448

 

15th SEPTEMBER 2007 BATH V WORCESTER

Bath Rugby extended their run of wins at the Rec yesterday – and made the Sale Sharks away record even worse – with a closely fought battle that resulted in a nail-biting 21 – 19 finish.

The rain may not have eased until minutes before kick off, but spirits were high. Within the first five minutes, Hooker, Pieter Dixon grounded the ball over the visitors try line, following Shaun Berne’s kick into touch at the top corner. A conversion by Berne meant the scoreboard flipped from zero to seven by the sixth minute.

Sale were less successful in the opening minutes, losing the lineout on the 10 metre line, giving the ball to Number 8, Daniel Browne, who swiftly passed to the scrum half Michael Claassens. Sale seized the opportunity and with an interception the ball was lambasted back towards Bath territory and with Higgins caught offside, Sale were offered the chance to put some points on the scoreboard themselves. At the 11th minute, Charlie Hodgson was awarded a penalty kick, but failed to score.

Three minutes later, moving the ball at pace, Shaun Berne made a long pass to an awaiting Matt Banahan, who slammed over the line for Bath’s second and final try of the match.

Sale’s Chris Mayor was quick to respond to 12-point lead by Bath, by bursting down the wing. Unfortunately for Mayor, Michael Stephenson, back from injury, was ready and waiting and halted his run, taking him down. Minutes later Hodgson added some easy points in front of the post by successfully landing a penalty kick. A penalty at the other end of the pitch for Bath followed in quick succession, but Shaun Berne hit the post and Bath failed to notch-up any more points until three minutes before the half-time whistle.

After a scrum by Bath’s try line, which saw Beattie burst out of the back to defend, some swift passing of the ball sent it to Hodgson who executed a drop goal which was followed by a try at 25 minutes by Oriol Ripol. Bath secured the lead just before the break, thanks to a penalty kick by Shaun Berne, leaving the score at 15 – 13 at half-time.

Within nine minutes of the second half, Hodgson had put Sale in the lead with two successful penalty kicks, but it wasn’t long before the gap had been narrowed to within one-point, as Shaun Berne nailed a further penalty at 57 minutes.

It remained tight for the rest of the match. With Michael Claassens and Danny Grewcock organising the midfield play, they ensured that Sale were prevented from running away with any further points.

As the atmosphere in the stadium became heightened and the crowds started to roar, Sale tried to turn the game around. After winning the lineout and driving up the field, the ball was passed to Hodgson whose failed drop goal sent the ball dribbling up the pitch.

Minutes before the final whistle, with the fans sat on the edge of their seats, possession of the ball remained in the Bath’s territory. As the clock ticked into stoppage time, Charlie Hodgson made one last ditch attempt to secure a victory, but as the drop goal went wide, Bath’s lead was not relinquished and the score remained at a close 21 – 19 to Bath.

Bath:
15. Michael Stephenson 14. Matt Banahan 13. Andy Higgins 12. Tom Cheeseman 11. Ian Davey 10. Shaun Berne (c) 9. Michael Claassens 1. David Barnes 2. Pieter Dixon 3. Aaron Jarvis 4. Peter Short 5. Danny Grewcock 6. Andy Beattie 7. James Scaysbrook 8. Daniel Browne

Replacements:
16. Rob Hawkins 17. Lorne Ward 18. Martin Purdy 19. Jonny Faamatuainu 20. Chris Goodman 21. Nick Walshe 22. Jack Cuthbert

Sale:
15. Ben Foden 14. Chris Mayor 13. Chris Bell 12. Lee Thomas 11. Oriol Ripol 10. Charlie Hodgson 9. Richard Wigglesworth 1. Lionel Faure 2. Neil Briggs 3. Stuart Turner 4. Dean Schofield (c) 5. Sean Cox 6. Chris Jones 7. David Tait 8. Nathan Bonner-Evans

Replacements:
16. Marc Jones 17. Ben Evans 18. Chris Day 19. Magnus Lund 20. Sililo Martens 21. Fessia Genaro 22. Steve Hanley

Bath Scorers:
5. Try P Dixon, Conversion S Berne
15. Try M Banahan
37. Penalty Berne
57. Penalty Berne
81. Penalty Berne

Sale Scorers:
18. Penalty Hodgson
25. Drop Hodgson
28. Try Ripol, Conversion Hodgson
42. Penalty Hodgson
49. Penalty Hodgson

28th OCTOBER 2007 BATH V LEICESTER

After the only defeat this season at Welford Road, Bath Rugby had a score to settle and settle they did. With the Rec at full capacity, and Bath ready to prove their mettle, an exciting and close battle was fought until the final ten minutes when Crockett planted five points for Bath, taking the final victorious score after conversion to 20 -14 to Bath.

Three minutes into play and Ryan Davis, in place of Shaun Berne, was given the chance to demonstrate the strength of his boot as Bath was awarded a penalty. The Tigers sought to even that score almost instantly afterwards and notched up three points themselves with a penalty taken at six minutes by fly half Ian Humphreys.
Next, with a scrum awarded to Bath, the ball was passed rapidly out by Claassens, finding Andy Beattie who made a strong drive forward. The Tigers managed to steal the ball and kicked it the wrong side of the halfway line for Bath, followed by a further chip that saw the ball fall into touch in the top corner.

After a demonstration of rapid passing by both teams, increasing the tension at the Rec and raising the excitement of the fans, the Tigers were awarded a further penalty which took them up to a three point lead after 24 minutes, which was followed four minutes later by a try by full back Sam Vesty.

It was not long before Bath responded to Tiger’s eight point lead, as Ryan Davis executed a penalty and the Tigers, having also been awarded a penalty, failed to slot the ball between the posts.

Tension was high as the ball soared from wing to wing, finding Nick Abendanon who punched a whole in the defence, sprinting up the wing and landing mere inches away from the try line. He was followed by Tom Cheeseman who seconds later attempt to ground the ball, but it was not until the 40th minute that Bath were awarded a penalty try and Davis’s conversion saw Bath with a tight two-point lead at half-time.

One minute into the second half saw Leicester awarded with a penalty and as the Bath fans began to celebrate that the ball was going to fall short, it just clipped the post and tipped over for a further three points to the Tigers.

Club captain Steve Borthwick, raring to get back on the pitch after returning from the Rugby World Cup, punched a hole in the defence by driving the ball to within feet of the try line. The ball remained in the Tiger’s danger zone and inches away from the line for three more minutes before Leicester were able to clear.

Matt Banahan, having only entered the pitch in place of Michael Stephenson seconds before, didn’t waste time rampaging down the wing, palming off the attempted defence of the Tigers. He made his way over the try line to the jubilation of crowd, but having not grounded the ball, no try was awarded.

The final ten minutes kept the crowd on the edge of their seats as the Tigers made an aggressive drive in an attempt to increase the marginal one-point lead. With Nick Abendanon spotting a chance to break away, he launched towards the midfield, and as the ball shot towards Bath’s, Crockett, the centre took it over the line to add a further five points to the scoreboard. Berne’s conversion secured the six point lead and Bath walked away victorious, having sent the Tigers home with their tails between their legs. Final score 20 – 14 to Bath.

Scorers:

Bath:
3. Pen, Davis (3)
30. Pen Davis (6)
38. Pen Try, conv Davis (13)
69. Try, Crockett, conv Berne (20)

Leicester:
6. Pen, Humphreys (3)
24. Pen, Humphreys (6)
26. Try, Vesty (11)
42. Pen, Humphreys (14)

Bath:

15. Nick Abendanon 14. Andy Higgins 13. Alex Crockett 12. Tom Cheeseman 11. Michael Stephenson (58, M Banahan) 10. Ryan Davis (51, Berne) 9. Michael Claassens 1. David Flatman 2. Rob Hawkins 3. Paulica Ion 4. Steve Borthwick (c) 5. Peter Short 6. Andy Beattie 7. James Scaysbrook (55, J Faamatuainu) 8. Daniel Browne

Replacements:
16. Neil Clarke 17. Laurence Ovens 18. Martin Purdy 19. Jonny Faamatuainu 20. Nick Walshe 21. Shaun Berne 22. Matt Banahan

Leicester:

15. Sam Vesty 14. Johne Murphy 13. Ayoola Erinle 12. Matt Cornwell (43, T Youngs) 11. Tom Varndell 10. Ian Humphreys 9. Frank Murphy 1. Dan Cole (43, M Ayerza) 2. Mefin Davies (c) 3. Dave Young (43, Moreno) 4. Richard Blaze (52, J Hamilton) 5. Marco Wentzel 6. Tom Croft 7. Luke Abraham 8. Jordan Crane

Replacements:
16. Gavin Hickie 17. Marcos Ayerza 18. Alex Moreno 19. James Hamilton 20. Ben Herring 21. Tom Youngs 22. Ben Youngs

 

18th NOVEMBER 2007 BATH V PARMA

In a game of two halves, where the first points on the board were made in the 6th minute of first half injury time, Bath Rugby made a resounding win over visiting team Overmach Parma in the European Challenge Cup, to take their winning streak to eight games out of ten this season and a final score of 28 – 0.

With no points scored until the sixth minute of injury time, the first half of the match might have indicated to the faithless that this would be a game with no points. But, after ten minutes, Bath enticed the crowd by driving down into the visitors 22, with Borthwick and Stevens being stopped in their tracks, dangerously close to the try line.

The ball was cleared by Parma, but moments later picked up by Olly Barkley who palmed off the Italian defence to run diagonally across the park towards the wing.Parma’s defence prevented Barkley from getting across the halfway line, and it took the swift passing from Shaun Berne, who had just come on as a blood replacement for Alex Crockett, to get the ball to Stephenson and then Abendanon, who sprinted down the wing.

After 22 minutes, Parma made an aggressive attempt of their own to change the current zeros on the scoreboard and took the ball to inches away from the try line, but Nick Abendanon was waiting and he wasted no time in passing to Shaun Berne who slipped through midfield and passed to Barkley who raced on ahead. Again, Bath were met with a strong defence from the visitors and Barkley’s charge was halted much to the crowds dismay.

Two attempts before the half-time whistle were made by the home team to win five points, firstly by Andrew Higgins who had dragged his way over the try line with Parma desperately hanging at his feet and then by Michael Claassens who made the most of the packs drive over the line. Both lost the ball in the process of grounding and no points were scored.

With the clock ticking six minutes into injury time, and the crowd thinking that Bath may leave the pitch without any points, the fans were given an exciting display by the club captain as he rampaged over the line for a try, having received the ball from Michael Lipman who had punched a hole through the Parma defence in the 22. Barkley’s conversion took the half-time score to 7 – 0 to Bath.

Bath came back onto the pitch for the second half having picked up the anti, and immediately took the ball into Parma’s 22. It looked as though another try was on the cards for the home side, but no points were awarded and the ball was cleared by Galon. James attempted to rectify the single figures on the scoreboard, and made a smooth pass to Michael Lipman who slipped the ball to Lee Mears, who went on the charge. Unfortunately for the home team, the Italian defence prevented Mears getting past the 22.

Twenty minutes into the second half, Bath drove the ball to within feet of the try line once again and although Bath retained possession, it did not look as though they were going to win anymore points, until Crockett exploded midfield to soar over the line, taking the score, after a Barkley conversion, up to 14 – 0 to Bath.

The heat was back on the visitors, when Jonny Faamatuainu, having received the ball from Barkley, made a show and go and sprinted up midfield. Parma attempted to hold off the home team, but failed to catch Butch James who cleverly slipped the ball to an awaiting Olly Barkley, who won Bath a further seven points by his hand and his boot after 66 minutes.

It was a mere nine minutes later that Bath imposed their presence on the pitch once again, driving the ball over the line for Jonny Faamatuainu to ground for a try. Butch James made the conversion, taking the final score to 28 – 0 to Bath Rugby.

 

25th NOVEMBER 2007 BATH V BRISTOL

In the week leading up to arguably Bath Rugby’s biggest match this season, Head Coach Steve Meehan had only one ambition in mind – simply to win! With a group of former Bath greats parading before kick-off and rousing the crowd, there was never any doubt of the immensity of the derby clash against Bristol. With Bath Rugby displaying a consistently passionate performance throughout the match, they sealed their 28 – 13 victory in convincing fashion.

Bath stamped their mark on the game within four minutes with a penalty by Barkley giving them an instant three-point lead and although he failed to slot the second penalty kick three minutes later, a try by Andrew Higgins at 10 minutes saw the scoreboard flick to 8 – 0 to Bath, having burst through the light blue shirts, after an offload from Andy Beattie.

Having predicted that club captain, Steve Borthwick, would have an “immense match”, Meehan was proved right, as Borthwick’s inspirational leadership of the pack, enabled Bath to set the tone for the first half. After a chip and chase by Nick Abendanon that was tapped into touch by a Bristol hand, a scrummage followed that gave Daniel Browne the chance to peel strongly from the back, and with some clever interplay between Peter Short and Michael Claassens, the back row were able to set the platform for an aggressive drive. Moments later, Matt Banahan exploded through midfield and although he was taken down mid-flight, he found the tireless Michael Lipman who burst over the line for Bath’s second try. As Barkley successfully converted, Bath Rugby took the score up to a ten-point lead.

It was not until 26 minutes that Bristol were able to put some numbers on their side of the scoreboard. After a rare breech of the Bath defence, and looking as though they may be able to score a try, a good tackle by Higgins stopped Bristol in their tracks. However, after a Bath infringement, the visitors had to content themselves with three-points instead, after a successful penalty kick by Jason Strange.

The remaining ten minutes before the half-time whistle allowed Bristol to narrow the deficit, with a further three points after another penalty kick by Strange, but the home-side’s forwards engaged in an aggressive drive to the halfway line. When the maul finally collapsed, Matt Banahan was at hand to slip the ball to the wing where South African pairing, Michael Claassens and Butch James made good headway, but as the ball fell dead, the half-time whistle prevented any further scores being made.

Bristol attempted to gain some momentum in the second half and the try by David Lemi at 62 minutes, gave them a glimmer of hope, but the unwavering determination of Bath meant that the extra seven-points won by Bristol, with only 13 minutes left of play, was not enough to allow them victory.

In one of his most formidable performances this season, Michael Lipman punched a hole in Bristol’s defence, and fed the ball to Claassens, who off-loaded to James and Higgins. Feet away from scoring, Higgins was taken down and the ball was cleared to Bristol’s 10 metre line, but Bath were quick to regroup as Matt Stevens went on the rampage. The loosehead prop found Beattie, who swiftly delivered to Mears, and in turn, Lipman, and eventually Bristol buckled under pressure and a penalty was awarded to the home side. Barkley planted the ball perfectly over the posts, taking the score to 20 – 6 to Bath.

At 67 minutes, Barkley struck his third and final penalty kick, after Bristol had enjoyed their only try of the match. Shaun Perry had successfully reduced Bath’s lead over the visitors, having sprinted into the 22 and feeding the ball to Lemi for the try, but it the seven points were not enough, as five minutes before the final whistle, Bath’s Banahan slammed another try.

After a brilliant counter-attack by Bath from a turnover on their 22, Matt Banahan, who now flies out to play for England in the IRB Sevens World Series tournament in Dubai, made the most of the interplay between Abendanon and Berne and sealed the victory for Bath with a final score of 28 – 13 to Bath.

1st DECEMBER 2007 BATH V CARDIF ?? AS REPORT STATES A NOVEMBER NIGHT

With the weather so sodden on a late November night, Bath Rugby faced the Cardiff Blues in a battle that saw this season’s unbeaten record at The Rec diminished after a valiant fight. In the torrential downpour, both teams would be forgiven for allowing the standards to slip, and although, to the contrary, they displayed a commendable performance, it was not quite enough to ensure a Bath victory and Cardiff Blues walked away with a winning 14-6 lead.

For the opening minutes, Cardiff had the better of the open exchanges, and although Bath’s resolute defence held firm, an early offence for holding on in the ruck gave Dai Flanagan the chance to put the first points on the board, with a penalty kick slicing straight over the posts. Moments before, Barkley had broken through the blues defence, with Cardiff players hanging at his feet, but it was not enough to prevent the Blues from scoring and the home side had to wait another nine minutes before they could equalise.

A good effort by Joe Maddock looked like it might have given Bath a vital try, but a small knock on in the process of crossing the line prevented Maddock from winning Bath five points. A period of sustained pressure followed, with Bath dominating the line out, but the try, which Bath had been threatening, did not materialise.

However, the home side did draw level in the 25th minute when Michael Lipman’s strong drive at the heart of the Cardiff defence resulted in Olly Barkley being handed an opportunity to kick at goal. The centre slotted the ball over the posts to make the score three all.

Attack immediately turned to defence as Cardiff looked to have scored through Jason Spice’s sniping run, but the scrum half fumbled the ball in the act of scoring to deny his side the lead. The pressure did eventually reap rewards for the Blues though, as they nosed ahead once more through the boot of Dai Flanagan.

The final say of the half would go to Bath, as Daniel Browne’s rampaging drive ripped open the Cardiff defence, causing the visitors to infringe in the shadow of their own posts. Barkley, whose superb game in defence, stepped up once more to draw his side level, and a deserved share of the spoils at the interval.

Bath returned to the field in the second half with renewed vigour and pace and took control of the game with some excellent interplay between backs and forwards despite the monsoon conditions. With the pressure mounting, Barkley had an opportunity to take the lead for the first time in the match after a high tackle, but the centre pushed his penalty attempt just wide of the posts.

With the scores locked at two penalties a-piece entering the final quarter, Bath continued to press for a vital breakthrough try, but it was Cardiff who edged into a 6-9 lead through Flanagan, after Peter Short was sin-binned for killing the ball.

Reduced to 14 men, Bath fought on, and inspired by the fresh impetus of replacements, Lee Mears and James Scaysbrook, took the game to Cardiff once more. With eight minutes left to play, Barkley put his boot back into action in an attempt to equalise, but again in tricky conditions the ball was pushed to the left of the posts and the score remained 6 – 9 to Cardiff.

The final throws of the match were played at an impressive pace as both sides searched for the score that would secure the victory, but chances were few and far between. Cardiff, though, were presented with a late opportunity through replacement Andy Powell, and although Steve Borthwick produced a strong tackle to try and deny the Welshmen a score, Bath had run out of numbers in defence and Robin Sowden Taylor crashed over for the decisive try, bringing the final score to 14 – 6 to the Blues.

15th DECEMBER 2007 BATH V ALBI

Bath completed a double of European Challenge Cup victories over Albi with a comprehensive 59-15 demolition of the French side at the Recreation Ground on Saturday.
Head coach Steve Meehan made eleven changes to the side that had won the reverse fixture in Albi the previous weekend, but as in France, the result was emphatic as Bath scored nine tries in romping to a fourth successive victory in Europe to cement a commanding position at the top of Pool One of the competition.

Meehan could not have scripted a better start as immediately from the kick off Joe Maddock exploded down the wing for an instant and easy five points. While there will be some debate as to whether the New Zealander’s try was the quickest in the competition’s history, there was little doubt that Bath meant business.

Despite the bitterly cold conditions, Bath turned up the heat and the Rec faithful were not kept waiting long for a second try. Samoan international fly-half Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, playing his first match since shoulder surgery, punched a hole through the Albi cover to create the platform for fellow countryman Jonny Faamatuainu to score with barely five minutes on the clock. Shaun Berne’s conversion handed Bath a commanding 12-0 lead.

Albi did manage to get on the scoreboard after 14 minutes through the boot of Frederic Manca, but it was to be a brief respite as Bath forged further ahead. A move started by number eight Chris Goodman and continued by Faamatuainu, resulted in Matt Banahan being released in space. Although the giant winger was hauled down just short of the line, the ball was quickly recycled and Berne found a gap to score the third try. The centre’s converted his own try to give Bath a 20-3 lead within the opening quarter.

Despite living off scraps, Albi looked to attack at every opportunity and after Frederic Menca had set up field position within the Bath 22, centre Tim Bowker scored to reduce the arrears to just nine points for the visiting team.

Any thoughts of an upset were quickly dispelled as yet again Albi were reduced to 14 players after they lost prop Jerome Filitoga to the sin-bin. Bath immediately capitalised and marched Albi back towards their own line with a powerful driving maul, before Michael Claassens slipped the ball to James Scaysbrook to score the try that sealed the bonus point and a 24-10 half time lead.

Bath started the second half in the same vein as they had ended the first and came close to scoring almost immediately from the restart after a powerful scrum at close quarters resulted in the forwards being driven over the Albi line at pace. However, the home side were thwarted by some excellent defensive play by the Frenchmen.

Albi refused to capitulate and the Frenchmen to produce a period of sustained pressure deep inside Bath territory, frustrating the home side. Bath, experiencing a rare opportunity to defend, tackled with purpose, but Albi’s pressure eventually told as Justin Mensah-Coker, squeezed in at the corner for his side’s second try.

With a quarter of the match remaining, coach Meehan brought on fresh legs in an attempt to break the deadlock and finish off a tiring Albi side. The reward was immediate as replacement hooker Rob Hawkins showed a good turn of pace to round off Bath’s first try of the second period. Berne converted for a 16 point lead, and Bath were back on track.

The try served to open the floodgates for Bath who responded with four tries in a final ten minute salvo of exceptional quality. Olly Barkley, having only just entered the fray, scored his side’s sixth try after some clever interplay inside the Albi 22, and with Berne’s conversion attempt successfully executed, Bath led 38-15.

With Albi’s spirit broken, Bath created opportunities with ease. Alex Crockett was next to get in on the act and scored his side’s seventh try after picking a superb line to outpace the French cover for a superb try. Berne landed the conversion and Bath were cruising.

With two minutes remaining on the clock, Berne took Bath past 50 points, crashing over the line for yet another five-pointer. Barkley added the extras and moments before the final whistle the scorer became the provider as Berne offloaded to Barkley a few metres from the Albi line for Bath’s ninth and final try of the afternoon. The replacement fly half converted to wrap up an impressive 59-15 victory.

22nd DECEMBER 2007 BATH V LEEDS

Bath surged to the top of the Guinness Premiership table for the first time in three years with a resounding 41-10 bonus point victory over struggling Leeds Carnegie at the Recreation Ground.

Steve Meehan’s side, who were just one point adrift of west country rivals Gloucester heading into the match on Saturday afternoon, were in impressive form, scoring five tries in a complete performance bristling with pace, power and attacking intention that underlined their title credentials.

Bath started the match as they had done the week before against Albi and it took just one minute for the scoreboard to register the first of the home side’s five tries. Having stretched the Leeds defence with a sweeping move that covered the breadth of the pitch, Butch James, Olly Barkley and Daniel Browne combined to release Matt Banahan from fifteen metres out. The powerful winger, who has developed a nose for the try line this season, needed no second invitation and powered over in the corner for a superb opening score. Barkley’s touchline conversion handed Bath the perfect start.

Though dominant in the opening quarter having set up camp in the Leeds 22 on numerous occasions, Bath did find it difficult to get into their stride and were unable to unlock a committed Leeds defence and find pathway through to the try line for a second score. Instead the home side had to be contented to extend their lead through the boot of Olly Barkley, who kicked Bath to a 13-3 half time lead.

Conscious that every point would count in the Premiership title race, Bath piled on the pressure in the second half and took just three minutes to return to try-scoring form as Matt Banahan crossed for his second five-pointer of the afternoon. The giant winger, who has made quite an impression for his club this season, was the beneficiary of a superb passage of play from the home side which started deep inside their own 22 and culminated with the try being scored under the posts. Barkley, impeccable with the boot, slotted over the extras to give his side a healthy 20-3 lead.

If Bath’s second try was impressive, then the third was undoubtedly the moment of the game. Sparked by an electric break by Nick Abendanon in the shadow of his own posts, Bath stormed up field in breathtaking passage of expansive play that demonstrated just why Steve Meehan’s side are troubling opposition this season. Forwards and backs combined with seamless ease to rip holes in a bewildered Leeds defence, before Michael Claassens, who had an immense game, completed the move under the posts much to the delight of the Rec faithful. Barkley’s routine conversion stretched the lead to 27-3 and Bath were cruising.

Banahan completed his hat-trick three minutes later with a finish that was every bit as good as his first. Once again Bath showed impressive handling skills with Lee Mears, Andy Beattie, Matt Stevens all looking comfortable playing in the outside backs before Butch James and Alex Crockett combined before Banahan swatted away two would be tacklers to power over the line once more to secure the all-important try bonus point. Barkley’s conversion pushed the lead to a buffer of over 30 points.

Entering the final quarter with victory already secured and with one eye on the Wasps clash the following weekend, Steve Meehan threw on four pairs of fresh legs to bolster the Bath attack with Martin Purdy and Lee Dixon immediately making an impression.

Despite the fresh impetus it was Leeds who finally secured the consolation try that they so desperately sought. Subjected to phenomenal pressure all afternoon, the Yorkshiremen were forced to live off scraps, but from a rare turnover inside their own territory, former England A winger Tom Biggs burst down the touchline to beat Nick Abendanon’s despairing tackle to score in the corner. Alberto De Bernardo added the extras to take the scores to 34-10 with ten minutes left on the clock.

Any thoughts of a Leeds revival were immediately thwarted as Bath ratcheted up the pressure once again. The home side were camped inside the opposition 22 for the final ten minutes, but appeared not to be able to find a breakthrough until Barkley’s moment of magic on the stroke of full time.

Noticing that a tiring Leeds defence was up flat, the England centre executed with precision a delicate chip through for Nick Abendanon to gather and round off yet another impressive passage of play by Bath. Barkley’s conversion wrapped-up another impressive home performance to make the final score 41-10.

29th DECEMBER 2007 WASPSV BATH

Bath faced a tough match against London Wasps this afternoon at Adams Park, as they tackled the reigning Heineken Cup Champions with a star-studded line up. Fielding a rotated squad, reminiscent of the team that played Albi in the European Challenge Cup two weeks before, a resurgence of skill and power in the second half was not enough to claw back a victory in High Wycombe and Bath left London Wasps with a 25-10 defeat.

Just 70 seconds into play, Wasps had gained a three-point lead, after a Bath offence enabled Wasps’ Danny Cipriani to slot the ball between the posts for his first penalty. Less than four minutes later, Tom Voyce had broken down the wing, taking the ball inside Bath’s 22 for Rob Webber, who was a last minute replacement for the flu-stricken Tom Rees, to register five further points on the scoreboard. Cipriani followed up with an easy conversion, giving Wasps a ten-point advantage.

The next points were not conceded until 29 minutes, as Bath displayed good defence, while Olly Barkley, having come on for the injured Tom Cheeseman after only nine minutes, sparked some incisive attacking moves in the back line.

In one such move, Eliota Fuimano-Sapolu, back at inside centre, showed impressive pace and balance to make up for the distance gained by a burst from Josh Lewsey, to establish field position on the Wasps 10 metre line.

After some good interplay by Bath, the ball was cleared to Wasps 22 and although the home side attempted to send the ball straight back down the pitch, Nick Abendanon, energised by his first try of the season against Leeds, was ready and waiting and burst from wing to midfield. The run failed to award the west country side with the much needed points though and Paul Sackey made the most of a swift pass from Flutey then Voyce, to soar over the line for five points. Cipriani converted, taking the homeside up to a 17-point lead.

With two minutes left before injury time, Joe Maddock swept uncontested up the middle of the pitch, directly into the Wasps 22. The pressure mounting on the home side forced Voyce to make a break down the wing, but Abendanon and Stephenson were eagerly awaiting and hot on his heels, ensuring that the winger failed to get past the halfway line. With an excruciatingly long injury time on the clock, Danny Grewcock was sent off for a dubious stamping of Skivington and Cipriani enjoyed a final minute three points after being awarded a penalty. Bath left the pitch at the half-time whistle 20 – 0 down and needing an injection of the spirit that has made them such an excitement to watch of recent weeks.

Moments into the second half, flanker Daniel Leo tried to rack up some early points, but Stephenson, consistently tackling well against Wasps, took him down just outside the 22, and after two minutes the ball was back in Bath’s possession and within Wasps 22. The heat was on Wasps, as Bath displayed greater determination, forcing Dallaglio to offend and giving Barkley, clearly unperturbed by recent events, the chance to display his world-class ability as he sent the ball sailing between the sticks for a penalty.

To the sounds from the crowds of “Allez Bath”, Wasps were back under pressure, and as the Wasp captain broke out from the scrummage, passing to Sackey, Abendanon halted the wing in his tracks with a textbook tackle. Unfortunately for Bath’s fullback, Sackey had his own back minutes later, as a grubber kick from Van Gisbergen sent the ball bobbling rapidly towards the try line. Just as Abendanon attempted to get to the ball before the Wasp, Sackey pounced on it to make the try.

The final ten minutes belonged to Bath, with the visitors advanced towards the Wasps line with renewed vigour, determined to score the breakthrough try that would haul them back into the game.

As the pack besieged the Wasps defence, Danny Grewcock used his 19-stone frame to punch a hole through the Wasps line. With the Wasps defence disintegrating, Joe Maddock sprinted over the line for a score between the posts. Barkley’s conversion took the score to 25-10.

Moments later Bath had a further opportunity to reduce the arrears as Olly Barkley powered towards the try line. Although the centre crossed the line in the corner, despite the close attention of Sackey, the video replay showed that he had lost control of the ball before the line, and Bath were denied five points.

In the dying moments Bath continued to press, denying the hosting team a vital bonus point, but, unable to breech the Wasps defence once more, the final whistle resounded to a 25-10 defeat.

 

 

 

 

 

5th JANUARY 2008 BATH V GLOUCESTER

Proving that fans didn’t have a long wait to enjoy yet another victory at The Rec, Bath Rugby slammed home an exhilarating 10 – 5 win against rivals Gloucester last night, once again throwing open the Guinness Premiership title race, as Bath sit two points behind.

With the rain pouring down and the pitch sodden, the game was in doubt right up until kick off. Starting 15 minutes later, after some excellent water expulsion by Bath’s ground staff, Bath Rugby wasted no time in displaying the form that they would continue for the full 80 minutes. Although no scores were won before the 31st minute, the forward dominated contest saw both packs continue to barrage each other in a fierce tussle for possession.

Despite the atrocious conditions, Bath’s positive start demonstrated the brand of rugby that has made them such a success so far this season. With both teams kicking for field position, Abendanon cleared to the halfway line to be followed by a line-out. The resulting drive from Lipman, gave Banahan the chance to put his legs in motion as he burst down the wing. Leon Lloyd was quick to halt the giant though, preventing him from scoring the tries that have made him a Rec favourite this season.

With tempers flaring and Gloucester feeling the brunt of the offence, Barkley stepped up to kick the ball straight over the top of the East Stand and into touch. Moments later, the intensity of the match forced Gloucester’s captain, Marco Bortolami, to concede a penalty as he hauled down the line out. Olly Barkley was handed the first chance to win some points, but suffering from the bad pitch conditions, the long-range kick that was taken from the 10 metre line, fell just short of Gloucester’s posts and the Rec faithful were forced to wait a further ten minutes to enjoy some rewards.

After 31 minutes, an incisive break, sparked by the Bath backline, carried the home-side inside Gloucester’s 22, where, under pressure, Bortolami once again was forced to concede, having been caught offside. Barkley made no mistake this time, proving, once again, why he is the Premiership’s best marksman, stepping up to put his left foot into action and planting three points on the scoreboard. With time running out in the first half, Gloucester made some ditch attempts to score, but time and again came up against Bath’s determined defence, as highlighted by Danny Grewcock, who halted a run by James Bailey with consummate ease.

The opening minutes of the second half saw Bath retaining 91% of possession, wasting no time to set up camp inside the muddiest end of the pitch inside Gloucester’s 22. A series of strong drives epitomised by David Barnes and Michael Lipman, who demonstrated international credentials, kept the ball within a few metres of the try line. But after a clearance kick by Mike Tindall, the pressure was relieved for Gloucester – but only momentarily.

Responding to Gloucester’s attempt to repel Bath’s advances, Lipman carried the ball straight back into the visitor’s territory, taking the tackle before the ball was thrown out wide to Banahan. The wing burst towards the touch line, but the move broke down as Gloucester made a desperate fly-hack away from danger. Abendanon, displaying immense peripheral vision, found Joe Maddock, unmarked on the right wing, after a call from Olly Barkley and launched the ball cross-field to meet the in-form New Zealander for an exhilarating try in the 49th minute. Barkley’s touchline conversion took the score to a 10-point lead.

With the points all on Bath’s side, Gloucester answered by instantly taking the ball into Bath’s danger zone, but it didn’t stay there long. Shaun Berne, having only just entered the park, joined Barkley to drive back up the midfield and with the conditions so sodden, even the referee, Wayne Barnes, slipped in the mud and lost his whistle!

Chris Paterson, who had only come on the pitch moments before, gave Gloucester the chance to rack up their own points, as he broke through the Bath defence, for a much-needed try in the corner. But with the conversion hitting the left upright, the Scotsman failed to award his team with more than five points.

Bath came straight back with grit and determination as first Berne and then Banahan took play back deep into Gloucester territory, where the remainder of the epic contest would be played out. Bath’s courageous attempts to put more points on the board and deny their visitors a bonus point, didn’t provide the deserved rewards and as the clock counted down the final seconds, Michael Claassens kicked the ball into the crowd to end the game, sealing Bath’s 10 – 5 victory over Gloucester.

12th JANUARY 2008 OVERMACH PARMA V BATH

The European Challenge Cup rematch against Overmach Parma tonight, was probably all too reminiscent of the first leg at The Rec for Parma, with Bath Rugby walking away with a massive 31 -13 win over the home side. Although the stadium was far from full, the travelling Bath fans made up for lack in numbers with continuous cries of “allez bath” resounding loudly through the Sergio Lanfranchi as Bath walked away with a bonus point.

Head Coach, Steve Meehan, was hoping for a “sharper and more precise” meeting to the previous match, but with a lack of scores within the first half, it reflected greatly the first game, with the score at 10 -3 to Bath by the half-time whistle. The first of the points being won by Bath’s Olly Barkley, after a Parma offence gave the Bath centre the chance to slot his only penalty of the match after just five minutes. Four minutes later, Parma equalised, as fly half, Barry Irving stepped up to take the penalty for the home side.

Bath didn’t waste time in ensuring that Parma could not manage anymore points in the first half, as Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, playing at outside centre, found Maddock on the burst, who hurled to Chris Goodman, waiting on the wing to make good progress inside Parma’s 22. Parma’s defence was not to be taken lightly, and with the heat on inside their own territory, they cleared the ball with haste. The Samoan, suitably placed midfield, broke back down the centre, chipping for Michael Stephenson to chase. Although it was once again cleared by Parma, Barkley picked it up, passing to Maddock who offloaded to Dixon. With the wet weather all too familiar for Bath, Dixon spilt the greasy ball.

Having failed to rack up any more points on the board and with 19 minutes already played, Bath found the ball dangerously inside their 22. Parma, given the opportunity to go into the lead with a penalty kick from the 22 metre line, failed to award the much-needed points, as the kick sprawled wide. Four minutes later, Bath took the chance to increase their lead, catching the ball and driving across to the midfield, moving powerfully towards the white line. Just as it looked as though Parma were going to clear as the pack lunged for the line, the ball was unleashed to Banahan who, undefended, trotted over the line for an easy try. After Barkley’s conversion, Bath sat tight with a seven-point lead.

With ten minutes left on the clock, Bath played the ball excitingly close to the touchline, leading the fans to believe that a second try was on the cards. With some clever build up play between Barkley, Lipman and Dixon, the interplay resulted in a clear chance for the Hooker, but Parma were determined to keep up full-strength defence, and prevented the English side from doubling their points. After a series of continuous ruck and mauls inches away from the white line, Bath were unable to forge anymore points and the half-time whistle blew at Bath 10, Parma 3.

The second half play saw none of the errors of the first and with a tiring Italian side returning to the park, the visiting team wasted no time in firmly stamping their mark and ensuring that they left with a more than convincing victory. As Bath stormed into the second half, they quickly responded to a failed Parma penalty kick, as Butch James exploded down the wing for the second try of the match. As Barkley easily dissected the uprights to the cheers of the crowd, Bath enjoyed the 17-3 lead after 46 minutes.

Four minutes later, spurred on by the change of pace and energy in the second half, Borthwick won the line out on the 10 metre line, offloading to Peter Short who surged inside the 22. With Fuimaono and Goodman in support, the ball floated to Banahan for his second try of the match – running over the touchline in the top left-hand corner and planting the ball behind the posts. Barkley nailed the touchline conversion, stretching the point-gap to 24 -3.

Parma attempted to get back on the attack, gaining another three points after 53 minutes, after a penalty kick by Irving. Although this looked like it might being to bridge the wide-gap between the scores, it was not enough to unnerve Bath and even after Neethling, who had replaced Chillon at 54 minutes, managed to break through the blue, black and white defence, and score a try, it was a short-lived advantage.

For the remaining 10 minutes, Bath remained comfortably inside Parma’s 22. Sending on a number of substitutions, Goodman moved to blindside and Daniel Browne replaced Beattie, adding a fresh set of legs and driving force to the pack. With the new injection of energy inside the pack, the forwards kept Bath on the front foot and a strong drive gave Lipman the opportunity to peel away from the maul and soar across the line for a bonus point try. With Barkley having been replaced by Berne, Butch James found the target and took Bath to 31 – 13 after the conversion. Six minutes into injury time and with just one man down after injury, fans applauded Bath’s victory as the rain began to pour.

19th JANUARY 2008 BATH V FC AUCHGERS

Bath once again proved their ability to play good rugby in poor weather conditions, running in five tries to ensure themselves a winning bonus point and a home quarter-final in the European Challenge Cup by beating F.C. Auch Gers 31 points to 13.

From the start Bath Rugby showed their intent and in the fifth minute those efforts were rewarded. Danny Grewcock broke the Auch defense down and after going to ground Butch James received the ball and offloaded a pass to Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu who came in at an angle to score. James missed the conversion with the wind sweeping the ball away from the uprights.

Auch closed the gap two minutes later with fly-half Couzier hitting a penalty from forty meters out. After testing kicks from Bath putting the Auch backs under immense pressure (nearly resulting in a try on two separate occasions after handling errors from Auch), a collapsed scrum gave Auch a chance to further reduce the deficit – but a poor kick saw Couzier’s effort fall well short of the posts.

Bath’s second try came in the 21st minute. After a quick break down the wing, Michael Stephenson was eventually brought down but not before he was able to offload to Zak Feaunati who scored the first of his two tries. James came closer to a successful conversion this time only for the left upright to prevent him from scoring.

The home side’s final try before half-time came via full-back Joe Maddock. Rob Hawkins nearly scored the try himself after darting down the centre of the pitch but he was tackled 10 meters or so from the try line. However quick recycled ball went through the backs and culminated in Maddock scoring in the corner. James converted.

Auch got themselves back into the game just before the breakthrough an Edmond-Samuel try and a Couzier conversion. Bath went into half-time 17-10 up.

The second-half opened with both sides running the ball but it was not until the 55th minute that more points were scored. With Yoann Marty yellow carded for being offside and interrupting Bath ball, Bath were awarded a scrum close to the Auch try line. Bath took advantage of the extra man to overpower the opposition forwards and let Zak Feaunati in to score and claim the bonus point. James converted.

Auch’s only points in the second half came from a Couzier penalty in the 65th minute.

Danny Grewcock so nearly made it five tries when the ball broke loose. It was only a last minute football style defensive kick from the Auch fullback that saw the ball cleared before Grewcock could pounce

A fifth try did come for Bath minutes later though. James – so often at the heart of this Bath performance – popped a pass to Shaun Berne running in on an angle and Australian outpaced the defense to score. James hit his third conversion of the afternoon.

Bath Rugby have now qualified for a home quarter-final on the weekend of the 4th/ 5th/ 6th April. We won’t know our opposition until the completion of the round six pool games on Sunday.

28th JANUARY 2008 SARACENS V BATH

With the chance to put an end to the three wins-one loss pattern that Bath Rugby have fallen prey to this season, the visiting team came to Vicarage Road with a score to settle for more than one reason. Although Bath managed to clinch the bonus point, the half-time lead of 13 – 5 to Saracens and an injured fly-half, meant that Bath were unable to seal the victory and the final whistle blew on 26 – 20 to Saracens.

At the first whistle, Saracens were on the attack and wasted no time in taking the ball straight up the left wing towards Bath’s 22. Strong defence by Bath prevented an opening five points for the hosting team, but after three infringements by Bath, Saracen’s Number 10, Glen Jackson tipped the ball over the uprights for a successful penalty kick, taking the men in black into the lead after just five minutes.

Olly Barkley was given the opportunity to equalise, after a fumble by Saracens gave Bath’s Andrew Higgins the space to make a short break midfield, that was extended by a hand-off and drive from Steve Borthwick. Mears kept the momentum going from the ruck, moving deep inside Saracen’s 22, but with the centre’s penalty kick going wide, Bath failed to match the points.

Fifteen minutes gone and with Bath dominating territory and possession, Higgins made a break from the stalemate on the wing, to be supported by Lipman and later Banahan, whose 6ft 7 frame sprinted up the left wing before being taken down. With Saracens feeling the pressure, a quick clearance kick gave Bath the opportunity to win some much needed points and after a corner-kick into touch by Barkley and a lineout won by Bath, Butch James powered through an attempted tackle by Adam Powell to secure the first of Bath’s three tries. Minutes later, having failed to get up due to an injured shoulder, the try-scorer was replaced by Samoan Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, and Barkley failed to convert.

As the half hour mark approached, Brent Russell reacted quickly to the short-lived lead by the visitors, breaking through the white and blue defence at pace and grounding the ball behind the posts. Glen Jackson added a further two points to the score with a successful conversion, taking Saracens to a five-point lead.

Minutes later, Bath looked dangerously close to hitting back, after Eliota made a rapid sprint up the pitch and offloaded to Nick Abendanon who helped get Bath to within inches of the line. Jersey-born Banahan was back fighting for some points, hammering back down the left wing after receiving a ball tapped over to him from Barkley. Caught at the feet, as he neared the line, the giant failed to reduce the point-gap and with just one minute left before the half-time whistle, a Bath offence gave Jackson an extra three points as he dissected the uprights, taking Saracens to a 13 -5 lead.

At the restart, Bath had some vital points to gain to ensure that they were not out of the match entirely and Higgins attempted to win these for Bath as he shot down the right wing towards Saracen’s 22. Under pressure, Saracens looked as though they were about to clear the ball out of their danger zone, but after a pass from Lipman, Barkley brushed aside the tackling Russell to crash over the line at 52 minutes. Converting his own try, Barkley took Bath to within one-point of their hosts.

Three minutes later, Jackson responded to the lessened score divide by landing a penalty kick and nudging Saracens back into the lead. Another three minutes after that, Russell, enjoying his second try of the match, crossed the white line to take the hosts to an eight-point lead, that was stretched by a further two points as Jackson successfully converted.

Barkley broke free again with 15 minutes to go, speeding straight though a gap midfield. Short, who had replaced Grewcock after 62 minutes, pounded his way towards the posts, but was forced to offload with black shirts holding up the defence. With the heat on, Saracens helped Barkley to notch up some points for Bath, but this move was imitated minutes later by Saracens as, yet again, Jackson made a successful penalty kick.

Bath, desperate to make up the points-difference, retained the ball deep inside of Saracen’s 22 in the remaining minutes and although the 76th minute saw Jonny Faamatuainu launch over the line for an unconverted try, it sealed the bonus point for Bath, but not the final victory. The whistle sounded on a 26 – 20 win to Saracens

17th FEBRUARY 2008 BATH V WASPS

Bath Rugby came out on the losing end of a fascinating game of rugby at the Rec on Saturday afternoon in a match that saw nine tries scored in a 34-42 thriller.

The opening minutes of the match belonged to the home side. Olly Barkley got the score ticking with an early penalty and then an Andrew Higgins break from his own half culminated in the winger scoring thanks to an unlikely assist from Wasps Tom Palmer. Higgins’ intended pass to Joe Maddock was blocked by the lock but then fortuitously fell back into Higgins path and allowed him to pick the ball up and score. Olly Barkley hit the conversion.

The next period of the game then belonged solely to opposition fly-half Danny Cipriani who first hit a penalty from 40 meters out in the 7th minute and then minutes later produced a great chip over the Bath defence, re-claimed the ball and evaded Bath fullback Nick Abendanon to score. He then converted the try.

In the 26th minute, Bath nearly scored a second try after a period of pressure close to the Wasps try line looked to have resulted in a Shaun Berne try, however after referee Rob Debney consulted the television match official, the fly-half was judged to have dropped the ball over the line.

Olly Barkley was able to extend Bath’s lead moments later with a successful penalty kick but Cipriani hit one of his own minutes later to level the scores at 13 all.

Bath finished off the second half on a high. An Abendanon break from a Bath scrum saw the fullback break through several tackles to score. Barkley converted the try to give the home side a 20-13 lead going into the break.

The second half could not have started on a worse footing for Bath. Two tries in nine minutes from the visitors turned the game on its head. Firstly Palmer was able to draw his opposite man and give a winning pass to James Haskell and then Fraser Waters was on hand to put Josh Lewsey away in the corner. Cipriani only converted the first try.

In the 50th minute a Cipriani penalty made it 20-28 to Wasps. Then in a similar fashion to his earlier try, Josh Lewsey was once again put away in the corner, this time by David Doherty who came off the opposite wing before firing a pass into the path of the oncoming Lewsey. 20-35 to Wasps. Cipriani converted.

After a number of substitutions, Bath were given fresh impetus. After a great break by Faamatuainu and then quick play from Michael Claassens at the bottom of a ruck, Eliota Fuimaono broke through the Wasps defence to score. Barkley hit a successful conversion.

Wasps pressure then resulted in a Daniel Leo try and a Cipriani conversion before Daniel Brown was able to hit back for Bath and score the blue, black and whites fourth try which gave the home side a bonus point.

With time up on the stadium clock, Bath realised that another bonus point was available for coming within seven points of Wasps. they tried time and again to run the ball but the Wasps defence hemmed them in and prevented the home side breaking out of their own half enabling the visitors to claim victory.

25 FEBRUARY 2008 LEEDS V BATH

Bath Rugby got their Guinness Premiership campaign back on track at Headingly on Sunday securing a four-try bonus point win over Leeds Carnegie in a 15-34 away victory.

From the opening minutes of the match, Bath put pressure on Leeds nearly scoring from a scrum near the home side’s try-line only for the ball to be scrambled away into touch. Scoring proceedings then opened in the 7th minute with Olly Barkley slotting home a penalty.

Bath continued their attacking impetus and not for the first time in the match, Joe Maddock proved a handful on the wing getting taken into touch meters from the try-line.

Leeds first real attack was only thwarted thanks to some excellent covering by Barkley who read a Leeds chip and chase and collected the ball before going to ground and, after the ball was recycled, allowing Abendanon to clear into touch.

Baths’ first try came through Maddock thanks to a Jonny Faamatuainu break and quick recycled ball through hands that culminated in the winger scoring in the right hand corner. Barkley added the conversion.

Bath and Leeds then traded penalty kicks with Barkley and then Leigh Hinton scoring their respective kicks at goal. Just before the break Bath continued to press the Leeds defence with the forwards nearly turning the screw on the Leeds pack on a few occasions and the backs being unlucky not to capitalize on a charged down kick within Leeds’ own try area. Bath went into the break 3-13 up.

The emergence of the sun in the second initially seemed to signal a change in fortunes for the home side. A good break from Carnegie’s Jonny Hepworth saw the centre manage to suck in the last defender before firing a pass out to the dangerous Fijian winger Apo Satala who scored in the lefthand corner. The conversion was missed.

The pendulum then swung back in favor of the visitors and more Bath pressure saw one attack resulting in the ball being held up over the line before a Bath scrum utilised its power to push over the try line with Danny Grewcock emerging as the try scorer. Barkley hit the conversion.

Six minutes later and once again, despite some fearsome defence repelling Bath’s efforts out wide, the forwards were the source of Bath’s points – this time flanker Jonny Faamatuainu touched the ball down. Barkley continued his fine kicking display with another successful conversion.

In the 71st minute Leeds’ danger man Satala was on hand again for the home team. Good work in midfield by insider centre Andy Tuilagi culminated in Satala racing down the right hand side of the pitch and just grounding the ball before the Bath defenders could bundle him into touch. Carnegie substitute Alberto Di Bernardo hit the conversion.

After a number of substitutions, Bath then wrapped up the game and claimed a bonus point after more pressure on the Leeds defence told and winger Matt Banahan went over in the corner. Barkley hit the conversion and ended the game with a 100% kicking record.

 

25th FEBRUARY 2008 LEEDS V BATH

Bath Rugby got their Guinness Premiership campaign back on track at Headingly on Sunday securing a four-try bonus point win over Leeds Carnegie in a 15-34 away victory.

From the opening minutes of the match, Bath put pressure on Leeds nearly scoring from a scrum near the home side’s try-line only for the ball to be scrambled away into touch. Scoring proceedings then opened in the 7th minute with Olly Barkley slotting home a penalty.

Bath continued their attacking impetus and not for the first time in the match, Joe Maddock proved a handful on the wing getting taken into touch meters from the try-line.

Leeds first real attack was only thwarted thanks to some excellent covering by Barkley who read a Leeds chip and chase and collected the ball before going to ground and, after the ball was recycled, allowing Abendanon to clear into touch.

Baths’ first try came through Maddock thanks to a Jonny Faamatuainu break and quick recycled ball through hands that culminated in the winger scoring in the right hand corner. Barkley added the conversion.

Bath and Leeds then traded penalty kicks with Barkley and then Leigh Hinton scoring their respective kicks at goal. Just before the break Bath continued to press the Leeds defence with the forwards nearly turning the screw on the Leeds pack on a few occasions and the backs being unlucky not to capitalize on a charged down kick within Leeds’ own try area. Bath went into the break 3-13 up.

The emergence of the sun in the second initially seemed to signal a change in fortunes for the home side. A good break from Carnegie’s Jonny Hepworth saw the centre manage to suck in the last defender before firing a pass out to the dangerous Fijian winger Apo Satala who scored in the lefthand corner. The conversion was missed.

The pendulum then swung back in favour of the visitors and more Bath pressure saw one attack resulting in the ball being held up over the line before a Bath scrum utilised its power to push over the try line with Danny Grewcock emerging as the try scorer. Barkley hit the conversion.

Six minutes later and once again, despite some fearsome defence repelling Bath’s efforts out wide, the forwards were the source of Bath’s points – this time flanker Jonny Faamatuainu touched the ball down. Barkley continued his fine kicking display with another successful conversion.

In the 71st minute Leeds’ danger man Satala was on hand again for the home team. Good work in midfield by insider centre Andy Tuilagi culminated in Satala racing down the right hand side of the pitch and just grounding the ball before the Bath defenders could bundle him into touch. Carnegie substitute Alberto Di Bernardo hit the conversion.

After a number of substitutions, Bath then wrapped up the game and claimed a bonus point after more pressure on the Leeds defence told and winger Matt Banahan went over in the corner. Barkley hit the conversion and ended the game with a 100% kicking record.

8th MARCH 2008 BRISTOL V BATH

After a hard fought see-saw of a match, where the points between Bath and Bristol continued to tip either way for each side, a late try by Andrew Higgins saw Bath win a historic first victory over Bristol at Ashton Gate and clinch the double this season, with a final score of 19 – 9 to Bath.

Immediately from kick-off , Bath made a determined start, kicking the ball into the top right-hand corner for Matt Banahan to make way inside Bristol’s 22. After a scrum, the ball found Olly Barkley who tapped it to the right wing, where Bristol’s Brian O’Riordan ran it into touch. A line out followed, which was won by Andy Beattie leading Bath inside the danger zone after only four minutes.

After a Bath offence, Bristol, defending well, worked the ball back the other side of the halfway line and after a charge by Beattie, an early chance arrived for Bath to put some points on the scoreboard. A kick by Barkley went just wide of the posts and no score was made for the visitors, but a minute later, Joe Maddock burst midfield to take Bath straight into Bristol’s 22. Under the pressure, Bristol offended again, giving Olly Barkley that chance to succeed this time in winning the first points of the match after nine minutes.

Under a minute later, a knock on by Daniel Browne offered the home side the chance to equalise as Ed Barnes kicked the ball through the uprights. The flip-flopping of the scores continued as a collapsed scrum at 12 minutes, meant that Barkley was able to put his left-foot into action again, kicking Bath into a 6-3 lead.

Ed Barnes took the score to 6-all when five minutes after Bath had taken the lead, a Bath hand came round the side of a ruck, trying to play the ball on the floor, but a strong kick by Shaun Berne took the ball to within 5 metres of the score line, but with Bath failing to convert territory into much-needed points, after 26 minutes, the score remained equal to both sides.

The travelling Bath fans enjoyed a moment of delight as Barkley chipped through the Bristol defence, which was picked up by Banahan, who skipped through a few tackles. The winger fell just left of the try line, and as Bath went into a ruck in an attempt to ground the ball, it was sent back 10 yards from the line for a scrummage. Beattie, putting in an excellent performance, which Head Coach, Steve Meehan said was his “most outstanding performance” to date, retrieved the ball from the back of the scrum and offloaded to Banahan, who, suffering from butter fingers, was sent sprawling over into touch.

The excitement heightened as Bath went back for the scrum, with Banahan eagerly waiting on the blindside channel. But, this time, Claassens cleared to the right for Barkley, for passed to Berne and then to Michael Stephenson who took the ball over the line. A questionable decision by the touch judge disallowed the try, as it was adjudged that a forward pass prevented Bath from winning the five-points. With 30 seconds left on the clock, an offence from a frustrated visiting team allowed Ed Barnes to give Bristol a three-point lead.

HT: 9 – 6

Three minutes into the second half and Bath were penalised for holding onto the ball. After David Hill cleared to a few metres from Bath’s 22, captain Steve Borthwick won the line out, swiftly offloading to Short who attempted to blast a hole through Bristol’s defence. After a call by Lee Mears, Barkley kicked the ball up the right wing, where David Lemi attempted to run it straight back, but Bristol didn’t enjoy the distance for long, as Barkley stepped up to take the first penalty of the second half. The ball soars high between the sticks to equalise nine minutes after the restart.

Determined to rack up some more all-important points for his team, Banahan put in an uncompromising tackle against Joe El Abd, flooring him in his tracks. As a scrum followed, Berne kicked the ball up the right wing and put in an excellent chase. Although the ball was caught by defending O’Riordan, the inside centre stopped the Bristolian from executing a clearance kick and took the ball inside Bristol’s 22.

Responding to the pressure, Lemi ran the ball back inside Bath’s territory, but after a tug on his shirt prevented him making any further headway, Crockett was sin-binned and Lemi attempted to secure five points. Shaun Berne and Michael Claassens were quick to defend, tackling the scrum half into touch, dangerously close from the white line.

With the intensity growing, Bath fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief after Bristol’s Joe El Abd crossed the line with 23 minutes left on the clock, but, experiencing the same deflation as Bath in the first half of the match, Bristol were not awarded the try and the score remained nine points a piece.

At 64 mins, Barkley kicked the visitors into a 6-point lead with his fourth and final penalty of the match, after a Bristol player came in at the side of the ruck.

Not satisfied with the score line and with 10 minutes left on the clock, quick ball from Bath and good interplay between Barkley, Berne and Stephenson shot the ball up to the 22 metre line. However, a Bath infringement sent them back to the halfway line for a line out, where replacement Andrew Higgins saw a hole in the defence and wasted no time in sprinting through it. He was taken down midfield, but as Barkley rapidly retrieved the ball, a pass made to Maddock, who then fed back to Higgins gave the wing the chance to soar down the line for five points. The roars of Bath fans echoed as the visitors enjoyed their first win ever at Ashton Gate and double win against Bristol this season. Final score 9-19.

Three minutes into the second half and Bath were penalised for holding onto the ball. After David Hill cleared to a few metres from Bath’s 22, captain Steve Borthwick won the line out, swiftly offloading to Short who attempted to blast a hole through Bristol’s defence. After a call by Lee Mears, Barkley kicked the ball up the right wing, where David Lemi attempted to run it straight back, but Bristol didn’t enjoy the distance for long, as Barkley stepped up to take the first penalty of the second half. The ball soars high between the sticks to equalise nine minutes after the restart.

Determined to rack up some more all-important points for his team, Banahan put in an uncompromising tackle against Joe El Abd, flooring him in his tracks. As a scrum followed, Berne kicked the ball up the right wing and put in an excellent chase. Although the ball was caught by defending O’Riordan, the inside centre stopped the Bristolian from executing a clearance kick and took the ball inside Bristol’s 22.

Responding to the pressure, Lemi ran the ball back inside Bath’s territory, but after a tug on his shirt prevented him making any further headway, Crockett was sin-binned and Lemi attempted to secure five points. Shaun Berne and Michael Claassens were quick to defend, tackling the scrum half into touch, dangerously close from the white line.

With the intensity growing, Bath fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief after Bristol’s Joe El Abd crossed the line with 23 minutes left on the clock, but, experiencing the same deflation as Bath in the first half of the match, Bristol were not awarded the try and the score remained nine points a piece.

At 64 mins, Barkley kicked the visitors into a 6-point lead with his fourth and final penalty of the match, after a Bristol player came in at the side of the ruck.

Not satisfied with the score line and with 10 minutes left on the clock, quick ball from Bath and good interplay between Barkley, Berne and Stephenson shot the ball up to the 22 metre line. However, a Bath infringement sent them back to the halfway line for a line out, where replacement Andrew Higgins saw a hole in the defence and wasted no time in sprinting through it. He was taken down midfield, but as Barkley rapidly retrieved the ball, a pass made to Maddock, who then fed back to Higgins gave the wing the chance to soar down the line for five points. The roars of Bath fans echoed as the visitors enjoyed their first win ever at Ashton Gate and double win against Bristol this season. Final score 9-19.

17th MARCH 2008 HARLEQUINS V BATH

Bath salvaged a valuable last minute bonus point after a 22-16 away defeat against Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday.

With Nick Abendanon testing the Quins defence out from the off with kicks deep into the home side’s territory, Bath started the game off positively.

In the 8th minute with Quins pulling down at a Bath line-out, Olly Barkley successfully hit a long range penalty to open the scoring.

Quins responded in the 14th minute with fly-half Adrian Jarvis leveling through a penalty kick of his own. A period of sustained pressure from the home side then followed and a mixture of determined defense and Quins handling errors saw the away side not concede any points.

In the 27th minute an altercation between players from both sides saw Quins go down to 14 men, with hooker Tani Fuga being shown a yellow card. With the home fans showing their disapproval at the referee’s decision by whistling around the ground, Olly Barkley ignored the steadily increasing rise in the decibel level to slot home a penalty and restore Bath’s lead.

Quins got right back into the match straight from the kick-off steadily going up the pitch, just being thwarted at the final hurdle by more solid Bath defence. Their efforts did not go unrewarded however and a Jarvis penalty nullified Barkley’s effort minutes earlier.

Jarvis then had a chance to put Quins ahead going into the break but his penalty fell short of the posts.

After the break however, Jarvis made amends for his earlier penalty miss to take Harlequins into the lead for the first in the match. The lead was short lived though with Barkley responding with another penalty two minutes later.

The home side then nearly went into the lead again in the 50th minute. After a great break by Bath flanker Jonny Faamatuainu, Barkley’s attempted kick through the Quins defense was blocked. With two chasers after the ball, Nick Abendanon gathered the ball up a few meters from the Bath try line before being bundled into touch.

Jarvis restored the home sides lead in the 52nd minute with his forth successful penalty. Quins then scored a try in the 56th minute. With wing Simon Keogh about to be bundled into touch he somehow managed to put in a last ditch kick diagonally across the pitch which was picked up by scrum-half Danny Care who then raced towards the Bath try line and scored despite the attention of the Bath defenders. Jarvis converted.

With Bath camped in their own half for most of the second half, the away side were unable to settle for most of the half. Chances did come later on however. Daniel Browne was unlucky not to score and then after sustained pressure, Matt Banahan stormed through only for the try to be not given due to the fact that Bath had been adjudged to be guilty of crossing.

With time on the clock ticking, Quins turned the screw with another Jarvis penalty taking the score to 22-9. However just as all looked dead and buried, a Bath attack started within their own half, quickly went up the pitch and was rewarded when Michael Claassens pushed his way over underneath the posts to score. Barkley secured the bonus point with a straight forward conversion.

22nd MARCH 2008 BATH V LDN IRISH

With a match as changeable as the weather today, Bath Rugby fought a tight contest with London Irish to see them seal a tense victory that was almost a defeat in the dying seconds, but with two tries and three penalties, Bath managed to clinch the win with a final score of 19 – 16 to Bath.

The opening exchanges were frenetic as Bath took the match to their visitors with a series of penetrating attacks. Knowing that a victory would take them to the top of the Guinness Premiership table once again, the home side’s ambition with the ball in hand was impressive, and was it not for mistakes close to the Irish line, the home side could have been out of sight within the opening ten minutes.

After 13 minutes, the Exiles had the opportunity to win the first points of the match through Eoghan Hickey. Kicking into the wind, the young Irishman kept a cool head and moved the visitors into an early lead. It was to be short-lived though as Barkley, continuing his fine form with the boot, slotted over a penalty from the left-hand touch line to take the score to three points a piece.

Determined to make amends for the Quins performance, Bath looked to run the ball at every opportunity and the return to type soon paid dividends as Alex Crockett and Faamatuainu combined to give Michael Stephenson the opportunity to soar across the line at the top left-hand corner. Barkley, the second highest point scorer in Bath history, failed to slot the conversion.

With ten minutes remaining in the first half, Hickey reduced the deficit to just two points with a sweetly struck penalty after the home side were penalised for not rolling away. Bath responded immediately as Matt Sevens bulldozed his way into the Irish 22 forcing the visitors to offend once more. With the wind whistling through the Rec, kicking was always going to be difficult, but Barkley, assisted by tee-steadier Steve Borthwick, pushed the ball between the posts to extend the lead.

Four minutes into injury time, the visitors were reduced to 14 men after Tomas De Vedia was yellow carded as tempers flared. Barkley responded by planting a further three points on the score board for Bath with a skilful penalty kick. The home side were themselves reduced to 14 men as Faamatuainu was also sent to the bin for taking a swipe and Hickey responded with a penalty to take the score up to 14 – 9 at half time.

Irish started the second half with more vigour and purpose than they had in the first and immediately made progress into the Bath 22. However, from what was their most promising attack of the match to date, offence immediately turned to attack as Bath broke out for a sensational try.

Having been presented with the ball in the shadow of his own posts, the electric Nick Abendanon broke out of the danger zone, before Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu unleashed Matt Banahan at pace who made an explosive run from the 22 and rampaged over the white line for a try. With the wind against him, Barkley failed to convert, but Bath remained had extended the lead to 19 – 9.

Banahan, now equal at the top of the Guinness Premiership try scoring chart, looked as though he was going to blast through with a further five points a few moments later, but after a questionable forward pass call from the Touch Judge, Bath were sent back to the halfway line for a scrum.

Bath continued to press, but the visitors, laying with more confidence, hauled themselves back into the game as their back three began to penetrate the Bath defensive line. Topsey Ojo broke free through down the wing and Alex Crockett failed to pull him into touch before he offloaded to Paul Hodgson and it took a superb cover tackle from Abendanon on the scrum half to halt what was a threatening move. Irish though were advancing and after a minor scuffle Hickey had the opportunity to reduce the arrears. The young Irishman missed the penalty attempt and would not trouble the scoreboard for the remainder of the match.

Spurred into life, Ojo once again penetrated for the Exiles as he charged down the left-wing, but this time it was Irish who were to be pulled back for a forward pass in a dangerous situation.

As the momentum of the game continued to ebb, Bath once again attacked deep inside the Irish half as Barkley, Fuimaono-Sapolu and replacement Tom Cheeseman all probed the Irish defence. Lee Mears came close to being driven over the line, but once again the visitors were given a ‘get out of jail’ free card again as the hooker was hauled down just short of the line.

Irish though came straight back and were denied an excellent attacking position again through some fine Bath defence. It was to be a brief respite. With time running out, Irish attacked once more as Mike Catt, Seilala Mapusa and Ojo took Irish deep inside Bath territory. With Bath’s backline defence stretched, Ross Broadfoot, who had only been on the pitch for a few minutes dived over the line for a try. An extra two points were added as Broadfoot successfully converted, taking Irish to within three points of the leaders.

The remaining three minutes were tense, with the ball staying inside Bath’s 22. With the home side fully aware that an Irish try would spell their defeat, Barkley repeatedly eased the pressure, but Irish’s attacks were relentless and with time up on the clock, they continued to keep the ball alive inside the Bath 22, but Peter Short’s try-saving tackle on Declan Danaher inches from the line prevented a match-winning try.

 

 

28th MARCH 2008 BATH V SALE

As the rain poured down for hours, the match was questionable. However, the tireless work of the grounds men with rollers in hand ensured that the game would go ahead, but the conditions were to act against Bath and although Bath Rugby remain at the top of the Guinness Premiership table, they will be travelling back to the Rec tonight with a 22-6 defeat.

After a scrum down at the start, Charlie Hodgson wasted no time in scoring a penalty for Sale and planting a kick straight between the uprights. Fighting against the elements and playing inside their own 22, Bath were handed the ball for a scrum after a forward pass from Sale, but after Seveali’i pushed through the Bath defence, a further offence meant Hodgson’s boot was back in action at eight minutes for a further three points.

Shaun Berne tried to win three points for Bath moments later with a penalty kick, but as the ball fell just short of the posts, the score remained 6 – 0 after 10 minutes. However, four minutes on and Berne had the chance to reclaim those points and he shot the ball directly between the posts for the penalty.

With the white Bath shirts rapidly turning brown, Andrew Higgins made a rapid break within Sale’s 22 to the midfield, where he made a short, swift pass to Michael Lipman who instantly offloaded to Nick Abendanon, but the muddy ball slipped from his hands. Moments later, having received what looked like an elbow to his face, fly half Shaun Berne was replaced by Olly Barkley, as David Flatman also came on for Duncan Bell.

The mud failed to dissipate Sale’s efforts as a long pass to Oriol Ripol offered the Spaniard the space to offload to the formidable Sebastien Chabal. But after a strong tackle from Michael Claassens, Bath broke for a promising counter and the scrum half hurled the ball to Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu before passing the ball wide to Tom Cheeseman on the wing, and back inside to club captain Steve Borthwick in midfield. Bath did not waste time to drive inside Sale’s 22, but the ball was turned over and the home side cleared the danger.

Under pressure, Bath were compelled to make up the lost ground and although they pressed for another six minutes, Hodgson, demonstrating the skill of his boot once again, sent the ball to the 22. A strong drive by the Sharks’ forwards deep inside the visitor’s territory gave their fly half the opening he needed and, on the 40th minute Hodgson made a successful drop goal in front of the sticks. Much to the travelling fans dismay, the three points was notched up with a further five, two minutes later as Oriol Ripol made a dive in the top left hand corner over the white line. Hodgson’s conversion took the half-time score to 16 -3 to Sale.

Bath came back from the break more aggressive and determined and immediately making a strong drive past the 22 metre line into Sale’s territory and putting the Cheshire side under considerable pressure. Barkley made a statement of intent after just eight minutes as he was back in kicking action for a successful three-point penalty kick, but as Hodgson mirrored Barkley’s action three minutes later, Sale moved up to a 13-point lead.

The Shark attack didn’t stop there, and Bath took a further blow as Borthwick was replaced by Martin Purdy after 57 minutes. The home team went down for a scrum feet away from the try line, but refusing to allow Sale to cross over for five points, Barkley cleared to the halfway line and out of their danger zone. The respite was short-lived for Bath though as Hodgson put the hosts 22-6 up.

With eight minutes left on the clock, Bath forced their way to within metres of the posts and after Sale were penalised for having hands in the ruck, Bath opted for a scrum in an attempt to put some much-needed points on the scoreboard. A tense minute followed as Barkley made a long pass to Abendanon on the wing, who passed to Tom Cheeseman who agonisingly fell inches away from the line unable to ground the ball for the try.

The west country side refused to let up without a fight and although they prevented the Sharks from putting any more points on the board, their hard efforts were not enough to claw them back from defeat. The final whistle went as the ball was cleared from feet away from Sale’s try line with the hosts winning 22-6 to step back into the top four of the table and Bath still hanging on ontop.

19th APRIL 2008 WORCESTER V BATH

A tight match at Sixways was always on the cards, but the nail-bitingly tense battle that ensued between Bath Rugby and the Worcester Warriors today was enough to have the most hardened fans on the edge of their seats. With a hat-trick from Tom Cheeseman and an equal number of tries from Worcester, it was not until the final nine minutes that Bath were able to secure the win and walk away victorious with a 20-23 result.

With Steve Meehan predicting early in the week that Worcester were going to put up a strong fight, he was not far from the truth. The opening three minutes took Worcester up to Bath’s 22, with some strong driving coming from the home side camp. However, they did not enjoy the possession for long as a pass from Olly Barkley in the centre to Joe Maddock on the right wing took Bath into Worcester’s 22.

Under pressure and maintaining defence, Bath were forced to ship the ball out to the left wing, where a chip and chase from Butch James allowed him to gain good distance and to within feet of the try line. Failing to cross, Lee Mears attempted to put a second try under his belt this season, but Worcester kept him from grounding the ball and it was not until Tom Cheeseman was able to break free that Bath enjoyed a five-point lead after just eight minutes. Barkley failed to make the conversion.

Worcester responded with a passage of attacking play with Worcester’s Miles Benjamin bursting down the left wing, making use of Shane Drahm and Sam Tuitupou before Tom Cheeseman lambasted the inside centre to the ground. With a Bath offence following moments afterwards, Worcester’s charge was not in vain, as Shane Drahm won three points for the hosts with a successful penalty kick just feet away from the halfway line.

Five minutes later, Worcester went into the lead as a rapid break from Marcel Garvey from the top left hand corner of Worcester’s territory, allowed him to escape the Bath defence and charge into the midfield where a quick ball to Benjamin gave the winger the opportunity to break away from the chasing Barkley and Matt Banahan and cross over the line for a try. Although it was a failed conversion, the try gave the Warriors the lead by three points after 19 minutes.

Six minutes later and Bath were back in the fray, as Michael Lipman made a dash from the halfway line to deep inside the homeside’s 22. Riding the tackle, the flanker slipped the ball to James who made a long pass to Cheeseman to score his second try of the match in the top left-hand corner. Without a successful conversion from Barkley, the visitors were unable to enjoy more than a two-point lead and with Worcester failing a penalty kick of their own just minutes later, the score remained at 8-10 to Bath with 12 minutes left of the half.

The intensity heightened as Danny Grewcock made his formidable presence known inside the Warrior’s 22, slipping the ball to Michael Claassens before going down into a ruck. James cleared to Cheeseman, who passed to Mears. The Hooker did not make anymore headway towards the try line, but as Worcester were penalised for coming in at the side of the ruck, Barkley was able to take advantage of the offence and slot the ball directly between the uprights for a further three points before the half-time whistle.

Determined to notch up some further points for Bath after the break, a penalty kick from Barkley took the west-country side to an eight-point lead after just four minutes. Immediately after, Worcester responded as Benjamin, bursting down the left wing, made it over the line before Bath could stop him, closing the score gap to a mere three-point divide.

With club captain Steve Borthwick spurring on his team and the rain starting to pour, a series of knock -on’s by Worcester gave Bath the chance to get back on the front foot as they went down for a scrum on the 22 metre line. Matt Stevens, retaining the same excellent form as Tuesday night against Leicester, prevented Drahm from clearing the ball out of their territory and Banahan attempted to slip down the wing to cross the line. Good Worcester defence halted his charge, keeping the score at 13 – 16 to Bath after 20 minutes.

Under pressure, the visitors were forced back inside their own territory as a strong attack from the Warriors sent them dangerously inside the 22. Drahm, taking the ball rapidly after a knock-on from Bath, shot through the defence to touch the ball down over the line behind the posts. Successfully converting his own try, the fly half sent Worcester into the lead with 20 -16 to the hosts.

With ten minutes left on the clock, and tension running high, Cheeseman, once again made his presence felt, as he burst over the line for a hat-trick after excellent interplay between Stephenson and Higgins gave him the space to soar over in the top right hand corner. After Barkley slotted his first successful conversion of the match, the visitors slipped into the lead with a score of 20 -23 to Bath.

Three minutes to go and with Bath enjoying possession inside Worcester’s territory, the score remained nail-bitingly tight. Rico Gear, demonstrating good pace, broke away from the Bath defence to shoot straight into the 22. Refusing to give the Warriors any respite, Bath kept up their defence as the Warriors were given a scrum after a Bath indiscretion. Banahan and Claassens’ umbrella defence blocked the way of Tuitupou, prohibiting him from getting any closer to the try line and wearing the Warriors’ down. The final frenetic minutes were played out mere inches away from the Bath line, but the committed defence from the visitors refused to allow the Warriors to steal the lead and the final whistle blew on a crucial victory for Bath. Final score 20 – 23.

24th April 2008 BATH V SALE

Bath Rugby moved up a gear in late April sunshine to cruise into the European Challenge Cup Final by defeating Sale Sharks 36-14 at the Recreation Ground.
The opening minutes provided a Jekyll and Hyde moment for Sale fly-half Charlie Hodgson as he first hit a successful drop goal from a difficult angle and then gifted the home side a try two minutes later when his defensive clearance was knocked down by an alert Michael Claassens, who followed up the loose ball to score Bath’s opening try. Olly Barkley’s conversion made it 7-3.

Barkley then hit a penalty in the 7th minute before a good passage of play through several quick phases resulted in flanker Michael Lipman scoring in the right hand corner. Barkley hit the conversion.

Hodgson pulled three points back for Sale with a penalty, then in the 16th minute Sale scored a controversial try. With Sale being awarded a penalty near the Bath try line, it seemed as if the referee had told Bath captain Steve Borthwick to talk to his players about the previous infringement. With Bath grouped together deep in discussion, Hodgson hit the ball high into the lefthand corner for Chris Mayor to collect the ball and score. The try was awarded but Hodgson missed the conversion.

Sale continued their fight back and in the 20th minute, Luke McAlister hit a long range penalty to close the home side lead to only three points with Bath 17-14 ahead.

Not for the first time in the match, Bath utilised the kicking of Butch James to target the height and power of winner Matt Banahan. A kick to the corner in the 22nd minute saw Banahan take the ball, go to ground and Bath then moved the ball quickly through hands to reach the Sale try line. James then popped a pass out of a tackle to Danny Grewcock who scored. Barkley converted.

In the dying minutes of the half, both sides had chances, Bath through Barkley an Banahan and then Sale through a McAlister break. However neither side scored. Bath went into the break 24-14 up.

Early in the second half, Bath pressure was nearly turned against them as Sale kicked ahead to try and launch a counter-attack. However good covering from fullback Nick Abendanon prevented any damage being done.

Bath’s harrying and pressing of Sale when ball was not in hand, paid off for the second time of the afternoon, this time after Luke McAlister dropped a pass. Lipman quickly moved in to kick the ball ahead and winger Andrew Higgins won the foot race to score. Barkley hit yet another successful conversion.

In the 64th minute, another powerful run by Higgins gained considerable ground for the home side. After recycled ball, fly-half James put in a lovely grubber kick to the corner for Matt Banahan to score. Barkley missed a kick at goal for the first time in the game.

Bath then nearly added to their try tally four minutes later. A two man overlap was caused after Zak Feaunati was brought down in front of the posts. However the resulting pass could not be taken by replacement hooker Pieter Dixon.

For the last ten minutes Sale kept the ball in hand well but the resulting pressure did not yield the visitors any points. Bath will now play in their second successive European Challenge Cup final when they take on Worcester Warriors at Kingsholm in late May.

3rd MAY 2008 BATHV SARACENS

With an awesome display of attacking rugby, Bath Rugby got one step closer to clinching that much desired silverware this evening. With nine tries in total, Bath Rugby impressively and categorically obliterated Saracens, with a 66 -21 final score.

Determined to make enough of an impact to ensure a home semi-final, Bath were on the attack from the off. Within three minutes, the home side were deep inside Saracen’s 22, with Daniel Browne powering up towards the right wing. Unable to make up the distance to the white line, the ball was passed back out towards the centre where Alex Crockett offloaded to Lipman, who in turn passed to Michael Claassens and Steve Borthwick. With every member of the Bath contingent seeming to get their hands on the ball, Saracens offended and Olly Barkley’s left-foot was put into scoring action as Bath were awarded a penalty kick after six minutes.

One minute later, Bath were catapulted into a 10-point lead, as some swift passing from Claassens to Maddock, gave the winger the chance to move into the midfield, where he made a rapid pass to Michael Lipman. The openside made some good ground, as a show and go fooled the opposition and enabled Lipman to get the ball to Abendanon, who offloaded to the supporting Browne for the try. With Barkley successfully converting, Bath enjoyed a healthy advantage.

After fifteen minutes, a lengthy kick by Saracens failed to upset the home side, as Maddock plucked the ball mid-air with his right hand and held on to make up the distance gained by the kick. Without time to align their defence, Saracens allowed Barkley to slip through their back line as he touched down uncontested behind the posts for the second try of the match. Converting his own try, Barkley took Bath up to a 17 point lead, with 20 minutes to go in the first half.

Reiterating why Bath are favourites for the top two places of the Guinness Premiership, international hooker, Lee Mears, remained on his feet long enough to get the ball from the halfway line to within feet of the 22 metre line. Showing great balance, Mears made an excellent inside pass to Alex Crockett, who wasted no time in offloading to Lipman who ghosted over the line for a further five points. Another conversion from Bath’s inside centre gave the west-country team 24 points on the scoreboard at just 23 minutes.

Having been starved of possession, Saracens attempted to claw back some much needed points as they made a rare forage into the Bath 22. But after Jonny Faamatuainu prevented Sorrell from continuing with his charge, Mears got back into the fray, picking up the ball, and kicking it for the lively Maddock to chase. With just eight minutes left of the first half, the New Zealander was rewarded for his efforts and handed Bath the bonus point as he soared over the line in the right-hand corner. True to form, Barkley once again made the conversion. Stamping their unmistakable mark on the match, Butch James exploded down the left-wing a mere two minutes later for the fifth try of the match. The conversion took Bath up to a 38-0 lead.

One minute into injury time and the relentless onslaught from Bath continued. After collecting a pass from full back Nick Abendanon, Matt Banahan ran almost the length of the pitch on the left wing to slam the ball down over the line for yet another Premiership try. Although the men in white tried bravely to push Bath back into their own 22 and get some points on the scoreboard, the Bath defence, coupled with the converted try by Banahan, left the scoreline at 45-0 at the break.

Secure in the knowledge that the game was all but won, the intense pressure put on Saracens in the first half was eased somewhat. The Watford side failed to take advantage until almost ten minutes, after a series of offences in the ruck and mauls. Saracens’ Adam Powell saw a gap in the midfield and burst through the Bath defence for their first try of the match and after a good kick between the uprights, Saracens had seven points on board.

After Bath were penalised for a tackle on Dave Seymour under the guise of ‘an illegal tackle’, Saracens were able to take the action back inside Bath’s 22. Following his fellow South African team-mate to the sin bin, James was yellow-carded just as Michael Claassens returned to the pitch. With the fly half out of action, Saracens prop Kevin Yates was able to battle through the blue, black and white shirts to crawl over the line for five points. After another conversion from Glenn Jackson, Saracens had 14 points to Bath’s 45.

With the final quarter looming, the retiring Zak Feaunati, entered the park to a standing ovation. With Saracens attempting to hold back the hosts right on the line, they failed to notice Lipman, who slipped from the back of the ruck to plant the ball over the line with an outstretched right arm. Continuing with his 100% conversion record for the match, Barkley notched the score up to 52 – 14.

With ten minutes left on the clock and possession remaining inside Saracens’ 22, Andrew Higgins, having just replaced Matt Banahan, made a forceful tackle on Seymour mid-charge and offloaded to Nick Walshe who slipped over the line. Having replaced Claassens at 63 minutes, his fresh legs took him straight up to the try line, but with a foot in touch, the try was not allowed. The ecstatic Bath fans didn’t wait long for the eighth explosive try though, as Barkley slipped round the back of the visitor’s defence, and over the white line. For the second time in the evening, Barkley converted his own try, taking Bath to an outstanding 59-14 lead.

Refusing to get to full-time without some more points, Kameli Ratuvou exploded through the Bath 22 to take the visitors score to 19, and with a successful conversion by Gordon Ross, they managed to win 21 points. However, it was not enough to stop a formidable Bath and as the clock began to reach it’s final minute, Higgins planted the ninth try for Bath. As man of the match Barkley made the conversion, Bath soared to an incredible 66 – 21 victory.

 

10th MAY 2008 GLOUCESTER V BATH

On an afternoon of high drama, the eagerly anticipated encounter between bitter rivals Bath and Gloucester at Kingsholm, resulted in less tries than pundits expected. Yet, the riveting action kept the fans on the edge of their seats as Bath’s hard fought battle failed to clinch the victory required for a home semi final, as Gloucester became narrow victors with a final score of 8 – 6 to Gloucester.

The match was intense from the start. Both sides were putting in hard hits and hard yards in an attempt to be the first to score. With the weather muggy, the temperature was just as hot on the pitch as off and Bath wasted no time in battling up inside Gloucester’s 22 with some good runs from Olly Barkley and Andrew Higgins.

With the pressure on both camps, Bath were the first to offend. Barkley was penalised for a knock-on after attempting to chase a chipped pass from Butch James and the play moved back towards the halfway line. The scrummage that followed saw the Bath contingent once again suffer the referee’s whistle and this time Ryan Lamb stepped up to take a penalty kick. Gloucester squandered their first opportunity to win some points as the fly half’s kick fell just wide of the posts after six minutes.

Unperturbed by the miss, Gloucester’s Iain Balshaw exploded down the wing, where he made a swift pass to Mike Tindall before Michael Claassens put in a strong tackle. And although Rory Lawson attempted to continue the rampage, Butch James’s textbook low tackle prevented a probable try.

Feeding off the pressure, Bath’s giant winger, Matt Banahan, burst down the wing from Bath’s own 22 to deep inside Gloucester’s. A tackle by Balshaw finally took down the 6ft 7 man from Jersey, and the subsequent ruck led to the first replacement of the match, as Mike Tindall came off limping.

Minutes later, Gloucester were able to put some points on the board, as a Bath offence allowed Lamb to repair his earlier failure and kick three points.

Entering the final fifteen minutes of the first half, the tempo rose dramatically as Butch James made a chip and chase down the wing. He was met with an impenetrable Gloucester line, but Matt Stevens came out of the ruck to charge through the 22 and head straight for the white line between the posts. Feet away from making the try, Stevens was tackled and halted in his stride by James Simpson-Daniel. Although Bath were held back from the five points, moments later the visitors were able to win three, as a Gloucester indiscretion allowed Barkley the chance to level the score.

Gloucester, insistent on establishing their lead, took the ball rapidly inside the visitors’ danger zone. Former Bath player, Gareth Delve, made a strong sprint on the left wing, before he was thwarted by Andrew Higgins. Claassens swiftly passed to Joe Maddock who kicked down the pitch. Lesley Vainikolo was there waiting for the ball and, in the fashion fans are accustomed, the 6ft 2 winger shot back towards the Bath 22. Against strong defence, Simpson-Daniel was able to break through and having been passed the ball from across the wing, the speedster slammed down for the try.

Lamb failed to convert, and with just two minutes left on the clock before the half-time whistle, Barkley struck his second penalty to narrow the score divide. Half time score: 8-6 to Gloucester.

Both sides were back on the pitch with the same aggression and pace as the first. The opening ten minutes after the break saw equal territory gains for both sides as long kicks and runs gave each team the opportunity to score.

The relentless commitment of both sides meant that after 57 minutes, neither had scored any further points. A run from Jonny Faamatuainu looked as though it was going to result in a much-needed try for Bath, but after the Samoan offloaded to Claassens, who in turn slipped the ball to Tom Cheeseman, it failed to do more than expose Gloucester’s fragile hold of the score line.

With just over ten minutes left on the clock, a lost line out by Bath failed to halt fly half James from executing a cross-field kick. Banahan was perfectly positioned to receive, but he missed the catch and the ball was turned over. Gloucester thought they had sealed off the game, when Vainikolo started a move that was rounded off by the supporting Luke Narraway, but the home side celebrations were shortlived as Dave Pearson disallowed the try, owing to a knock-on.

As time ran out, Bath pressed for the elusive try, but Gloucester held on to the ball and in the dying minutes, the visitors were unable to claw back to take home the victory. The final score of 8 – 6 sees Bath face London Wasps next Sunday at Adams Park.

 

18th MAY 2008 WASPS V BATH

Bath Rugby’s hopes of a place in the Guinness Premiership Final were dashed today, as London Wasps managed to come top of the gladiatorial match at Adams Park. With one week until the European Challenge Cup Final Bath’s focus will now turn instantly to Kingsholm, but even the prospect of silverware will not alleviate the disappointment of a 21-10 semi final defeat.

The west-country team ran out to a loud chorus of cheers, on the bright and sunny afternoon in High Wycombe. The visiting team made a late change to the starting line up as Lee Mears failed to recover from the shoulder injury that he sustained last weekend against Gloucester, while Wasps Hooker Raphael Ibanez suffered a back spasm which also ruled him out of the match.

The game kicked off with a fiery intensity that was to be expected for an encounter with so much at stake. After just five minutes Wasps had been penalised for collapsing the scrum just feet away from their own 22 metre line, giving Olly Barkley an opportunity to put some points on the board. Kicking the ball wide of the right post he did not award Bath with the three, but the centre had a second chance to rectify the misplaced kick one minute later, but once again sent the ball too wide and the score remained at zero.

The next four minutes saw a tennis rally played out as both teams repeatedly booted the ball up and down the pitch. A pass from Michael Claassens saw Bath gain some ground, as good interplay between Butch James and Alex Crockett awarded the visitors with distance. Matt Banahan put his explosive pace into action down the wing, but strong Wasps defence prevented him from getting too close to the white line for deadlock breaking try.

With seventeen minutes gone Bath were nail bitingly close to the try line, after a series of hard hits from the forwards pushed the west country side deep inside the hosts 22. A kick from Danny Cipriani sent Bath back to the halfway line for a line out, but the quick passing of the backs shipped the ball out to the wing for Banahan to lambaste his way through Paul Sackey and Fraser Waters. As the Bath giant fell to the floor, Joe Maddock attempted to keep the ball from bouncing into touch, but to no avail and Wasps were back on the attack. A forward pass to Sackey gave Bath some respite though and after 26 minutes, the match remained scoreless.

With ten minutes left of the first half, Bath finally managed to stamp their mark on the match, as strong defence saw Wasps pegged back on their own line. Poorly placed passes under pressure by Wasps gave Bath the chance they needed and as Josh Lewsey dropped the ball within his own try area, Alex Crockett leapt onto it to ground for the try. A conversion by Barkley sealed seven points for Bath.

Three minutes later and reeling from the point deficit, Wasps exploded through the Bath defence, forcing their way through Danny Grewcock and Peter Short, who had replaced a bleeding Michael Lipman, to open a hole for Fraser Waters to sprint over the line to the right of the posts for the try. A successful conversion by Cipriani took the score up to seven all.

Not satisfied with that lead, Wasps dictated the direction of play for the remainder of the half, with Cipriani passing to Sackey who sprinted to the left corner. Receiving the offload, Flutey managed to ground the ball just over the line, as Daniel Browne and Claassens attempted, in vain, to hold him back. Another conversion by Cipriani took Wasps into the lead with 14 – 7 at half time.

The second half began much the same as the first, with similar ferocity and intensity. The opening six minutes signalled a return to something of a kicking game, but Bath centre Alex Crockett made a number of strong runs to gain some valuable distance for the visiting team. Supported by James and Claassens, Crockett careered up to the 22 metre line, but an irrepressible Wasps defence kept pushing Bath back. An ankle injury to Cipriani led to him being stretchered off from the pitch and the match was temporarily halted.

Back in full swing after the uncomfortable disruption of Cipriani’s injury, both teams were on the offensive. The swift interplay through the backs gave Tom Voyce the opportunity to make a run, and run he did – bursting down the wing and going to ground just short before Tom Palmer dived over for Wasps’s third try of the match. A conversion by replacement Mark van Gisbergen took Wasps to a lead of 21 – 10. However, Cipriani’s injury was to spell the start of the casualties as Wasps’ Voyce came off with a shoulder injury.

At 75 minutes Bath were intent on getting back into the game, playing deep inside Wasps’ 22. A lineout near the try line was won by Daniel Browne, but a sweep round by Wasps took the ball from Bath’s possession and play moved back to the 22 metre line. This did not put Bath off their stride though and instead Fraser Waters was sent to the sin bin for repeated offside. As Wasps played with 14 men, Berne, on for Crockett, broke through the midfield, with James and Barkley in support, but it was not enough to get them across the line and with five minutes left of injury time, the score for Bath failed to change.

In the dying minutes a won lineout by Bath gave replacement fullback Nick Abendanon the impetus to break through the black and gold defence and head towards the halfway line uncontested, but the distance gained was not enough to grab the win for Bath.

 

25th MAY 2008 GLOUCESTER V BATH

Having played almost every European match this season with the rain in their faces, the inclement weather gave Bath Rugby no cause for concern today at Kingsholm. As the prospect of silverware far outweighed worries about the downpour, the ten-year silverware drought was finally put to an end as Bath Rugby won the European Challenge Cup with 24 – 16 final score.

As the crowds roared, Olly Barkley kicked off the match and as Sam Tuitupou caught the ball, Michael Lipman instantly put in a strong tackle to stop him making any distance and marking Bath’s intention to put up a strong, aggressive fight. With just three minutes on the clock, Bath’s pace put enough pressure on Worcester to cause an infringement at the ruck and Barkley stepped up to take the penalty, but failed to slot the ball between the posts.

Five frantic minutes later Alex Crockett made a break from midfield, staying on his feet for long enough to drive close to Worcester’s 22. The distance was not enjoyed for long though as Worcester cleared to the Bath 22 to relieve the mounting pressure.

After fifteen minutes, Barkley was finally able to atone for his earlier missed penalty after a Worcester offence, again at the ruck, allowed Barkley the opportunity to break the deadlock from the halfway line. The centre engaged his left foot to send the ball directly between the posts, giving Bath a deserved three point lead.

Shane Drahm, impatient with the points deficit after spending the best part of the opening quarter camped inside his own half, kicked the ball into touch inside Bath’s 22 metre line. As Bath offended a few feet away from the try line, the fly half was able to equalise for Worcester as the Warrior successfully booted the ball between the sticks.

With eight minutes remaining of the first half, Bath were finally able to make their superior possession and territory pay, to create a score divide, as Matt Banahan broke down the wing with characteristic explosive power, refusing to allow the defenders at his ankles to take him down. As he finally succumbed to the tackle, Lee Mears continued the run and as he was halted, the hooker’s offload found Butch James who passed back inside to Jonny Faamatuainu to burst over the line for the opening try of the match. The conversion by Barkley gave Bath a seven-point lead, as the score rose to 10 -3 to Bath.

Boosted by the try, Bath pressed for a further five-pointer before the interval and were rewarded when Nick Abendanon finished off a well crafted move in the corner. Barkley started the move just inside the Worcester half, making distance before passing to Joe Maddock who was thundering along in support. The New Zealander, showing great skill, offloaded inside to Abendanon who dived over the line, much to the delight of the travelling Bath fans. Although Barkley’s conversion attempt drifted wide, the west country side climbed up to a 15-3 lead with four minutes left on the clock.

The lead appeared a healthy one considering the appalling conditions, but Worcester had the final say of an entertaining first half as Drahm slotted over a penalty kick on the whistle.

Coming back on for the second half, Worcester wasted no time in drawing the score gap a little closer. A kick from Barkley was charged down and after Abendanon was penalised, Drahm was given a further opportunity to kick three points. The number 10 slotted the ball between the posts and at 44 minutes took the score to 15-9.

A strong drive by Bath forced Warriors back to the halfway line and as Barkley offloaded to Abendanon, the full back placed a grubber kick to Worcester’s 22 metre line. The distance did not give Bath the try, but as Worcester managed to push back the boys in blue, the immense Bath pressure forced the Warriors to offend and Barkley kicked another penalty at 54 minutes, to take the score to 18-9.

Worcester’s pack attempted to lambaste their way through the Bath defence, but following an excellent scrum, the Bath pack forged their way towards the 22 metre line and close enough for Barkley to put his boot into action for a drop goal. The three points catapulted Bath into a commanding 21-9 lead.

With ten minutes left on the clock, a number of fresh legs took to the pitch to hammer home the win for Bath. Peter Short, Shaun Berne, Pieter Dixon along with Zak Feaunati and Nick Walshe, making an emotional final appearance in the black, white and blue, all entered the fray for the remaining, enthralling minutes.

The cacophony of noise generated by the stamping and chanting Bath fans was enough to shake the stands, and also the extra impetus Bath needed to keep repelling Worcester offences and James, taking on the kicking duties after the departure of Barkley from the field, took a slow step up to the ball to kick the final penalty of the match.

As the clock counted down the final minute and with Bath having already sealed the victory, Worcester valiantly continued to push and were rewarded with the final try of the match right at the death as Thinus Delport touched down. Drahm converted, but it was not enough to prevent Bath from recording a jubilant and historic victory and taking home the first piece of silverware in a decade and a final score of 24 – 16.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This page was added on 22/11/2019.

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