2010-2011

by BRIAN.JENKINS

2010 -2011 SEASON

5th SEPTEMBER 2010 LEEDS V BATH

Bath Rugby opened their Aviva Premiership Rugby account with an encouraging five point win away to Leeds Carnegie, 16-32.
A sunny afternoon greeted the visitors at Headingley, with a strong wind to test the kickers, and whilst the rugby on display may have been scrappy at times, an entertaining game was played out for the 5000 plus crowd.

Leeds had the run of play in the opening quarter, attacking strongly to keep play in Bath’s half, with the visitors playing on the back foot in large parts. The first chance to get points on the board fell to the home side, after a scrum infringement from Bath gave Leeds fly half Ceiron Thomas a shot just inside the 22. However, the kick went wide, and Bath responded well as just three minutes later debutante, Sam Vesty, scored the first three of his 17 point haul of the match, giving the visitors the lead. 0-3

Three minutes later Leeds levelled the score, as an easy kick for Thomas was successful. Both sides were attacking strongly, and an end-to-end game developed. Another successful penalty for the home side saw them lead for the first time of the game. 6-3

Bath regained the lead back moments later, with a try from full back Nick Abendanon, following a break from Shontayne Hape. Scrum-half, Michael Claassens recycled the ball, passing to Vesty, who fed it to Abendanon. After a neat dummy, he jinked inside the defender, to go over just inside the touchline, despite some strong tackling from Leeds. Vesty made a difficult conversion look effortless, as he curled the ball through the posts. 6-10

The sides went in with just one point between them at half time, after Leeds worked their way up the field into a strong attacking position from the kick-off. Thomas succeeded with a cleverly worked drop goal, from the back of a Leeds attacking scrum on the 10m. 9-10

Bath looked to be playing with more rhythm from the opening minutes of the second half, and increased the lead just seven minutes into the second half. A lineout taken successfully by Stuart Hooper saw the ball worked through the hands across the backs, earning a scrum on the 10m line. A good drive followed, and the ball ended up in the hands of Vesty, who scorched through the huge gap in the Leeds defence to score between the posts. An easy conversion for Vesty saw the score stand at 9-17.

As the game entered the final 20 minutes of the game, Bath were both defending and attacking well, despite some strong pressure from Leeds.

A skilful turnover from replacement prop, Nathan Catt, gave Bath the attacking edge, as the ball was passed through the hands, to Matt Carraro, who ran through virtually unchallenged from the 22m line, to score between the posts. Vesty converted to take the score to 9-27.

Despite the score-line advantage, Leeds kept the pressure on Bath, attacking hard in the final stages of the game, but Bath’s defence stood firm.

Persistent offenses from Bath led to Claassens being shown a yellow card in the 70th minute. Leeds were unable to take advantage of the extra man however, as replacement scrum half Mark McMillan cleared the ball, finding touch just inside the Leeds 22m. The Leeds throw in found scrum half, Scott Mathie, who attempted a box-kick only to have it charged down by Simon Taylor, who was unlucky not to be able to gather the ball. Leeds wing, Semi Tadulala, guided the ball beyond the dead ball line, earning Bath a scrum five metres out. Captain, Luke Watson, picked the ball off the back of the scrum and showed his power and pace as he crashed over the line and touched down in the corner, earning Bath the all-important bonus point. 9-32

Leeds attacked valiantly in the final stages of the game, earning a late consolation try through replacement hooker, Steve Thompson, and conversion by replacement, Leigh Hinton, however it was too little too late for the home side.

Final score 16-32

11TH SEPTEMBER 2010 BATH V LONDON IRISH

Steve Meehan praised Bath Rugby players’ attitude and commitment after Nick Abendanon’s dramatic late try gave them victory over London Irish at the Recreation Ground.

Bath Rugby led for the majority of the match – and looked the more likely victors throughout – until Irish winger Jonathan Joseph’s 72nd-minute try was converted by Ryan Lamb.

That gave 14-man Irish – who had George Stowers red-carded for a high tackle on Abendanon in the 62nd minute – a 13-12 lead with time running out.

But Abendanon pounced on Michael Claassens’ clever chip beyond the visiting defence to score a wonderful try of his own with five minutes remaining, before Olly Barkley later sealed the victory with the last kick of the match.

Head coach Meehan, whose team have already won more league matches this season than they did before Christmas last term, praised the determination of his hard-working players.

He said: “Although we were a point down with seven minutes left, I never thought that we’d lose that game. I felt comfortable the entire game – particularly in the second half when I thought we were more direct and worked a lot better as a team.

“It was a bit tight – but I suppose it was always going to be against one of the better teams. I thought our attitude and commitment were brilliant – we really had to work hard to win that game. The performance wasn’t perhaps at the level we want it to be but the attitude was fantastic.”

Meehan was particularly impressed by how his players responded to losing starting trio Matt Banahan, Lee Mears and Simon Taylor before half-time, with the replacements maintaining the standards set by those who started the game. There was further disruption for Bath when David Flatman came off shortly after the restart and had to be replaced by the impressive Nathan Catt.

“I think the performance from the team, having lost those three players, was spot-on,” added the head coach. “The guys went in there and did their jobs very, very well – you didn’t see a significant difference or drop-off. We continued to play in the same manner, so I’m delighted with the way those early replacements went about their business.”

Bath fell behind in the third minute after being penalised at a ruck, with Lamb knocking over the 45-metre penalty to give Irish the lead.

The visitors’ advantage lasted only three minutes, though, with Barkley soon drawing Bath level when Irish failed to roll away from a tackle.

The first half was cagier than the free-flowing attacking reputations of both sides suggested it might have been, with the teams only managing to fashion a few half-chances between them as defences ruled.

After they had lost Banahan and Mears, Barkley slotted Bath into a 6-3 lead on 29 minutes to settle the team down, and the inside centre increased his team’s lead to 9-3 on 38 minutes when the under-pressure Irish defence strayed offside.

Fly-half Lamb cut the Bath lead back to three points at the break after punishing an offside in the Bath defence following Daniel Bowden’s break.

The second half was a more open contest after the tight opening period , but the 11,005 spectators inside the Rec still had to wait until the 14th minute of the half to see any further points.

Those were supplied by Barkley, who made it 12-6 after Irish were again penalised for going offside at the tackle, and at that stage the home side looked on course for victory.

Their victory bid had been aided when Elvis Seveali’i – who wrote his name into Bath’s folklore by scoring a late winning try against Irish in 2003 – was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle on Sam Vesty two minutes before Barkley struck.

And, although Seveali’i returned with 18 minutes to play, Irish had to play with 14 men for the remainder of the game after Stowers saw red for a high tackle on Abendanon, which dazed the flying full-back. Abendanon later acknowledged the Irish No 8 had been unfortunate to see red for what he deemed an unintentionally high tackle.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Irish were next to score, with Joseph taking Lamb’s long pass and going over out wide on his first Aviva Premiership start after a lengthy spell of pressure on the Bath line. Lamb converted from close to the touchline to give Irish the lead for the first time since the opening minutes.

But Bath stayed positive – and when Irish dropped the ball from the restart, the home side had a scrum 30 metres out. Claassens’ quick thinking saw him race round the back of the scrum, before delivering a delicate chip down the line for Abendanon to chase. The full-back gathered the ball with ease and dived over to restore Bath’s lead.

Barkley missed the tricky conversion attempt, but sent the ball through the middle of the posts from a 45-metre penalty to seal a seven-point victory for his team with the last kick of the match.

Today’s Match Day Sponsors were James Hull Associates

 

18th SEPTEMBER 2010 NORTHAMPTON V BATH

Bath Rugby suffered their first defeat of the Aviva Premiership season as they went down to an impressive Northampton Saints team at Franklin’s Gardens, 31-10.
Following victories over Leeds Carnegie and London Irish, Bath were replaced at the top of the table by Saints, who outscored their visitors by four tries to one on a disappointing evening for Bath.
Head coach Steve Meehan was disappointed with his team’s performance on the evening and knows they can – and must – improve ahead of home matches against Sale Sharks and Gloucester.

“That was nowhere near the standards we set ourselves, and as a result it was a wake-up call very early in the season for us,” said Meehan. “We had a good warm-up and everyone felt good. So to go out and lose the physical battle – particularly at the breakdown – was disappointing.

“We have the next two weeks now where we have to turn it around. We talk about player empowerment and responsibility, and this is when they need to take it.”

Phil Dowson, Chris Ashton (two) and Joe Ansbro scored the tries that gave Northampton their bonus point win, while Bath mustered a late consolation try when replacement Ben Williams went over for his first Premiership score.

Bath trailed 11-3 at half-time after being competitive for lengthy periods of the opening half, but failing to take their scoring chances.

Matt Carraro was denied after racing ahead in the first minute, before Olly Barkley failed with a long-range penalty attempt with the score level at 0-0.

Saints began to get on top and punished Bath’s indiscipline when Shane Geraghty slotted over an 18th-minute penalty, with the same player making it 6-0 a few minutes later, after referee Chris White spotted a Bath infringement on their own line-out.

With their tails up, Northampton took a grip on the contest and soon conjured the first try off a powerful and incisive line-out move. They swept their way to the brink of the Bath line through a combination of slick passing and forward strength – and when Soane Tonga’uiha and Geraghty were stopped just short, Dowson arrived to dive over.

Having been level at 0-0 on 18 minutes, Bath found themselves 11-0 down after 25, and in need of quick points.

Barkley hit the bar with a long-range penalty attempt on 29 minutes, before Bath started to find a way back into the contest.

David Wilson charged into the Saints 22 to spark a move which led to Shontayne Hape going close on the right wing and then Tom Biggs doing the same on the left – and when the pressure died, it was clearly a chance missed.

Bath came close again on the right wing, although the referee had spotted a forward pass in the build-up, but they got on the scoreboard through a Barkley penalty on the stroke of half-time.

The opening period had, at times, provided encouragement – but the second half was one Bath would rather forget, as Northampton turned the screw.

They scored their second try of the match within 30 seconds of the restart after returning Bath’s kick with interest, with Dowson breaking off the back of a rolling maul, throwing a dummy and releasing Ashton to run the ball in from 40 metres.

Another Geraghty penalty made it 19-3 to the hosts – and Bath’s task became even more difficult when Wilson was sin-binned for deliberately obstructing Northampton after straying into their attacking line.

Bath’s scrum came under immense pressure without their starting tighthead – and referee White was playing advantage for a scrummaging offence against the visitors when the ball was again worked wide to Ashton, who scored from close range.

More dynamic work from Northampton in the Bath 22 led to Ansbro racing over to secure the bonus point on 68 minutes, before Bath hit back in the closing stages to score a well-worked try when Biggs set up Williams.

The 21-year-old centre, one of several young Bath replacements to provide a glimmer of positivity on a difficult evening, saw his try converted by Sam Vesty to provide some consolation to the visitors.

25th

25TH SEPTEMBER 2010 BATH V SALE

Bath Rugby produced the perfect response to their first defeat of the season as they bounced back with a bonus-point victory over Sale Sharks at the Recreation Ground, 31-16.

First-half tries from Duncan Bell, Shontayne Hape and Matt Carraro gave the home side a commanding lead – but they had to wait until the 78th minute to bank the bonus point when Ben Williams went over in the corner.

By the time Sale’s Wame Lewaravu finally crossed for the visitors’ first try in second-half injury-time, Bath’s five-point victory was already assured.

The win was the ideal reaction to the previous week’s 31-10 defeat against Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens – and head coach Steve Meehan acknowledged the effort of his players.

“Right from the finish of last Friday night’s match, the players were adamant that they needed to respond,” said Meehan. “On Monday, we were pretty straightforward with the review – it didn’t take very long.

“It wasn’t as if we stood there and screamed, shouted and waved our arms around – we were very direct and precise with what we had to say. The players accepted that very well and got on with their jobs – and that has been the response. It’s a terrific Saturday for us.”

On a beautiful afternoon down by the banks of the Avon, Bath started well and were celebrating their first try only 12 minutes into the match. Tom Biggs initially turned defence into attack for Bath, who then earned a penalty close to the Sale line and opted for a scrum.

From the base, Michael Claassens linked with Sam Vesty, who was stopped just short, before Luke Watson arrived in support and missed out Pieter Dixon and David Barnes with a perfectly-timed pass to set up prop Bell, who went over for the sixth Premiership try of his Bath career.

Olly Barkley’s conversion increased the lead to 7-0, before the inside centre knocked over a penalty to make it 10-0 after Sale had strayed offside. Barkley then missed a penalty, before Paul Williams cut Bath’s lead to seven points and then to four with two penalties of his own.

But Bath reasserted their authority – and effectively sealed the victory – with two tries in the 13 minutes before half-time.

First Hape picked a smart line and cantered through a massive hole in the Sale defence after receiving Barkley’s pass to score from 30 metres, with Barkley’s conversion making it 17-6.

Then, with Sale expecting an advantage following a Bath knock-on, Sharks winger Mark Cueto inadvertently threw the ball straight to the eager Carraro, who turned around and checked for a referee’s whistle, before racing away to score when it did not arrive. Again Barkley converted to give his side a 24-6 half-time lead.

The Bath supporters among an 11,618 crowd at the Rec may have expected their side to wrap up the bonus point with a quick fourth try – but resilient Sale had other ideas. They defended resolutely at the start of the second period, denying and frustrating the hosts, who knew a bonus-point win would take them – briefly at least – to the top of the Aviva Premiership table.

Bath tried to find a route to the Sale line, but it was the visiting team who struck next, Williams scoring a third penalty of the afternoon to cut the Bath lead to 15 points.

Bath then enjoyed a lengthy stay in the Sale 22, winning a series of close-range scrums and testing the opposition defence, but the Sharks kept out wave after wave of attack and it appeared that the extra point may evade the hosts.

But their patience and determination finally paid off with two minutes left on the clock when – after a Sale forward pass saw the momentum swing back in Bath’s favour – they were able to launch one final attack.

From the initial scrum, they spread the ball wide with Biggs going close, before switching play to the opposite wing, where Nick Abendanon and Barkley combined to send promising 21-year-old centre Williams over for his maiden first-team try at the Rec.

Barkley kept his composure to send over the touchline conversion to extend his team’s advantage to 31-9 with little more than a minute to play.

But Sale grabbed a late try when Lewaravu powered over deep into injury-time after Williams had been yellow-carded for killing the ball, with Paul Williams’ conversion ensuring the match finished with Bath 31-16 victors.

And Meehan, while acknowledging that his team can still improve, saw signs of encouragement in both attack and defence.

“We’ve got to reward the guys, because, despite the amount of pressure Sale put us under over the course of the game, it took them until the 82nd or 83rd minute to cross,” said Meehan. “And in attack there were times when we put a great deal of pace on the ball – and that’s when we know we are starting to get somewhere.”

1ST OCTOBER 2010 BATH V GLOUCESTER

Bath Rugby’s Heineken Cup Pool Four campaign kicked off with an agonising 11-12 defeat against last season’s runners-up, Biarritz Olympique, at the Recreation Ground.

Bath had led from the fourth minute to the 55th – and responded to going behind for the first time in the contest by hitting back to regain the lead with 12 minutes to play.

But a 71st-minute Dimitri Yachvili penalty, his fourth from four attempts in the match, after David Wilson had been sent to the sin-bin for knocking the ball out of the scrum-half’s hands as he prepared to pass, gave Biarritz a lead they preserved until the final whistle.

Despite denying their opponents a try, it was another tale of late Heineken Cup disappointment against top-class French opposition for Bath, having suffered at the hands of Toulouse two years ago and Stade Francais last year.

Head coach, Steve Meehan, said: “We played a very good first half and got all the decisions right – but then the technical penalties went against us in the second half and, when we did have an opportunity to get on the front foot, we turned over too early.

“Even with four minutes to go, we had an opportunity to win the match and we didn’t take the chance. The feelings are very mixed, because it was a better performance than the previous week, but to come up short like that is very frustrating and disappointing.”

Bath had taken the lead through an Olly Barkley penalty – and followed up the early score with a well-worked Michael Claassens try to give them an 8-0 lead after as many minutes.

But, despite leading 8-0 at half-time, Biarritz – as their pedigree suggested they might – began to claw their way back into the match after the break. Yachvili landed the first of his penalties on 43 minutes and cut Bath’s lead to two points with another on 51 minutes.

The France No 9 then edged his side into the lead after 55 minutes, only for Barkley to reply with a long-range effort to restore the Bath advantage. But Yachvili held his nerve after Wilson had seen yellow to make it 11-12.

Bath then heaped pressure on the Biarritz line as they strove to reclaim the advantage and get off to a winning start in Pool Four, but were unable to find a way through the well-organised Basque defence.

“We worked harder as a team together this week than we did last week against Gloucester, so that’s a positive,” added Meehan. “Also, when we are doing things correctly on the field – the way we are training – then we’re a very good side. The try we scored came from some very basic rugby that was done very well and very efficiently. We’ve just got to transfer more of that into the game.”

Barkley kicked Bath into the lead after Claassens was caught by a high tackle – before the scrum-half increased the advantage with a try. Bath secured line-out ball on the left and switched play right, first with the crash ball, before deploying their renowned craft and guile out wide. Claassens found Barkley, whose clever pass to Nick Abendanon created the opening, and the full-back released Matt Carraro, who was tackled just short of the line. From the resulting ruck, Claassens picked up and went over to give his side an 8-0 lead.

Abendanon then had to show his defensive prowess after Bath had been intercepted in attack and been caught on the counter-attack. Michael Bond broke down-field and passed to the lightning quick Takudzwa Ngwenya – but Abendanon somehow caught the winger, brought him down, and Bath regrouped and won turnover ball.

The first half came to a close with Bath in the ascendancy, even if they could not force another score before the break, but they did not enjoy the same dominance after the interval.

Instead, the streetwise Biarritz forced Bath into a number of penalties for technical offences, and the reliable Yachvili took full advantage. He did not miss a single shot at the sticks, but instead kept the scoreboard ticking over to frustrate Bath and take the game away from them.

From being 8-0 down at half-time, Biarritz were 9-8 up after 55 minutes – and that was after having what they felt was a try by No 8 Raphael Lakafia ruled out by the television match official for a double movement. Julien Peyrelongue missed a drop goal shortly after Yachvili’s third penalty – before Barkley kicked Bath back into the lead from long-range after a penalty was awarded at a scrum.

Replacement Damien Traille then failed with a drop-goal attempt of his own, before Yachvili took full advantage after prop Wilson was sent to the sin-bin to make it 11-12 with nine minutes left.

Bath still had a gilt-edged opportunity to win the match late on – but tried to build phases close to the Biarritz line, rather than attempting a drop goal, and eventually knocked on in contact to relieve the pressure on their visitors. There was still time for Traille to attempt another drop goal, which he missed, but Biarritz held on for victory.

 

10TH OCTOBER 2010 BATH V BIARRITZ

Bath Rugby’s Heineken Cup Pool Four campaign kicked off with an agonising 11-12 defeat against last season’s runners-up, Biarritz Olympique, at the Recreation Ground.

Bath had led from the fourth minute to the 55th – and responded to going behind for the first time in the contest by hitting back to regain the lead with 12 minutes to play.

But a 71st-minute Dimitri Yachvili penalty, his fourth from four attempts in the match, after David Wilson had been sent to the sin-bin for knocking the ball out of the scrum-half’s hands as he prepared to pass, gave Biarritz a lead they preserved until the final whistle.

Despite denying their opponents a try, it was another tale of late Heineken Cup disappointment against top-class French opposition for Bath, having suffered at the hands of Toulouse two years ago and Stade Francais last year.

Head coach, Steve Meehan, said: “We played a very good first half and got all the decisions right – but then the technical penalties went against us in the second half and, when we did have an opportunity to get on the front foot, we turned over too early.

“Even with four minutes to go, we had an opportunity to win the match and we didn’t take the chance. The feelings are very mixed, because it was a better performance than the previous week, but to come up short like that is very frustrating and disappointing.”

Bath had taken the lead through an Olly Barkley penalty – and followed up the early score with a well-worked Michael Claassens try to give them an 8-0 lead after as many minutes.

But, despite leading 8-0 at half-time, Biarritz – as their pedigree suggested they might – began to claw their way back into the match after the break. Yachvili landed the first of his penalties on 43 minutes and cut Bath’s lead to two points with another on 51 minutes.

The France No 9 then edged his side into the lead after 55 minutes, only for Barkley to reply with a long-range effort to restore the Bath advantage. But Yachvili held his nerve after Wilson had seen yellow to make it 11-12.

Bath then heaped pressure on the Biarritz line as they strove to reclaim the advantage and get off to a winning start in Pool Four, but were unable to find a way through the well-organised Basque defence.

“We worked harder as a team together this week than we did last week against Gloucester, so that’s a positive,” added Meehan. “Also, when we are doing things correctly on the field – the way we are training – then we’re a very good side. The try we scored came from some very basic rugby that was done very well and very efficiently. We’ve just got to transfer more of that into the game.”

Barkley kicked Bath into the lead after Claassens was caught by a high tackle – before the scrum-half increased the advantage with a try. Bath secured line-out ball on the left and switched play right, first with the crash ball, before deploying their renowned craft and guile out wide. Claassens found Barkley, whose clever pass to Nick Abendanon created the opening, and the full-back released Matt Carraro, who was tackled just short of the line. From the resulting ruck, Claassens picked up and went over to give his side an 8-0 lead.

Abendanon then had to show his defensive prowess after Bath had been intercepted in attack and been caught on the counter-attack. Michael Bond broke down-field and passed to the lightning quick Takudzwa Ngwenya – but Abendanon somehow caught the winger, brought him down, and Bath regrouped and won turnover ball.

The first half came to a close with Bath in the ascendancy, even if they could not force another score before the break, but they did not enjoy the same dominance after the interval.

Instead, the streetwise Biarritz forced Bath into a number of penalties for technical offences, and the reliable Yachvili took full advantage. He did not miss a single shot at the sticks, but instead kept the scoreboard ticking over to frustrate Bath and take the game away from them.

From being 8-0 down at half-time, Biarritz were 9-8 up after 55 minutes – and that was after having what they felt was a try by No 8 Raphael Lakafia ruled out by the television match official for a double movement. Julien Peyrelongue missed a drop goal shortly after Yachvili’s third penalty – before Barkley kicked Bath back into the lead from long-range after a penalty was awarded at a scrum.

Replacement Damien Traille then failed with a drop-goal attempt of his own, before Yachvili took full advantage after prop Wilson was sent to the sin-bin to make it 11-12 with nine minutes left.

Bath still had a gilt-edged opportunity to win the match late on – but tried to build phases close to the Biarritz line, rather than attempting a drop goal, and eventually knocked on in contact to relieve the pressure on their visitors. There was still time for Traille to attempt another drop goal, which he missed, but Biarritz held on for victory.

 16th OCTOBER 2010 AIRONI V BATH

Bath Rugby got their Heineken Cup campaign back on track with a 6-22 bonus point victory over Aironi Rugby in Viadana.

Bath started brightly, getting speed and width on the ball as they attacked the Aironi line. With 11 minutes gone on the clock, the visitors scored the first points of the game, with a debut try for winger Tom Biggs. A secured line-out from Andy Beattie saw the ball pass quickly through the hands of the back line, finding Biggs on the wing, who kicked through and won the foot race to touch down in the corner. Olly Barkley missed the tricky touchline conversion. 0-5
Aironi get their first points on the board following a penalty for an infringement at the ruck, which fly-half Ludovic Mercier duly converted, taking the score to 3-5.

Bath quickly came back however, scoring another well worked try just a minute later, 23 minutes into the game. After securing the ball from a scrum, the ball worked its way to Nathan Catt, who broke up the wing, offloaded in the tackle, and found Taylor, who charged forward, and passed to Matt Carraro, who went over from short range. 3-10

Some strong defending from Bath was required soon after, as Aironi worked their way into the Bath half. Number 8, Nick Williams, broke through the line, only to meet Man of the Match, Nick Abendanon, who stopped the big forward in his tracks. The ball was secured by Bath and sent back down field, out of the danger zone.

With five minutes remaining of the first half, Bath scored their third try of the match. Coming off the back of a scrum once again, Michael Claassens found Sam Vesty, who quickly moved the ball onto Barkley. Carraro broke through the middle, passed to Abendanon, who cut a brilliant line across and up the pitch, and passed to Carraro on the right wing, who had to juggle to keep the ball in play. After he had offloaded to Matt Banahan, the ball found its way back to Abendanon who strolled over the line, and touched down between the posts, setting up an easy conversion for Barkley to add the extras. 3-17

A moment of uncertainty ended the first half, with a loose ball finding its way over the Aironi line, Biggs nearly got a hand to it, but just missed the ball following a tackle from the Aironi full back. Referee referred it to the TMO, who judged no try, but Bath still had a healthy lead going in at half time.

The home side were first to get more points on the board in the second half, finally turning pressure into points, as Mercier again stepped up to kick a penalty in front of the posts. 6-17

The all-important bonus point try came with ten minutes left on the clock, after Aironi’s wing, Giulio Toniolatti, fielded a high ball from Bath, secured it, only to slip and fall into touch, giving Bath the lineout. A surging driving maul followed, which proved unstoppable, as Luke Watson burrowed over to secure the extra bonus point, and seal the victory for the visitors, 6-22.

23RD OCTOBER 2010 LEICESTER V BATH

Bath Rugby came away with a losing bonus point from Welford Road, after a tense match saw Olly Barkley and Toby Flood exchange penalties, for a final score of 21-15.

A chilly Saturday afternoon at the fortress Leicester Tigers call Welford Road welcomed Bath Rugby for their first Premiership fixture following the Heineken Cup matches.

The game saw a torrid exchange of penalties, with neither team being able to cross the opposition’s line. Bath showed great character throughout the entire game, withstanding numerous onslaughts from the home side, as well as showing their attacking capabilities in all areas of the park.

Bath were the first of the two teams to concede points, after an early penalty for an infringement in the scrum gave Leicester the advantage, and set Toby Flood to hit the drop goal to take Tigers three points ahead.

Another penalty against Bath just minutes after provided Flood with another attempt at goal just outside Bath’s 22. Flood found the middle of the posts increasing the lead to 6-0.

A well placed up and under from Sam Vesty, followed by some great chasing from Nick Abendanon and Luke Watson, put the Leicester fullback and captain, Geordan Murphy, under immense pressure who gave the penalty away for not releasing the ball. Olly Barkley stepped up and from a considerable distance struck the ball well to close the deficit to three points. 6-3.

However, Bath’s efforts were in vain and from the kick off Bath were again penalised and felt the sting of the current England number 10’s boot. 9-3.

With twenty minutes gone, the referee deemed Bath in the wrong again, this time for offside. Flood added another simple three points to take Leicester into double figures. 12-3.

As the rain began to fall, a penalty fest was occurring when this time the tables were turned and it was the Tigers in the wrong for entering the ruck incorrectly. On the halfway line, Barkley stepped up and hit the ball beautifully over the posts. 12-6.

Conditions made it hard for both teams to play fast flowing rugby, as both sides encountered handling errors from the slippery conditions. Bath were handed an attempt at goal with just over five minutes left in the half. Barkley struck well again but the kick just went wide.

Bath wanted to finish the half strongly and a great take from Matt Banahan in the air released Abendanon down the left wing, but he was stopped by a typically determined Leicester defence.

The last play of the game saw Leicester give Bath another penalty after Alesana Tuilagi was deemed offside. Barkley had another chance, with a kick of similar distance to his previous kick, however he couldn’t find his angle and Bath went in at the half time break 12-6 down.

Bath started the second half well, working their way into the home side’s half, but some physical defence and rucking saw a turnover, with Ben Youngs taking play into Bath’s 22. Leicester attacked with purpose and after Bath allegedly didn’t realise the player on the floor, Flood took another three points making the difference 15-6.

The scrum saw another opportunity for Bath to be penalised and the referee saw fit after the visitors were accused of collapsing the scrum. Leicester’s only points provider stepped up once more and added the three points. 18-6.

The visitors made their way deep into Leicester’s 22, after some great attacking play down the wing. A maul formed from a lineout and the referee blew his whistle signalling a Leicester foul. Five metres from the try line, Bath decided three points were the best option and Barkley secured the points. 18-9.

Bath’s attitude throughout the game had been determined and committed. After they turned on the pressure at the breakdown, the referee felt Leicester had been guilty of hands in the ruck. Barkley took the opportunity to put the ball through the sticks. 18-12.

Bath cleared their line just after the hour mark and great chasing from the backs caused the Leicester defence to spill the ball and then concede a penalty for preventing Bath from capitalising. Despite jeers from the Welford Road faithful, Barkley kept a cool head and converted for three more points taking the game to a tantalising 18-15.

With just three points in the balance Bath could sense a chance to take control of the game. The visitors bombarded Leicester with attack after attack, but yet again the resilient home defence would not let Bath cross the try line.

A huge disappointment occurred moments after, when Bath conceded a penalty at the worst of times. This let Flood increase that all important margin to six. 21-15.

Bath threw everything they could muster at the Leicester defence in the dying minutes of the game. Just metres from the line after multiple phases and attacks at the line, Bath lost possession and felt the disappointment of the loss, as Leicester kicked the ball out of play to end a hard fought game.

 

 

31ST OCTOBER 2010 HARLEQUINS V BATH

Bath Rugby held on for a 6-6 all draw with Harlequins, in a hard fought, defensively strong game at the Stoop.
Just three points were scored in the first half, as Olly Barkley opened the scoring for Bath Rugby with a superb long range kick from inside the Bath half, eight minutes into the game.

A close game was fought out throughout the first half, as both teams attacked hard and fast, but came up against equally strong defences.

With just over 20 minutes gone in the first half, Bath got their first try scoring opportunity. Danny Grewcock secured the ball from the lineout, feeding down to Sam Vesty. After some surging drives from the forwards, Michael Claassens chipped the ball through, and Tom Biggs gave chase. Quins full-back Mike Brown was on hand however to touch down just before Biggs made it to the line.

Bath steadily built up the pressure on Quins in the first half, creeping further into the home side’s half. With six minutes left in the first half, Barkley had a chance to double the lead after Quins were penalised for collapsing the scrum. However, he nudged the kick just wide of the posts, and so Bath took a narrow 0-3 lead in at half time.

Bath came out attacking hard in the second half, with the ball moving across the pitch from a turnover, and it was only through a high tackle on Matt Banahan that the attack was halted. Barkley made no mistake with the resulting penalty, and took the visitor’s lead to 0-6.

However, whilst the Bath defence stood firm, Quins slowly crept back into the game, with Nick Evans successfully kicking two penalties within five minutes to draw the teams level.

With just over five minutes left of the game, Bath stole a Quins lineout, and attacked hard into the 22. Working the ball into the centre of the pitch, Sam Vesty lined up the drop goal, only for the attempt to fall just wide.

As both sides fought hard in the dying minutes of the game, so both defences held strong. Neither side could find a way through to break the deadlock, and so the game ended 6-6.

 

5TH NOVEMBER 2010 BATH V CARDIFF

Bath Rugby turned on explosive display and sent Cardiff Blues back to Wales pointless, final score 29-19.

A wet and windy Guy Fawkes Friday evening set the backdrop for Bath’s first encounter in the LV=Cup. A dedicated Bath crowd of 11,911 (the second ever largest crowd in the Club’s history) filled a sodden Rec with the sound of fireworks going off all around the city.

Bath took the lead with an early try from captain Matt Banahan, who powered his way through the Blues’ defence after a break from Ross Batty opened up the defence. Ollhy Barkley made ease of kicking the extra two points. 7-0.

Slippery conditions made any thoughts of slick passing rugby a distant thought. Cardiff regained composure from the kick-off and made the deficit back to four after Bath were found guilty of offside at the ruck. Blues fly-half Gareth Davies stepped up and converted the penalty. 7-3.

Shortly after Bath found themselves on the wrong side of the referee again, after being accused of not releasing the player. Davies fired the ball between the posts to make the score 7-6.

Bath full-back Jack Cuthbert initiated the next try, after a great up and under in which he followed it up and forced a turnover. Mark McMillan provided Barkley with quick ball, who in turn showed brilliant vision with a cross field kick in which Tom Biggs’ blistering pace enabled him to run on and touch down in the corner. Barkley found the posts from out wide. 14-6.

Mirroring the last restart, Bath again were deemed offside by the match official and Davies increased his personal, and the Blues’, tally to nine. The Blues seemed to be gaining composure and after a well placed kick down field, a foot race began with Bath’s Biggs against the Blues’ Dan Fish. Some great covering defence from Bath followed, but scrum half Lloyd Williams’ quick thinking enabled fly-half Davies to touch down in the corner. As Cardiff’s only point scorer so far, Davies added the conversion to take the visitors two points ahead. 14-16.

With just over five minutes left in the half, Bath were rewarded for their excellent play in horrendous conditions. They exerted pressure on the Blues defence and the visitors couldn’t get back on side quickly enough after Bath looked to move the ball fast. Barkley added three points to put Bath ahead and back in the game. 17-16.

Unsatisfied with the score line as it was at the close of the half, Bath went on another surge and with a defence on the back foot Barkley held back in the pocket and nailed a drop-goal through the posts to take the home side four points in front going in at half time. 20-16.

Bath hit the ground running in the second half and appeared to be the team taking control of an increasingly wet and slippery game. Confidence in the team was strong and the changes made showed that, with Chris Cook coming on for McMillan and Aaron Jarvis for Duncan Bell.

The Blues looked like they were beginning to crumble under the might of Bath pressure and persistent infringement led the referee to reach for the yellow card, with Blues prop John Yapp going to the bin. Barkley capitalised and in hard conditions, struck the ball beautifully to take Bath to 23-16.

However, the Blues, like Bath, were not ready to give up yet and after a great break on the half way line, Cardiff found themselves on Bath’s try line with the home side stretched in defence. However, a try was prevented but three points inflicted, as Bath were penalised for infringement. 23-19.

Bath returned from the kick-off even more focused on increasing their lead to more than a converted try. Barkley increased the lead once again, after Blues were found guilty of infringement at the breakdown. With just over ten minutes remaining the same situation happened again and Barkley again didn’t miss. Final Score 29-19.

 

14TH NOVEMBER 2010 WASPS V BATH

Bath Rugby came away from a very wet Adams Park with a losing bonus point after a closely fought match saw London Wasps sneak an 18-16 victory in the second round of the LV= Cup.

After both sides had paid their respects in memory of those who had lost their lives in the line of duty, the atmosphere was tense in anticipation for a fiercely contested match.

It was the home side who had the first shot at goal after Bath were pinged for not retreating to on-side, however, Wasps fly half Mark van Gisbergen hit the upright.

With just under fifteen minutes gone, Wasps gave Bath a chance to get some points on the board, after they were guilty of pulling down Peter Short in the lineout. Bath’s fly half, Sam Vesty, found his angle, taking the visitors ahead by three points. 3-0.

The deficit was cancelled out after the restart, when Bath were penalized for hands in the ruck. Van Gisbergen didn’t miss this time, leveling the scores 3-3.

With an internationally experienced back row driving from behind, the Wasps pack exerted great pressure on Bath in the scrum, causing the referee to blow up for the visitors to be charged with pulling away from the scrum. Van Gisbergen again stepped up and found the middle of the posts. 3-6.

A rally of kicks from within each others half occurred and it was Bath full-back, Jack Cuthbert, who showed his strong attacking abilities making considerable ground from his own 22. Bath were provided with quick ball by Mark McMillan and in turn awarded a kickable penalty when Wasps were penalized for entering the ruck incorrectly. Vesty slotted the kick to tie the scores once more. 6-6.

With two minutes left in the half Wasps went surging into Bath territory, and a well-placed kick put Cuthbert under pressure, forcing him to take the ball into touch. Wasps went for the quick lineout and Vesty was penalized for interfering with play, providing van Gisbergen the chance to take the lead once more, which he did, making the half time score 9-6.

The margin as small as it was gave both teams a real incentive as the second half began, with each team taking their turn to attack the other but staunch defence prevented either side crossing the line.

However, Bath let the home side increase their advantage to six points after infringing in the ruck. Van Gisbergen slotted a long range kick to take the scores to 6-12.

In quick reply Bath powered their way towards the try line and after they were given the advantage by the referee, play was brought back and Vesty took Bath to within three points of Wasps. 9-12.

An exchange of penalties came about, as Bath let Wasps regain their six point lead after being punished for not releasing the tackler. Van Gisbergen, Wasps sole provider of points, added another three to take his personal and his team’s score to 15. 9-15.

Bath again increased their penalty count for not rolling away, and a consistent van Gisbergen again made his kick. 9-18.

However, as the clock ticked away, Bath held their composure and retained the ball. The visitors sucked in Wasps defence, and quick ball enabled Ben Skirving to storm over the line for his second ever try in Bath colours. Vesty added the extra two points. 16-18.

With time up on the clock, Bath stringed multiple phases together, showing their excellent ball retention in the most important of times. A late hit on Ignacio Fernandez-Lobbe, provided Bath with a do or die penalty attempt at goal. Cuthbert bravely stepped up to have a go at goal from nigh on fifty metres away. A great strike drifted just wide of the left upright, letting Wasps off with the win in penalty ridden game in which both teams showed determined defence.

 

21ST NOVEMBER 2010 BATH V SARACENS

Bath Rugby missed out on the opportunity to move up to fifth in the Aviva Premiership table as Saracens came from 13-0 down to win at the Recreation Ground, 13-17.

Nick Abendanon’s first-half try, along with eight points from Olly Barkley, had put Bath firmly in the driving seat and on course for a first league win since September and a surge up the table.

But Saracens, who are unbeaten away from home in the Premiership this season, came back strongly and, inspired by young fly-half Owen Farrell, eventually turned their deficit into a lead.

Kameli Ratuvou and James Short scored the visitors’ tries as Bath were left to rue a series of missed opportunities – even though Head Coach, Steve Meehan, was able to reflect on some positive aspects for his team.

He said: “That was one that got away – and it’s easy to focus on the negatives, but on the flipside there were some real improvements in some of our play.

“When we got our attacking shape and structure correct, we were a real threat – and, defensively, when we had our line-speed and our intensity in the hit, you saw that we were very strong. There is a lot of good that went on for 60 of those 80 minutes – but unfortunately it was an expensive 20.”

Bath led 13-3 at half-time after an opening period that combined resolute defence with clinical attack. The hosts had very few clear-cut try-scoring opportunities, while having to fiercely defend their own line at times, yet still emerged with a 10-point cushion at the interval.

Bath took the lead in the 12th minute when Barkley sent a 45-metre penalty sailing between the posts after the Saracens pack were penalised for standing up at a scrum.

The home defence then forced a knock-on from Nils Mordt as he looked to strike in their 22, before winning a turnover in a similar position after good build-up play from the visitors.

Nick Scott snaffled an interception pass deep in Saracens territory and, although they could not fashion a try, they were awarded a penalty when Abendanon was on the receiving end of a high tackle from Schalk Brits after they had switched play left. Barkley kept his cool from 30 metres to add to his earlier penalty and give Bath a 6-0 lead.

Saracens, for all their territory and possession, were unable to find a breakthrough – and Bath’s opening try in the 28th minute summed up the first half-an-hour for the visitors.

They attacked Bath well, only to lose the ball at the ruck and Michael Claassens kick down-field. His clearance hit referee Tim Wigglesworth on the back and deflected into the path of Abendanon, who hacked ahead twice, before coolly gathering the ball on the bounce as it crossed the try-line and diving over to score. Barkley’s conversion gave Bath a 13-0 lead.

But Saracens continued to press – and registered their first points of the evening on 32 minutes from a Farrell penalty after Wigglesworth had played a lengthy advantage.

The visitors created a decent chance in the closing minutes of the first half when Farrell chipped into the Bath 22 – but Andy Saull was penalised for shoving the covering Tom Biggs in the back as he attempted to collect the high ball.

The second half began with Bath in the ascendancy, although Barkley failed with an audacious long-range penalty after Saracens were penalised for not rolling away from a ruck.

Saracens could have been 16-3 down – yet within minutes it was 13-10. Farrell cleverly kicked toward the Bath left from deep inside his own territory and Short gave chase, kicking the ball back in-field and in the direction of the Bath line from the wing.

Ratuvou arrived in time to slide over, with the ball getting caught between his legs before he grounded it, and the try was only awarded after deliberation from television official Graham Hughes. Farrell’s conversion ensured Saracens were firmly back in the game at 13-10 down.

Things went to bad to worse for Bath in the 57th minute. Under pressure from Farrell’s kick, Abendanon went to send the ball back down-field but was charged down by Short, who enjoyed a simple run-in from 15 metres to give the visitors the lead for the first time in the match. Farrell’s conversion saw Saracens into a 17-13 lead with a quarter of the game to go.

Bath tried to rally and were unlucky not to get more from a slick passing move that tested Saracens’ resolve – but, when they went wide from a scrum on the 22, the ball was knocked on in a good position. A knock-on was again Bath’s undoing a few minutes later when they spread the ball right after Abendanon’s purposeful run had put Saracens on red alert.

The same fate – a knock-on at a key time – befell Bath again in the 75th minute as they drove into the Saracens 22 once more. And the hosts’ frustration boiled over in the closing minutes when Barkley saw yellow for a high tackle on Sam Stanley, with Saracens closing out the final two minutes against 14 men to seal the victory.

 

27TH NOVEMBER 2010 BATH V WASPS

Bath Rugby suffered Aviva Premiership disappointment at The Rec for the second time in a week as London Wasps claimed an 11-6 victory on a bitterly cold evening.

The hosts enjoyed the better of the play after half-time, but were unable to overhaul the 8-0 deficit they took into the break after Tom Varndell had added a try to Dave Walder’s earlier penalty.

Olly Barkley landed two second-half penalties as Bath came back into the contest, but Walder struck again late on to ensure the home side needed a converted try, rather than merely a three-pointer, to emerge victorious.

As it panned out, despite having lengthy spells of possession, Bath were unable to find a way past the determined Wasps defence, who handed the home side a third Premiership defeat in front of their own supporters this season.

Head Coach Steve Meehan said: “I think that we’re actually playing better rugby at this time of year than we were last season – and we’ve got to be realistic about it. A lot of young guys are getting a lot more experience and a lot more rugby than they probably expected to.

“There are some positives to come out of it in terms of the development of our squad – and they’re getting more and more comfortable and understanding more and more about the demands of Premiership rugby. There are some positives there and it’s early days.”

Bath, with Lewis Moody, Shontayne Hape, David Wilson and Matt Banahan on England duty – and another host of frontline players, including Butch James and Luke Watson sidelined through injury – fielded a team showing four personnel changes and two positional switches from the side beaten 17-13 by Saracens six days earlier.

Jack Cuthbert came into the back-line, while Aaron Jarvis, Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe and Man of the Match, Guy Mercer, were introduced to the pack, with Ben Skirving moving from No 8 to blindside flanker and Simon Taylor from openside flanker to No 8.

Wasps enjoyed the better of the running in the opening 40 minutes, after surviving an early scare when Nick Scott was unfortunate to see his chip ahead run into touch a metre or so from the try-line before he was able to gather possession.

Another Scott kick had earlier forced Richard Haughton to dive over and ground the ball in his own in-goal area under pressure – but Wasps’ confidence grew as the half wore on.

Haughton sparked a positive move, which ended when Bath forced a penalty as they defended close to their own line, before Walder kicked the first points of the evening with a 21st-minute penalty.

The visiting fly-half then failed with a long-range penalty, before Bath had to be alert to stop Wasps after Joe Worsley had punched a hole into the 22. Bath defended well to keep out another Wasps attack after good link play between Steve Kefu and Ben Jacobs – but the visitors soon conjured what proved to be the only try of the match.

Walder sent a delightful chip toward the Wasps left wing, which Varndell attacked with menace and relish, collecting the ball and sprinting in to score. Walder missed the conversion – and then Barkley was unable to find the posts with a penalty from halfway as the opening period drew to a close.

Bath’s play improved after the break, with Barkley cutting the deficit to five points following an offside, before a lengthy spell of Bath pressure – which included three close-range scrums – ended with the hosts just two points adrift after another Barkley score.

The home side entered the final quarter of the game within touching distance of Wasps – but when Walder was presented with another penalty eight minutes from the end, he made no mistake from 25 metres to give his team an 11-6 lead.

Bath spent the majority of the final minutes of the game trying to pierce a hole in the Wasps defensive line – but Tony Hanks’ team held firm in the face of increasing pressure to hold on for a victory that frustrated the home side.

11th DECEMBER 2010 ULSTER V BATH

Despite defeat at Ravenhill, Bath Rugby are still very much in contention after securing a losing bonus point from the game. Final Score 22-18
Some rare winter sunshine greeted Bath as they ran out onto the pitch at Ravenhill for the third round Heineken Cup fixture, as Olly Barkley led the side out to commemorate his 200th appearance in the Blue, Black and White.

It was Barkley who got the scoreboard ticking over first, securing an early and easy penalty in the first two minutes to give the visitors an early lead. This was swiftly followed by a try from full-back Jack Cuthbert, who sprinted the length of the pitch to score just outside the posts. Man of the Match, Stephen Ferris, found a gap in the Bath defence and had broken through to lead an onslaught on the Bath try line. The defence stood strong however, forcing the home side to throw the ball out wide, only for Cuthbert to pluck the ball from the air, and race away to get the score. Barkley converted, to give the visitors a 0-10 lead in the opening ten minutes.

A highly competitive match began to be played out, with a penalty from Ian Humphreys giving the home side a much-needed boost. However, another try for Bath in the 23rd minute saw them extend the lead.

A break from a Bath lineout led to Nick Abendanon chipping the ball on, which Ulster failed to gather, spilling the ball backwards for the waiting Lewis Moody to pounce on and sprint towards the line to go over for his first try in Bath colours. A tight conversion was just missed by Barkley, with the ball rebounding off the far post. 3-15.

Moments later though luck turned against Bath with David Flatman being shown a yellow card for a supposed high tackle on Tom Court. Camped on the Bath line, Ulster repeatedly opted for the scrum, hoping to have gained some advantage following the sin-binning, however, the scrum worked in Bath’s favour, with the referee penalising the home side for an early engagement, much to their vocal supporters’ displeasure.

However, it wasn’t long before they had something to cheer about, as Ulster scored an intercept try of their own. Number 8 Pedrie Wannenburg plucked a loose pass out of the air and charged through the gap to go over for the try. Humphreys converted, reducing the deficit for the home side to just five points with five minutes left of the first half. This was soon reduced by a further three points as Humphreys slotted another penalty from the halfway line, after Bath were penalised for collapsing the scrum, meaning that the two sides went in at half time with just two points between them, 13-15.

Bath started the second half brightly, with some great linking play from the backs putting the visitors in a good position. A collapsed scrum from Ulster meant that Barkley had the chance to extend the lead again, which he duly did, despite kicking into the sun. 13-18.

However, Ulster quickly gained possession and started dominating the game, spending large amounts of time attacking in the Bath 22, only to be kept out by the strong Bath defence. Momentum was with the home side though, and two penalties swiftly followed, giving them the lead for the first time in the game, and taking the score to 19-18.

Humphreys extended the home sides lead moments later, after Bath were penalised for not releasing from the tackle, 22-18.

Bath refused to give up however, and soon developed some attacking momentum, spending much of the last quarter of the match in the Ulster 22, but the Irish remained strong in defence, and managed to see off the last waves of attack from the visitors. Final score 22-18.

However, with a losing bonus point from this match, and a small helping hand from Aironi, who beat Biarritz 28-27, Bath are still in contention for qualification, with all to play for in the return fixture next weekend.

 18th DEC 2010 BATH V ULSTER

Despite a strong start, Bath Rugby fell away from continuing their Heineken journey with a home loss to Ulster on a snow covered afternoon. Final Score 22-26.

On a frozen Saturday afternoon Bath ignited a cold Rec crowd with a try in 42 seconds. Bath showed great attacking purpose and stole the ball in the ruck from the first kick. Great distribution in the backs shipped the ball from one wing to another, and superb vision from Butch James, found Lee Mears running on with pace. Mears’ well timed offload in the contact let Matt Carraro slip over in the corner. Olly Barkley missed the conversion, failing to find his angle from out wide. 5-0.

Bath’s domination and aggression in contact provided the home side with the chance to add another three points after Ulster were deemed offside by referee Pascal Gauzere. Barkley stepped up and slotted the kick taking Bath eight points in front.

It seemed Ulster had been given a wake up call by Bath’s attitude towards the game so far. From the re-start Ulster initiated a pacey attack using the width of the pitch well. With the home sides forwards being sucked in from some tight play, Ulster spun the ball to the centre where a neat offload put fullback Adam D’Arcy over for the try. Fly-half Ian Humphreys supplied the additional two points. 8-7.

James asserted his return to the game with a well caught clearance kick which he then took on and used to open up his South African counterpart Claassens. Ulster’s attempt to stop the flying Springbok was high and enabled Barkley to add another thee points. 11-7.#

A Bath error from the restart gave the trailing team a chance to regain the three points conceded after being penalised for crossing. Humphreys doesn’t miss making the score 11-10.

In the mix again James’s vision nearly provided another opportunity to score when a well placed cross field kick put the Ulster fullback under pressure from a storming Matt Banahan who drove him over the line for an attacking scrum. However, all was in vain as play was brought back for an earlier affray giving Barkley another chance at goal. A strong forty metre kick took Bath ahead 14-10.

At the close of the first half Ulster’s talented scrum-half Ruan Pienaar broke loose gaining considerable distance. In an effort to halt the Ulster attack, Bath were found guilty of not releasing which let Humphreys close the gap to a single point. 14-13.
The second half was all to play for but it was Bath who were to go behind, but this time in the numbers of players on the pitch, as James who was sin binned just five minutes into the half.

Sensing Bath were missing an influential play maker, the Irish guests began a 12 phase onslaught, which the Bath defence dealt with superbly. However, patience prevailed for Ulster who put Nevin Spence in the left corner for the try. Humphreys kept up his 100% kicking record and added a difficult two points. 14-20.

Now high in confidence, another purposeful attack began from Ulster. With the intensity so high Bath were penalised again for not releasing in the tackle and Humphreys slotted a massive penalty from within his own half. 14-23.

Knowing they needed to respond quickly Bath fought back, attacking strongly. With James back on the pitch, it was the turn of the visitors to lose a man, after Nevin Spence was found guilty of infringing. Barkley put the ball through the sticks for the resulting penalty, narrowing the score to 17-23.

Now with all guns blazing and with Ulster a man short, Bath went stampeding towards the oppositions try line. Replacement Nick Abendanon darted through a hole in the defence in his own 22 and jinked his way 40 metres up field. Some quick recycling from Claassens fed James, whose excellent pass found Mears and a quick display of hands let Banahan loose down the wing who powered over the line. Barkley had the chance to take Bath ahead with the conversion but it drifted just wide. 22-23.

Bath knew they needed to win to keep their Heineken dreams alive and at the worst possible time the home side were deemed guilty of not releasing the ball. The ever cool-headed Humphreys again stepped up to finish his 100% kicking contribution by successfully slotting the penalty. 22-26.

A last hurrah from Bath saw them finishing the game with an attacking line out. The set piece found James but his pass stretched the wings too far, and a knock-on meant the game ended with the visitors running down the clock. Humphreys kicked the ball out to seal the victory.

Everyone at Bath Rugby would like to help all those who came and helped with clearing the pitch and the ground today. Your help ensure that the game went ahead as planned, and we cannot thank you enough for the effort you put in.

 1st JANUARY 2011 LONDON IRISH V BATH

Despite being outscored three tries to one, Bath Rugby secured their first win of 2011 with a proud and passionate performance to beat London Irish 24-25 at the Madejski Stadium.

London Irish struck within two minutes of the kick-off after a very quick close down from Irish back row Steffon Armitage put pressure on Butch James who fumbled the ball. After the home side secured possession quick hands enabled Sailosi Tagicakibau to power his way over in the corner. Chris Malone added the extras. 7-0.

A few minutes later, Irish were in possession and a solid defence were penalised after over keen captain Luke Watson was deemed offside at the breakdown. Malone slotted the kick to take Irish ahead by 10 points.

Bath pressure on a clearing Irish defence gave the away side the opportunity to attack with a strong platform. An excellent line out with some outstanding forward play drove Bath towards the Exiles’ line. The defending side couldn’t handle the Blue, Black and Whites intensity and were punished with a penalty. Olly Barkley stepped up but couldn’t find the middle of the posts.

However, just moments later Barkley had a long range chance to redeem himself. A superb strike sent the ball firing through the middle of the posts from the half-way line. 10-3.

Irish seemed to be feeling the sting of Bath’s growing confidence when this time Steffon Armitage was penalised for holding on. Barkley closed the margin to six points with another successful kick. 10-6.

With just two minutes remaining in the half, Irish came surging back with a well worked try from the backs, allowing Delon Armitage loose down the wing who drew the Bath defence to let supporting Richard Thorpe cross the line for Irish. Malone was on form, adding the extras from out wide. 17-6.

Bath managed to scrape three points back before the end of the half with Irish being penalised in the scrum allowing Barkley to slot the penalty kick. 17-9.

The second half saw Bath show strong attacking phases with the forwards keeping it tight. Patience from the visitors rewarded them with an attacking scrum on Irish’s five metre line. A superb backs set piece nearly put Barkley over the line but staunch defence prevented a score.

Bath’s determination to score was clear and a massive lineout and maul drove the side close to the Irish try line and with the dismissal of Thorpe for pulling down the maul, Bath gained a man advantage. Fourteen phases later, still Irish refused to give in with the TMO referee denying Simon Taylor the touchdown.

Another scrum saw Taylor power his way towards the line from the back of the scrum, and the supporting Michael Claassens scooped the ball up from the floor, darted over the line and touched down to give Bath the try they had worked so hard for. Barkley made sure he didn’t miss taking Bath to within one point of their opponents. 17-16.

Bath, now high in confidence, had their spirits increased with referee Greg Garner offering Bath a penalty after an Irish infringement Barkley kept his cool and slotted the kick to take Bath into the lead. 17-19.

Minutes went by and a neat grubber kick through caused Matt Banahan to hastily defend but take the ball over his line giving Irish an attacking scrum. Now with Thorpe back from the sin bin, a slick backs move cut open the Bath defence for Topsy Ojo to take Irish back in front. Daniel Bowden slotted the simple conversion. 24-19.

Determination was a true description of Bath’s performance, and never giving up the visitors attacked and landed themselves with a penalty when Irish slowed down their attacking phases. Barkley again kept his nerve and answered Irish with another successful penalty. 24-22.

With less than five minutes on the clock the atmosphere in the stadium couldn’t have been any tenser. A rampant Bath side only two points behind could sniff the win and knew patience was the key word. Phase after phase, the side attacked but without any real progress as London Irish’s defence was seemingly impenetrable. All hope lay on the last attack, and the referees whistle finally blew for a penalty to Bath in front of Irish’s posts. With the last kick of the game, Barkley struck the ball beautifully through the middle of the uprights, and with the roar from the Bath supporters, the victory was sealed.

8th JANUARY 2011 BATH V LEEDS

Bath secured their second win of 2011 with a 16-13 home victory over Leeds Carnegie. A try from Nick Abendanon, three penalties and a conversion from Olly Barkley, ended Leeds’ three match winning streak and aided Bath in their climb back up the Aviva Premiership.

With the previous night’s rain cloud clearing, rays of sun drenched the Recreation Ground ready for Bath Rugby’s second game of 2011. Visitors Leeds Carnegie made the lengthy trip intent on increasing their three match winning streak.

It was all Bath in the opening five minutes with total domination of both territory and possession and a flat pass from Butch James let Matt Banahan blast his way through the defence. A Banahan-esque pass out of the tackle was superbly picked up by Lewis Moody taking Bath deep into Leeds try area but Leeds withstood the early onslaught.

However, the home sides early play was rewarded after Leeds were found guilty of pulling down the lineout. Olly Barkley stepped up and struck the 45 metre kick superbly, taking the home side three ahead. 3-0.

Leeds, determined to increase their consecutive winning streak to four, were far from disheartened by Bath’s early domination. The visitors executed their own wave of attack and were also rewarded for their efforts with a penalty in which Ceiron Thomas duly converted. 3-3.

Bath’s response was much more impressive. Spinning the ball across the width of the pitch, Banahan again mowed down his opposing defender to be tackled on the line. The referee’s whistle blew and Warren Fury was sent to the sin for deliberately slowing down the Bath attack. With a mixture of handling errors and desperate Leeds defence, Bath still could not cross the try line.

A Leeds attack with just five minutes left in the half looked as if progress was being restricted with excellent Bath defence. With no way of penetrating the Blue, Black and White’s gain line, the only option was a drop goal which came from Scott Barrow taking Leeds ahead by three points.

The last play of the half saw another onslaught of Bath assaults in which Leeds were stretched in all areas of the field. The back three linked up well with Jack Cuthbert, Banahan and Nick Abendanon keeping play in Leeds half with some excellent counter attacks. Leeds could not handle the pace of Bath and veteran England hooker Steve Thompson was penalised for disrupting the ruck from an offside position. Barkley slotted the short range effort making the scores six a piece at half time.

Bath started the second half in the same way they did the first. Leeds knocked the restart into touch giving Bath a strong attacking lineout to work from. A great inside pass from James put Abendanon through a hole in which he weaved through the final defenders to touch down right of the posts. Barkley added the extras. 13-6.

Bath’s wide play was really beginning to open up the Leeds defence with two clear breaks, once from Cuthbert and another from Ben Skirving. However, their efforts were thwarted, with Cuthbert penalised for holding on and Skirving not letting the ball carrier to his feet. Despite the penalties, it was a clear display of Bath’s attacking with purpose.

Leeds however were showing their composure in the forwards and with a forceful attacking play and after a handful of phases, Thompson took the ball short from the breakdown to take Leeds two points behind. Thomas converted tie-ing the scores once more with 20 minutes left. 13-13

A defending lineout and box kick clearance landed Bath with a penalty after Leeds were deemed offside. Banahan went for the quick tap and go but was to be brought back by the referee underneath the boos of the Rec crowd. Barkley soon had them cheering however, after he coolly slotted the penalty to take Bath back in the lead. 16-13.

Demonstrating that their own pack could use their weight, a massive scrum from Bath drove Leeds backwards to force a penalty for collapsing the scrum. Barkley stepped up to take the long distanced kick, but he couldn’t get the distance.

It was all too late for Leeds and another scrum gave Bath the base to begin their final attack. Simon Taylor picked up the ball from the back of the scrum and drove onwards as the last few seconds on the clock ticked down. With the entire Bath pack securing the ruck the clock counted down to zero, and as captain Michael Claassens sent the ball into touch, the crowd roared as Bath made it two wins from two in 2011.

15th JANUARY 2011 BATH V AIRONI

Despite a late rally and three second half tries, Biarritz Olympique proved too strong on home ground for Bath Rugby, as they secured a bonus point 26-19 victory that saw them top Pool 4 to qualify for the quarter finals.

On a sunny but cold day, Bath started brightly, stealing a lineout early on to secure possession. A superbly judged clearance kick from Butch James saw the ball trickle towards the try line, with only a Biarritz prop in defence. He kicked the ball back into play, and Bath earned an early penalty. Olly Barkley stepped up for the difficult kick, but the ball rebounded off the outside post.

A period of good attacking play by Bath followed in the 22, with Michael Claassens finding James open, who chipped ahead for Tom Biggs to chase onto, only for the winger to be just beaten to position by the covering Biarritz defence.

Despite the hard work of the visitors it was the home side who got the first points on the board 10 minutes into the game. Dimitri Yachvili charged down a Bath kick in the 22, and sprinted away to score between the posts. He converted his own try, giving the Basque side a 7-0 lead.

Biarritz doubled their lead eight minutes later, as former Bath wing, Iain Balshaw, touched down for the first of his two tries. The ball was passed quickly through the hands of the backline from the back of a scrum, and an offload found Balshaw on the wing. He sprinted away from the chasing Bath defenders and touched down near the posts to give Yachvili an easy conversion, which he duly scored. 14-0

Biarritz broke through to score again about 10 minutes later, only for the ball to have been judged knocked forward and the try was disallowed. Bath were under pressure following a period of scrums within 5m of the tryline and, after a series of scrum infringements, Duncan Bell saw yellow just after the half hour mark. Tom Biggs made way for David Flatman, and the Bath pack turned the next scrum on its head, allowing Barkley to clear the lines.

The first half ended with some strong pressure from Bath, however the visitors were unable to convert pressure into points, and they went into the break 14-0 down.

Just minutes into the second half, Man of the Match Balshaw added more points to Biarrtiz’s tally with his second try of the match. He broke away from the tackle at short range and ran across the pitch to score between the posts. Yachvili again converted, taking the scoreline to 21-0.

Minutes later however, Bath fought back. A good build up saw Bath attacking hard in the danger zone, and Stuart Hooper powered through to break the tackle and score from short range. 21-5.

Bath built up good momentum following their first try, and were steadily making their way up the pitch when the ball found prop, David Wilson, who sprinted up the pitch, bouncing through tackles to gain valuable ground. However , the move broke down as the ball was lost just a phase later.

Biarrtiz weren’t to be easily tamed however, and just after 60 minutes winger Ngwenya snuck over in the corner for the French side’s fourth try, following some good build up play across the pitch. In a rare off-moment with the boot, Yachvili missed the conversion, so the score was only worth five. 26-5.

Replacement Jack Cuthbert managed to prevent Ngwenya adding to his try tally moments later, doing just enough to make sure the winger was in touch before he went over the line.

Going into the last ten minutes of the match, Bath were keeping possession of the ball well, with some tight pick and go’s seeing the move from one end of the pitch to the other. Quick hands kept the ball alive, and Biggs stepped the defence to go over from close in. Replacement Sam Vesty converted. 26-12.

With time up on the clock, and Bath in possession there was time for one last shot at goal. Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe took a quick tap penalty and the ball was crashed up the pitch, allowing Biggs to cross for his second. Vesty again converted, gaining Bath a losing bonus point as the referee blew for the end of the game. Final score 26-19

Bath Rugby put on an eight try spectacle beating Aironi 55-16. There were four tries from Matt Banahan, and two a piece for Luke Watson and Tom Biggs. Olly Barkley added 15 points of his own during a try-fest of Heineken Cup match which kept spectators on the edge of their seats for the whole eighty minutes.
Banahan’s athletic catch from the kick off showed Bath’s intentions early on. The forwards aimed to keep in tight and with Aironi deemed offside from only the second phase of the game, it provided Barkley the opportunity to successfully take the home side ahead by three.

Bath’s early advantage was hastily reduced as Aironi were given a penalty, which fly-half James Marshall duly converted to quickly return the status quo. 3-3

The tempo at which Bath were playing rewarded them with a deserved first try from Tom Biggs. Huge pressure in the scrum forced a penalty, which man of the match and captain Watson took quickly, blasting people on his way towards the try line. Fantastic composure from the forwards, and quick delivery from Michael Claassens, enabled Biggs to scurry past his man and beat him on the outside. Barkley couldn’t add the extras in windy conditions. 8-3.

Bath showed their defensive capabilities after minimising an Aironi attack with a turnover in the ruck and phases later, much to the crowds disapproval, were penalised after Stuart Hooper was deemed offside in an excellent backs piece that let loose full-back Nick Abendanon. Marshall stepped up and closed the gap to two. 8-6.

A second Bath try from the set piece came half way through the first half of the game. A lineout provided the platform for a Shontayne Hape crash ball. With the ruck being set up quickly, Claassens darted and held the defence, which formed a hole for Luke Watson to smash his way through and touch down just right of the posts. Barkley found his aim for the conversion, making the scores 15-6.

Bath showed they can score in close proximity or from their own line with their next try in quick succession. A line out deep in Bath’s 22 let the backs loose with Barkley feeding Banahan, whose inside pass put Abendanon through. With the support of the equally fast Biggs, Abendanon offloaded just as he was tackled, to put Biggs in for his second try. Barkley found the middle from out wide. 22-6.

The moment Bath received the ball from the kick off, another wave of attack hit the visitors. A well secured ruck let the backs do their magic as Hape beautifully offloaded in the tackle to Banahan, who broke away and with some fancy footwork, stepped his man brushing aside the attempted tackle to secure the try bonus point within the first half. Barkley again was on form with his conversion. 29-6.

However, in true Italian spirit, Aironi regained seven points with a forwards orientated try resulting in back row Josh Sole crossing over from close quarters. Marshall once again converted. 29-13

With two minutes left on the clock, Banahan got his second try to accompany Biggs’. A well countered attack from replacement Jack Cuthbert took Bath up the pitch. Phases later, Banahan put himself in a superb position enabling him to break through the Italian side’s defence, and score under the posts, much to the delight of the Rec crowd. Barkley added a simple two points to make the half time score 36-13.

Aironi came out in the second half as if stiff words had been dished out in the changing room. Having parked themselves on Bath’s try line for a good five minutes, the home side showed good defensive abilities turning over the opposition and clearing to touch. However, Aironi came back determined and a play later Bath had conceded three points and gone down to fourteen men with Hape in the bin. 36-16.

Bath’s reply was more fruitful than Aironi’s previous penalty advantage. A well set lineout inside Aironi’s 22, set the base for the Blue, Black and White’s next try. A very flat back-line let Banahan score his hat trick try, by using his size and strength to power his way over the line. Barkley added the extras. 43-16.

As if trading places, as Hape returned from the bin, Aironi went a man short with the sin binning of replacement second row Marco Bortolami.

An excellent personal display of skill came from Banahan for his fourth try. From inside their own 22, the home side spun the ball wide to Banahan who took it on. A chip and chase down field showed the England winger’s pace and power as a footrace began with his opposite number. Collecting the bounce of the ball on the line and with the stretch of his arm, the crowd cheered as Banahan touched down for Bath’s seventh try. Barkley missed from the touch line. 48-16.

It seemed like there couldn’t be any more tries with only three minutes left, but Bath hadn’t finished quite yet. An onslaught of phases took Bath into Aironi’s try area with the ball travelling from one side of the pitch to another, keeping the crowd on the edge of their seat in the final minutes. A messy ruck allowed Watson to tidy up the pieces, as he recovered possession and powered through the middle of the ruck to touch down unopposed. Barkley added his own contribution with the final conversion. Final score 55-16.

22nd JANUARY 2011 BIARRITZ V BATH

Despite a late rally and three second half tries, Biarritz Olympique proved too strong on home ground for Bath Rugby, as they secured a bonus point 26-19 victory that saw them top Pool 4 to qualify for the quarter finals.

On a sunny but cold day, Bath started brightly, stealing a lineout early on to secure possession. A superbly judged clearance kick from Butch James saw the ball trickle towards the try line, with only a Biarritz prop in defence. He kicked the ball back into play, and Bath earned an early penalty. Olly Barkley stepped up for the difficult kick, but the ball rebounded off the outside post.

A period of good attacking play by Bath followed in the 22, with Michael Claassens finding James open, who chipped ahead for Tom Biggs to chase onto, only for the winger to be just beaten to position by the covering Biarritz defence.

Despite the hard work of the visitors it was the home side who got the first points on the board 10 minutes into the game. Dimitri Yachvili charged down a Bath kick in the 22, and sprinted away to score between the posts. He converted his own try, giving the Basque side a 7-0 lead.

Biarritz doubled their lead eight minutes later, as former Bath wing, Iain Balshaw, touched down for the first of his two tries. The ball was passed quickly through the hands of the backline from the back of a scrum, and an offload found Balshaw on the wing. He sprinted away from the chasing Bath defenders and touched down near the posts to give Yachvili an easy conversion, which he duly scored. 14-0

Biarritz broke through to score again about 10 minutes later, only for the ball to have been judged knocked forward and the try was disallowed. Bath were under pressure following a period of scrums within 5m of the tryline and, after a series of scrum infringements, Duncan Bell saw yellow just after the half hour mark. Tom Biggs made way for David Flatman, and the Bath pack turned the next scrum on its head, allowing Barkley to clear the lines.

The first half ended with some strong pressure from Bath, however the visitors were unable to convert pressure into points, and they went into the break 14-0 down.

Just minutes into the second half, Man of the Match Balshaw added more points to Biarrtiz’s tally with his second try of the match. He broke away from the tackle at short range and ran across the pitch to score between the posts. Yachvili again converted, taking the scoreline to 21-0.

Minutes later however, Bath fought back. A good build up saw Bath attacking hard in the danger zone, and Stuart Hooper powered through to break the tackle and score from short range. 21-5.

Bath built up good momentum following their first try, and were steadily making their way up the pitch when the ball found prop, David Wilson, who sprinted up the pitch, bouncing through tackles to gain valuable ground. However , the move broke down as the ball was lost just a phase later.

Biarrtiz weren’t to be easily tamed however, and just after 60 minutes winger Ngwenya snuck over in the corner for the French side’s fourth try, following some good build up play across the pitch. In a rare off-moment with the boot, Yachvili missed the conversion, so the score was only worth five. 26-5.

Replacement Jack Cuthbert managed to prevent Ngwenya adding to his try tally moments later, doing just enough to make sure the winger was in touch before he went over the line.

Going into the last ten minutes of the match, Bath were keeping possession of the ball well, with some tight pick and go’s seeing the move from one end of the pitch to the other. Quick hands kept the ball alive, and Biggs stepped the defence to go over from close in. Replacement Sam Vesty converted. 26-12.

With time up on the clock, and Bath in possession there was time for one last shot at goal. Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe took a quick tap penalty and the ball was crashed up the pitch, allowing Biggs to cross for his second. Vesty again converted, gaining Bath a losing bonus point as the referee blew for the end of the game. Final score 26-19.

29th JANUARY 2011 BATH V NEWCASTLE

Bath Rugby made it four wins from five matches so far in 2011 as an Aaron Jarvis try and two Olly Barkley penalties delivered an 11-6 LV= Cup victory over Newcastle Falcons.

Bath needed to win at a bitterly cold Rec to keep their hopes of reaching the knockout stages alive ahead of Friday’s trip to Welford Road to face Leicester Tigers – and they did just that after fighting back from 6-0 down.

The game was low on genuine try-scoring opportunities as Newcastle’s defence prevented Bath from establishing any kind of attacking rhythm throughout. But the home side managed to get the breakthroughs they needed at key times in order to shade the contest.

Head Coach, Steve Meehan, said: “Winning is a habit and that’s four from five for us in the New Year – and we’re enjoying that. The way we’re trying to play and what we’re trying to achieve is a lot clearer in everybody’s mind – and as a result you tend to take the field confidently and wanting to play.

“There are areas of our game that have to improve but you keep working – but it’s great to be able to work off the back of a win. All in all, we feel as if we’re heading in the right direction and opening up the game in different ways.”

Bath fell behind in the third minute, when, after Nick Abendanon’s attempted clearance had been charged down, team-mate Ben Williams held Tane Tu’ipulotu back as he prepared to break. Jimmy Gopperth nailed the resulting penalty to put his side 3-0 in front.

Barkley was narrowly off-target with a penalty from the right flank, before, on 20 minutes, Gopperth doubled Newcastle’s lead with his second penalty of the afternoon after Bath were penalised for handling at a ruck.

The game was held up for more than five minutes while the injured Josh Ovens received treatment on the field, before Gopperth failed to make it 9-0 as a long-range penalty fell short of the posts.

Ovens’ exit saw Luke Watson enter the fray – and his arrival had an almost instant impact on the team’s attacking outlook. The hosts grabbed the game’s only try shortly after the half-hour mark, kicking a penalty to touch and going close off a couple of phases near the line, before Aaron Jarvis barged his way over with the tightest of margins to spare before being nudged into touch.

Meehan conceded that, in a televised game, the television match official would have been called into action – but the try stood and Bath were firmly back in the contest.

“As he was being taken into touch, he got his right hand out with the ball and put it right in the corner,” said Meehan. “He was aware enough to have a good go at it – and if it was a televised game it would have gone to the television official, for sure. But the assistant referee was there.”

Barkley hit the post with the tight conversion, before Jarvis was forced off with a suspected shoulder injury following a scrum, allowing 20-year-old Academy prospect Kane Palma-Newport to make his senior debut from the bench.

Bath enjoyed the majority of possession after the break but were unable to add another try, even when Newcastle were briefly reduced to 14 men following Euan Murray’s yellow-card for a cynical offside offence.

Barkley missed a third successive shot at the sticks, before finally finding his range on 68 minutes to give Bath the lead for the first time in the match after a ruck infringement from the visitors.

The one genuine moment of attacking class in the whole game arrived in the 74th minute when Abendanon brilliantly sent Jacques Boussuge away down the right, only for the French winger to be stopped just short of the line.

Bath did manage a further score, however, when Newcastle wheeled a scrum, allowing Barkley to slot a second penalty from 25 metres to seal the 11-6 scoreline.

4th FEBRUARY 2011 LEICESTER V BATH

Bath Rugby silenced Welford Road with a try bonus point victory over rivals Leicester Tigers. Final Score 12-26.

Following on from last week’s win over Newcastle Falcons, Bath Rugby travelled to Welford Road to face Leicester Tigers in their last pool game of the LV= Cup. With the Tigers still licking their wounds from the previous week’s loss to Exeter Chiefs, Bath were keen to rub salt into those wounds with an all important away win.

A strong start by Bath demonstrated the side’s intention to take the game directly to Leicester from the moment the whistle blew. Bath were given an early advantage when the Tigers’ hooker Rob Hawkins was sent to the bin for an affray off the ball.

With 20 minutes played the score sheet was still nil-nil. Both teams had shown promising phases of possession but it was Bath who struck first. A line out deep in the Tigers 22 set the base for Bath’s attack and a well won line out by lock Danny Grewcock enabled Bath to drive forwards, followed by some tight pick and drives. Drawing the defence with the close play, the backs span the ball well, and with slick hands fullback Nick Scott crossed over for the try line for his first senior try. Fly Half Sam Vesty converted well. 0-7.

Bath were in action again quickly but a well composed defence forced an away knock on and counter chip and chase down field. Pacy Tigers winger Lucas Amorosino sprinted on to pick up the bounce of the ball and score in the corner. Fly half Jeremy Staunton missed from out wide. 5-7.

However, Bath were determined to cancel out the Tigers try, and again attacked the wide channels of the pitch. More slick hands from the backs made room for winger Tom Biggs to dart over for Bath’s second try. Vesty struck the ball well but strong wind blew it just wide. 5-12

A powerful run from Dan Hipkiss, who will be joining Bath next season, set up the second Tigers try with a powerful run down the wing. Powering down the pitch with some excellent Leicester support, the home side’s quick turnover enabled lock Ed Slater to crash over from close range. Staunton added the extras, tying the scores 12-12.

With just over two minutes left in the first half Scott returned a cleared kick and weaved towards the Leicester try line. Play broke down and the referee, fed up with further foul play by Hawkins, this time a shoulder barge, reached to his pocket and pulled out the red card making the Tigers a man short for the remainder of the game. The first half finished 12-12.

The first 20 minutes of the second half were in similar fashion to that of the first half. Both sides took turns in attacking but neither could properly break through each other’s defence. Mark McMillan did however make an excellent break just to be tackled a couple of metres short of the try line. Regaining his footing his supporting players drove him over the try line but for the referee to feel the ball was held up so calling an attacking five metre scrum.

The power and might of the Bath scrum capitalised on the Tigers’ one man disadvantage and heaved their way over the try line with number 8 Simon Taylor dotting down on the ball for his first Bath try. Vesty coolly converted. 12-19.

Bath were beginning to take hold of the game, with just over ten minutes left. Further dominance from the forwards drove towards the Tigers line once more. The referee’s hand signalled a Bath advantage and with no advantage being gained, the yellow card was pulled out, sending Thomas Waldrom to the sin bin and taking Leicester to 13 men.

However, in typical Leicester fashion, the home side soaked up the pressure and managed to clear their lines, with Bath knocking on at the back of the scrum which provided Tigers with a defending scrum to clear from.

With only four minutes left on the clock Bath could sniff the bonus point. A well set lineout and near 20 metre drive awarded the forwards for their efforts and David Barnes with the try. Vesty added his own contribution to finish the game 12-26.

Overall, it was Bath who were the team on top and who were rewarded for keeping to their structures, whilst Leicester were punished for their ill disciplines. Bath’s winning momentum once more was kept going with a try bonus point win against Leicester who had only lost twice at home all season.

 

11th FEBRUARY 2011 SALE V BATH

Bath Rugby made it three out of three in the Premiership this year with a 7-19 victory over Sale Sharks at Edgeley Park.

Olly Barkley opened the scoring for Bath early on, with a well struck penalty within the first two minutes of the game. Sale had the chance to respond moments later, but fly-half Charlie Hodgson’s normally unfailing boot sent the ball wide of the posts to the shock of the Edgeley Park faithful. 0-3
A forward driven match ensued, with the Bath pack dominating in the scrum for the majority of the match. They also caused many a problem for Sale in the lineout, disrupting and stealing ball time after time.

Half way through the second half, Barkley was given the opportunity to double the lead, after Sale were penalised for holding on. Finding his range well, Barkley sent the ball clean through the posts from about 40 metres out. 0-6

Despite the conditions, both sides were playing strong attacking rugby, with Sale causing Bath to defend for large periods. However, Bath’s kicking game stood the test, clearing the ball out of the danger zone.

With six minutes left of the first half, Bath again extended the lead, scoring the first try of the game. More strong pressure at the scrum secured possession, and when Sale infringed, another scrum was called about 10m from the try line. A huge shove from Bath sent Sale reeling backwards, and Simon Taylor controlled the ball at the base just enough for Nick Abendanon to see a gap, pick the ball up and wiggle through to cross the line, under pressure from the Sale defence. Barkley converted, taking the score to 0-13.

The home side were far from out of the match however, and pressed hard from the re-start. They attacked through the centre, pushing Bath back, and eventually winger Ben Cohen cut a sharp diagonal line from inside to touch down in the corner. The TMO was called for, and after a very lengthy wait, it was ruled that Cohen just managed to touch the ball down before being bundled into touch. Hodgson converted, to bring Sale back to within six points, taking the score to 7-13, where it stayed until half time.

Coming out for the second half, Sale once again had Bath defending for large periods, with Hodgson kicking well to get the Sharks into attacking positions. However, the defence stood strong, and the pressure was relieved time after time.

Barkley’s fine kicking form continued, with another long range penalty being sent cleanly through the posts. The Sharks had possession and opting to kick, found Abendanon deep in the 22. Abendanon ran the ball, carrying well, into the Sale half. The whistle blew for on offside offence, and Barkley stepped up to extend the gap between the two sides to nine points with just 13 minutes left of the game. 7-16

Hodgson had the chance to claw back some points soon after, with a long range penalty shot, but his effort came off the posts, summing up the home sides fortunes for the evening.

The clock ticked on, and in the last minute of the game, a surging 15m drive from the dominant Bath pack took the visitors deep into the Sale half, and as they halted the drive illegally, Barkley stepped up to secure the victory with another well struck penalty with the last kick of the game. Final score 7-19.

19th FEBRUARY 2011 BATH V NORTHAMPTON

Bath Rugby put on a five try thriller in front of a sold out Recreation Ground to go unbeaten in the Premiership this year as they delighted the home crowd with a show stopping win over Northampton Saints. Final Score 38-8.

With Bath having won two of their last three Aviva Premiership games on the road, the home side were looking to show they can do just as well on home turf with a sold out Recreation Ground welcoming Northampton Saints.

As the previous night’s rain clouds were starting to clear and the sun was filling the pitch, the atmosphere was building in anticipation of an epic showdown, with each side having a lot to play for.

An adventurous kick-off enabled winger Matt Banahan to win the kick-off and give Bath the first chance to attack the Saints try line. A spilt ball prevented the home side capitalising on their early possession and let the visitors take their turn.

Showing their dangerous capabilities, the Saints flooded towards the Bath line. Powerhouse saints prop Soane Tonga’uiha powered towards the line and looked as if he had scored but the great defence of hooker Lee Mears saved the home side.

Bath showed early on their intention to use the width of the pitch with a team effort spinning the ball from one side of the pitch to another. With holes opening up in the defence, the Saints crumpled under pressure and were penalised, providing Olly Barkley the opportunity to take Bath ahead. 3-0.

However, moments later the tables had turned and Northampton were presented with a penalty opportunity after Bath were penalised not rolling away in the tackle. Fly-half Stephen Myler’s usual accuracy failed him with a missed penalty attempt.

It was only a matter of time until Bath really capitalised on their dominant possession. With the ball being thrown around by all positions in the team, Ben Skirving powered through a hole breaking up the Saints defence. The quick recycling of scrum half Michael Claassens allowed the backs to shovel the ball quickly along the line to find Matt Banahan to score the first try of the game. Barkley added the extras. 10-0.

Bath demonstrated their defensive cohesiveness when an excellent turnover and counter attack let winger Tom Biggs loose down the wing. A high tackle prevented him from continuing his break with referee Wayne Barnes reaching to his pocket to send Greig Tonks to the bin.

The set piece was working perfectly for Bath as a lineout and back move let Banahan come in from the short, blast his opposing wing out the way and charge towards the line. Matt Carraro received the flick from the back of Banahan’s hand and scored Bath’s second try. Barkley added his own two making the score 17-0 with under five minutes left in the first half.

Northampton recovered three points just after the restart, as Bath gave away a penalty in the contact, enabling Myler to get the Saints’ first points on the board. With ten seconds left on the clock Bath’s discipline let them down again and gave Myler another opportunity, but the ball bounced off the posts.

Half time: 17-3

Bath piled the pressure on the visitors immediately from the second half kick-off, when a superbly performed backs move reached Banahan who chipped and chased, forcing the scrambling Saints defence to take the ball over their line for an attacking Bath scrum. Unable to use the ball as they did in the first half, a solid defence turned over the ball and cleared their line.

With the clearance kick not finding touch, full back Nick Abendanon weaved his way towards the Saints players. Using the ball wisely and drawing in the defence, a fantastic step and switch back pass from Claassens fed Banahan who stormed to the try line to score under the posts with a cheering crowd roaring him on. Barkley again converted. 24-3.

Banahan’s hat trick and the bonus point try showed Bath’s dominance of the game. More fluid hands in the backs as a result of the forwards physicality in the contact, saw Matt Banahan stretch his legs and smash through a flat defence and touch down just shy of the upright. Barkley kept up his 100 % record adding the extras. 31-3.

Northampton were not a side to give up until the final whistle and responded to Bath quickly with a try of their own, with full-back Tonks scoring with twenty minutes left. Winger Bruce Reihana missed the conversion. 31-8.

There wasn’t a single position on the Bath side that hadn’t outplayed their opposite number, with Bath bombarding Northampton with endless waves of attack with still seven minutes remaining. A penalty and kick to the corner showed Bath’s confidence and dominance of the game and despite a scrappy lineout, the Blue, Black and Whites recovered the ball after the Saints knocked on in their counter.

A set piece from the back of the scrum provided the crowd with more to cheer about. Desperate defence prevented a number of Bath players from nearly scoring but Bath patience and composure prevailed. With the defence in tatters, a nifty offload in the tackle to replacement Sam Vesty gave the fifth and final try to seal a game which Bath deserved to win and a result that took them nearer towards the play off positions.

Full Time. 38-8.

26th FEBUARY 2011 EXETER V BATH

In one of the most tense games of the season so far, Bath Rugby ground out a hard fought win over local rivals Exeter Chiefs, with Barkley slotting four penalties to provide all the points. Final score 9-12.

In what was the first West Country derby between the two sides, Exeter’s intensity was fierce from the moment the game kicked off. With the majority of the possession and territory in the opening stages, the Chiefs made numerous line breaks. A cross field kick appeared to have provided the home side with the first try, but Tom Biggs did enough to prevent Exeter touching down. Referee David Rose referred the decision to the TMO, who ruled no try. However, play was brought back to the Chief’s initial penalty advantage, and fly half Gareth Steenson slotted the penalty to give Chiefs the early lead. 3-0.

Five minutes later Bath had the chance to draw level after the Chiefs were penalised for infringing in the scrum. Olly Barkley stepped up and struck well to tie the scores. 3-3.

The penalty count was going against Bath in the first half, and an attacking lineout from a penalty gave the Chiefs an attacking base to set a driving maul from. Withstanding the pressure for a considerable amount of time, the away side’s discipline eventually gave in and they were ruled to have infringed, enabling Steenson to take the home side ahead once more. 6-3.

Bath’s defence in close quarters was solid and forced turnovers, but their resistance landed another penalty against them with lock Danny Grewcock deemed to have entered the ruck illegally. Steenson secured another successful kick, increasing the advantage. 9-3.

Just three minutes were left in the first half when Bath found some cohesion and linked a handful of phases together putting Exeter on the back foot. With the Chiefs not getting back on side, the referee gave the attacking side the penalty, and Barkley converted, closing the gap to three points as the sides went in at half time. 9-6.

Bath began the second half with much more intensity than the first. Having opted for touch from an early penalty, a powerful maul followed by a pick and drive effort from the pack caused Exeter to infringe, and Bath were awarded the penalty. Advantage was played, and centre Ben Williams picked a superb line through the middle, but couldn’t hold on to cross over the line, so play was brought back to the place of the original offence. From a difficult angle, Barkley kept his cool and drew the scores level. 9-9.

Twelve minutes remained and both sides had thrown everything they had at the game, with an array of handling errors and scrappy plays being the result. However, an Exeter play forced Bath offside giving Steenson that golden opportunity to take his side ahead. However, much to the shock of the Sandy Park faithful, he nudged the ball wide, meaning the scores stayed level.

Moments later, Steenson had another opportunity. Sandy Park held it’s collective breathe, but the fly-half again missed, hooking the kick right of the uprights.

Bath were soon on the attack, exerting vast amounts of pressure onto the Chiefs defence. The forwards pushed hard, working their way into the middle of the 22, allowing Barkley to slip into the drop goal position. The Chiefs were quick to react however, and charged down two drop goal efforts from Barkley, causing more tension to bubble up in the stadium. However, still in the middle of the 22, play broke down, and with Chiefs deemed to have infringed, Bath were awarded an all important penalty. Making no mistake from the tee, and sealing his 100% record for the night, Barkley sent the ball through the posts, and took Bath into the lead for the first time in the game. 9-12.

The final kick sealed the win for Bath, only the third side to win at Sandy Park this season, and saw them climb into the Top 4.

5th MARCH 2011 GLOUCESTER V BATH

Bath Rugby suffered their first Premiership defeat of 2011, as they went down at Kingsholm to Gloucester Rugby. Final Score 34-22.
Gloucester were on the attack from the kick-off, driving hard through the midfield. After a small kicking battle, Gloucester won an attacking lineout and they sent the ball through the centres to Henry Trinder, who won a penalty when Bath were judged to be off their feet. Fly-half Nicky Robinson lined the kick up, and sent the ball straight through the middle of the posts to give the home side a 3-0 lead after six minutes.

Bath weren’t letting the Cherry and White’s have it all their own way though, and attacked hard through the middle of the pitch. Butch James managed to find Matt Banahan on the charge, but Banahan couldn’t quite keep hold of the ball, and Gloucester won the resulting scrum.

With Gloucester on the front foot, Bath were defending hard. After James had kicked long to clear the lines, Gloucester full-back, Olly Morgan counter attacked. Whilst a shuddering tackle was put in on Morgan by Tom Biggs, Gloucester managed to hold on to possession and a neat chip from scrum half Rory Lawson found Henry Trinder on the wing, who managed to collect and dot the ball over the line. Robinson converted, taking the score to 10-0 with 20 minutes played.

Just six minutes later, Bath got themselves onto the scoreboard with a try of their own. From an attacking lineout, Michael Claassens fed James who found Ben Williams with a pin point long pass and the centre cut through the Gloucester defence. With Banahan on his shoulder, Williams offloaded and the giant winger powered through to score just left of the posts. Olly Barkley converted, taking the score to 10-7.

Both sides were attacking hard, and an open, end to end game developed. With Gloucester once more on the attack, Robinson grubbered through, and Pieter Dixon and Paul Doran-Jones gave chase. The TMO, who had a busy afternoon, judged that Doran-Jones had just managed to touch the ball down before it went dead, so the try stood. Robinson missed the conversion. 15-7.

Bath were still in the game however, and with just two minutes left in the half, Gloucester were penalised, giving Barkley the chance to get three more points on the scoreboard. He succeeded, and Bath went in 15-10 down at half time.

From the start of the second half, the visitors pressed hard. Quick hands found Biggs on the wing, who shrugged off the Gloucester tacklers and broke free to touch down in the corner, drawing the scores level. Barkley could not find his angle from out wide. 15-15.

Having levelled the scores, it wasn’t long before Bath were having to defend again. Robinson had two quick penalties in succession, seeing one bounce of the post, and succeeding with the other, meaning the home side were back in front. He added another not long after, extending the lead to 21-15.

They moved further ahead moments later, as Luke Narraway broke off the back of a scrum to allow Rory Lawson to make a break through the middle of the field. He quickly recycled the ball to the waiting Tom Voyce, who went over in the corner. 26-15.

Bath were quick to respond, and after a strong scrum, managed to attack deep into the Gloucester 22. However, the move ended with a knock on, and an awkward collision saw Barkley stretchered off with a suspected fractured leg.

Another penalty for Robinson followed, and with six minutes left the scoreboard read 29-15. Bath refused to give up however, and Simon Taylor broke from the back of a scrum, found Luke Watson, who offloaded to Ben Williams who cut through the centre of the Gloucester defence and go over the line just left of the posts. James converted, and Bath were back within a score. 29-22

However, Gloucester attacked from the re-start, and quick hands through the backs found Voyce on the wing who snuck over in the corner for his second try of the afternoon. The TMO was called into action again, as it looked like the wing’s foot was in touch as he touched the ball down, however the try was ruled good. Replacement Freddie Burns missed the final conversion, but the try took the score, and the game, away from Bath’s reach.

Final-score 34-22.

26TH MARCH 2011 BATH V LEICESTER

Bath Rugby fell to their biggest home defeat of the season as Leicester Tigers romped to a 6-37 victory at the Rec.

Bath started brightly, pinning Leicester into their own half in the opening minutes. After a passage of good build up play lock, Stuart Hooper, seemed to have given the home side an early advantage, powering through the Leicester defence to touch down. Referee Dave Pearson referred the decision to the TMO, which showed the Hooper had lost control of the ball.

The home side continued to play well, attacking hard through the centres, with Duncan Bell joining in the attacks from the wing. The reigning champions tackled strongly though, with both Manu and Alesana Tuilagi putting in some crunching tackles on Bath fullback Nick Abendanon, as he tried to pick gaps in their defence.

With their first foray into the Bath half, Leicester opened the scoring, as, following a Bath infringement at the scrum, Toby Flood secured three points with a successful penalty after 12 minutes of play.

Bath continued to attack, with another fantastic break from Abendanon putting Bell clear through for a dash down the touchline. The stretched defence managed to bundle him into touch but, from the resulting line out, attack soon became defence, as Leicester secured the turnover, and Anthony Allen powered through the centre of the Bath defence to touch down behind the posts. Flood secured the easy conversion, and the visitors were 0-15 up, with just 15 minutes gone.

Not to be deterred, Bath hit back once more, pushing deep into the 22. Ben Skirving charged for the line and, as Leicester rushed up in defence, Ed Slater was judged to have killed the ball, and received a yellow card for his troubles. Butch James stepped up and slotted the easy penalty. 3-10.

Bath seemed to have the run of play, as they had large amounts of possession throughout the first half, but they were just unable to find a way over the try line. The same could not be said for the visitors, who touched down for their second try after 25 minutes, as Ben Youngs burst away from the Bath defence, and, finding Tom Croft on his outside, set the England flanker up for an easy stroll over the line. Flood again converted, stretching the lead to 3-17.

Another wave of Bath attack was quickly nulled by the visiting defence, and Youngs was once again instrumental in extending the lead. Seeing Flood in space on the wing, he drew the defence, popped a pass to the fly-half, who had an easy stroll over the line. Flood was unable to secure the conversion of his own try, so as the two teams went in at half time, the scoreboard read 3-22.

Coming out from the break, Bath once again looked to find a way through the Tigers’ line. Flowing passes across the line saw them quickly gain territory and attack the 22. Just under ten minutes into the second half, Tigers were judged to have illegally stopped a promising Bath move, and, opting for the kick at goal, James sealed the penalty. 6-22.

They were to be Bath’s last points of the game, as Leicester stood strong to any attempts from the home side to further their score.

Youngs and Flood combined once again for Flood’s second try, who popped over the line from short range after strong build up from the Leicester forwards. Whilst he missed the conversion, a penalty soon followed, and the fly-half extended the Tigers lead to 6-30, with 25 minutes left. This was extended further, as Croft fell on a loose ball and sprinted through unchallenged. Flood made no mistake with the conversion. 6-37.

The game had been very physical from the first whistle, and tempers flared deep into the second half. Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe and Horacio Agulla were both shown yellow for their part in what was an all-in show of handbags, and both sides found themselves a man down.

Whilst battling hard, neither side made any further break through, and the game finished 6-37.

 

3rd APRIL 2011 SARACENS V BATH

Bath Rugby fell to a 20-9 defeat to Saracens at Vicarage Road this afternoon, as a try from David Strettle and 15 points from full-back Alex Goode saw the home side to victory.

Bath started the game strongly, attacking the Saracens gain line with purpose. After a handful of phases fly half Butch James put a neat grubber kick through, allowing fullback Nick Abendanon to pressurise the defender and force an attacking five metre scrum. With the scrum breaking down, referee Nigel Owens issued Bath a penalty, but James couldn’t find his angle.

Ten minutes had passed and the tables turned, as Bath conceded a penalty for collapsing the scrum. Saracens fullback Alex Goode stepped up and provided the first points of the game taking the home side 3-0 up.

Saracens were soon on the attack again and some staunch defence from Bath prevented outside centre Chris Wyles from touching down, with the TMO deciding the ball was held up. However, Saracens persistence prevailed as Bath’s defence was seen to be offside, providing Goode with another chance at an easy three points, which he duly converted. 6-0.

Five minutes remained in the half and Bath surged forwards just inside Saracen’s half. Michael Claassens attempted to provide the backs with quick ball but to be obstructed by an opposing defender. A penalty signalled, James went for the sticks and struck the ball beautifully, reducing the deficit by three points.

The clock had ticked away and although time was up in the half, Saracens kept the ball in play and were plugging away at the Bath defensive line. Retaining the ball for a considerable number of phases, Saracens’ patience prevailed and England winger David Strettle broke into the line at pace, weaving his way through the defenders to touch down. Goode missed the conversion, making the half time score 11-3.

Fifteen minutes had passed in the second half with no score, both teams trying to break each other’s solid defence. Saracens again attacked hard and tried to fight their way towards the try line, but Bath’s tight defence reacted well until they were penalised for entering the ruck from the side. Goode succeeded with the straight forward penalty, increasing the lead to 14-3.

Almost immediately Bath hit back, as Saracens were deemed to have offended just left of the uprights. James was again on target and slotted the kick reducing the deficit to eight points. 14-6.

Moments later, Saracens were back on the counter after a quickly taken lineout. Quick hands and good vision from young fly half Owen Farrell broke through the defence and offloaded to his outside man only for an excellent covering tackle to be made by Shontayne Hape. Despite that, Bath conceded another penalty for not entering the ruck from the back foot. Goode was on target again providing another three points. 17-6.

An exchange of penalties looked to be developing as James soon after replied with a long range effort, but for Goode to stretch the lead again moments later, which proved to be the last points of the game. Final-score 20-9.

 

9th APRIL 2011 BATH V EXETER

It was a tale of two halves as Bath Rugby turned up the heat in the second half to edge out Exeter Chiefs, 26-18.

As the sun beamed down on the Recreation Ground, the stage was set for Bath’s second encounter with West Country rivals, Exeter Chiefs. With the play-off spots becoming ever so close, today’s match signified a massive fixture in keeping Bath’s play-off ambitions alive.

Despite immediate pressure from the home side, with Michael Claassens charging down a box kick from the opposing scrum-half, Exeter were first to have an opportunity at early points. A 40 metre kick faced fly half Gareth Steenson, and he hooked the ball just left of the posts. However, moments later, he made up for the miss with a successful close range effort, taking the Chiefs ahead 0-3.

The Chiefs were also the first to cross the try line when five minutes later a spilt ball in Bath possession allowed the away side to counter. Some good vision from full-back Luke Arscott spotted a gap, and chipped and chased, beating Matt Banahan in the foot race to cross in the far left corner. Steenson missed the conversion. 0-8.

Bath began to find some cohesion in their play with just over 20 minutes gone and initiated an onslaught of phases on the Exeter try line. Spinning the ball from one side of the pitch to the other, the Blue, Black and Whites began attacking all areas of the Chiefs defence, with every player being tested. The Chiefs, unable to deal with the pressure, gave away a penalty for handling in the ruck allowing Butch James to line up the simple penalty kick to make the scores 3-8.

With just under five minutes remaining in the half, Bath again went on the attack. Exeter were deemed to have hands in the ruck, providing James with another chance to close the deficit, which he successfully converted. 6-8.

Bath turned over some crucial Chiefs possession in their own 22, finding Banahan on the wing. Blasting through the initial tackle, he kicked onwards with Nick Abendanon joining him in the chase. Abendanon pounced on the ball a metre shy of the try line but he was bundled into touch.

With huge pressure on the Chiefs defending line out, Bath forced a turnover allowing a final attack as the half was drawing to a close. Showing patience, the home side maintained possession and kept the phases going finally being rewarded for their possession. James drew his defender to pop the ball inside to Banahan to cross for a well needed try. James followed up with the conversion. 13-8.

Half Time score 13-8.

Bath showed their strength in their first phase attack scoring immediately off an attacking lineout on the half way line. The backs shipped the ball slickly through the hands, finding Banahan running on at pace. Drawing his defender, the towering England winger offloaded out the back of his hand to unleash Matt Carraro down the wing who touched down in the far right corner. 18-8.

Bath now began to really turn up the heat on the visitors, playing the majority of the first ten minutes of the second half in Exeter’s half. A defending Chief’s scrum experienced the might of the Bath pack and in turn gave away a penalty. James increased the advantage with another successful penalty. 21-8.

Shortly after Steenson reduced the deficit with a long range effort after Abendanon was penalised for not releasing the tackled player. 21-11.Both teams took turns in attacking their opposition resulting in a number of breakdowns. As referee Martin Fox’s patience ran out, Exeter felt the sting of the yellow card as James Scaysbrook was sent to the sin bin. A man up, Bath sensed a try and powered over the line from an attacking line out, only for the ball to have been held up.

An attacking five metre scrum set the base for another attack. After numerous collapsed scrums, prop Hoani Tui saw yellow as well for Exeter. Two men down, Bath re-set the scrum, but the referee this time blew up in favour of the defending side, awarding them the penalty.

Bath’s third try came from some individual pace and brilliance from young prop Nathan Catt. Receiving the offload from Josh Ovens in his own 22, Catt broke away, running a near 40 metres to then draw his opposing defenders and pop the ball to a flying Claassens who ran in the score. 26-11.

Just two minutes remained on the clock and Exeter fought back, earning themselves a try. Matt Jess received the ball flat and flopped over to get Exeter’s second try. Replacement fly half Ignacio Mieres added the conversion, but it was too late for the visitors to stage any more of a comeback, and the home side secured the win and the vital four points.

Final Score 26-18.

 

16th APRIL 2011 BATH V HARLEQUINS

A Michael Claassens try and twelve points from Butch James earned Bath a vital home victory holding on to beat Harlequins in their penultimate home fixture. Final Score 19-15.

The first ten minutes of the game saw Harlequins with the greater possession, forcing Bath to defend early on. The home side showed a cohesive defence turning over Quins and responding well in attack.

A superb flat ball from Nick Abendanon found open side flanker Guy Mercer who blasted through the gain line. Isolated with just the fullback in front of him, Mercer showed some fancy football skills attempting a chip and chase but was unfortunate to knock it on in his recovery of the ball.

Bath were back attacking moments later. In his 100th appearance for Bath, lock Peter Short drew the defence well and popped the ball off to Shontayne Hape on the burst. Hape weaved towards the line and offloaded inside to number 8 Ben Skirving who, tackled just short of the try line, passed skilfully off the floor to captain Claassens who went on to score the first try of the game. Fly Half Butch James converted. 7-0.

Despite Bath’s early score, Quins showed how dangerous they can be when attacking, however strong defence from the home side prevented a try but Quins gained three points when Bath were deemed offside; fly half Nick Evans converted. Once again, Evans clawed back another three points minutes later, when Bath infringed offside. 7-6.

James missed an early chance at goal but made amends with just over ten minutes remaining in the first half. A high tackle on David Wilson provided the opportunity and James made sure the points didn’t go amiss. 9-6.

Bath’s discipline enabled Quins to stay in the game with more infringements allowing Evans to take his chances at goal. Having missed one just right of the posts, another chance in front of the posts proved successful and took the visitors just one point behind Bath.

Half Time 10-9.

Bath earned themselves the first points of the second half with an aggressive start, attacking directly at the Quins defence and they working their way nearer towards the try line. A forward battle commenced at the scrum and was all too much for the visitors, as they were penalised for collapsing the scrum. James stepped up and struck well sending the ball through the middle of the sticks. 13-9.

The half time whistle had seen a reversal in trend as Harlequins seemed to be giving away penalties early on with a high tackle on Mercer. Finding some consistency, James again converted successfully. 16.9.

Bath did however infringe shortly after with the front row were penalised for improper binding in the scrum. Evans converted. 16-12.

Quins found some structure with sixty minutes played and went surging through the Bath defensive line. Great covering tackles prevented a try but Bath suffered three points after the loss of Sam Vesty to the sin bin and Evans took the three points. 16-15.

Shortly after the restart, James replied to the previous penalty with another great penalty of his own. 19-15.

Just over five minutes remained in the game and both sides took their chances at attacking their opposition, and with Bath only four points ahead Quins still could not cross the Bath try line.

Time was up on the clock and Quins threw everything at Bath knowing only a try would clinch the win; piling numbers towards the Bath line, a battle at the break down began.

Phase after phase and Bath were still holding on, forever closer Quins got to the line. Bath’s staunch defence prevailed with Quins knocking the ball on metres short of the try line. The referee’s whistle blew and the game was over with Bath getting that all important win.

Full time 19-15

 

23rd APRIL 2011 BATH V WASPS (TWICKENHAM)

Bath Rugby put in a spectacular six try display at Twickenham Stadium to spoil London Wasps’ St George’s Day party for the second year in a row. Final Score 10-43.

Bath couldn’t have asked for a better start to this monumental St George’s day game, breaking the line in the first five minutes with centre Matt Carraro blasting through the Wasps defence. Patiently maintaining possession early on, fullback Nick Abendanon slipped through the defence and once tackled, cleverly popped the ball off the floor to a speedy Tom Biggs who sprinted in for the first try. Fly-half Sam Vesty converted. 0-7.

The opening quarter at Twickenham saw an increasingly dominant Bath side looking the more dangerous of the two sides with the vast majority of play in Wasps goal area.

With 18 minutes played Bath were again near another score, with Carraro charging at the Wasps defence. Held up less than a metre short of the try line, Bath were awarded a penalty for Wasps killing the ruck. Vesty stepped up and slotted an easy but deserved three points. 0-10.

Bath’s intensity was matching the extremely hot weather with a staunch defence minimising any Wasps possession.

The yellow and blacks couldn’t hold onto the ball and a knock on saw scrum half and captain Michael Claassens show good vision, swinging a long pass to Matt Banahan. The towering winger turned on the pace, drew the last defender and released Biggs, who ran in for his second try. Vesty was on form again adding the extras. 0-17.

Wasps countered Bath’s earlier penalty goal when the visitors defence, again preventing any line breaks, were penalised for offside. Fly-half Dave Walder was successful in his penalty attempt, making the score 3-17.

An immediate reply was issued by Bath when Tom Varndell was forced to clear his line under pressure providing Bath with an attacking line out. A strong set piece fed Claassens who jinked through the defence drawing Richard Haughton, to give Banahan the inside pass who ran in the final fifteen metres for his 30th Premiership try. Vesty found the middle once more. 3-24.

On the stroke of half time, Biggs got his hat trick try and Bath’s all important bonus point fourth. Wasps, turned over by Bath’s solid defence, found themselves lacking in numbers out wide. Many hands contributed to the try – Claassens found Mears who took it forwards, offloading to Taylor with Vesty next in line finally shipping the ball onto Biggs. Standing up his oppositional winger, Biggs ran in the remaining 20 metres, driving his way over the final few yards with two Wasps defenders on his back. 3-29.

The second half saw a much more cohesive Wasps side than the first half but still they could not break down the staunch defence. However, Bath had stepped up another gear and were on the attack. Vesty showed great footwork, breaking through the defence and then chipped on over the last defender for Banahan to pounce on and score. Vesty’s conversion was successful. 3-36.

A second’s lapse in the away side’s concentration enabled Wasps to claw back a try. An ever alert Joe Simpson cut through the defence and sprinted to the try line, and converted his own try. 10-36.

Five minutes were left and Bath were not finished in entertaining their loyal supporters. Attacking purposefully, Vesty span wide to replacement flanker Guy Mercer whose attacking flare drew the defence. Offloading to Biggs, the rapid winger tip-toed down the touch line and chipped onwards for Banahan to pick up and score his second try of the day. Vesty converted. 10-43.

With the whistle blown, the game was over and the Bath side rejoiced in the roar of the crowd as once more, Bath had put on a spectacular performance securing a well needed win.

30TH APRIL 2011 BATH V NEWCASTLE

Bath Rugby finished the season on a high, after beating Newcastle Falcons five tries to two – final score 42-12.

With the game heralding the last appearance for Butch James, Luke Watson and Danny Grewcock, the Rec was full of excitement pre-match, and a cracking atmosphere had built up by kick-off.

Bath started the game aggressively, but both teams took turns to trade phases of attack. However, it was Bath who were first to get the points on the board courtesy of a long range penalty goal from James.

With the home side knowing the bonus point was vital to keep their play-off hopes alive, they set about hunting down the try line with steely determination. With the ball coming off the line out, the backs hit the gain line at speed, and the ball was recycled from the contact. Bath found numbers out wide, and fullback Sam Vesty strolled over the line after being left open. James added the conversion. 10-0.

Bath were gaining considerable momentum as the half played on. Breaking the Newcastle defence numerous times it seemed inevitable the home side were to score again soon. Taking play right up to the Falcons try line, Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe was rewarded his first ever Bath try with an excellent short line off Michael Claassens for Bath’s second try. 15-0.

Tries were coming thick and fast as Bath made it one step closer to a potential winning bonus point. Once again in Newcastle’s goal area, the backs demonstrated a loop move involving James and centre Matt Banahan, releasing flying winger Tom Biggs. Blasting in to a wall of players, the ball was presented quickly, allowing Matt Carraro to sneak through the middle and score. James was on target once more with the conversion. 22-0.

The fourth try came on the stroke of half time, as Banahan blasted through the defence to increase the score to 29-0. With the Blue, Black and Whites showing patience in the possession of the ball, it was fired out from a ruck ten metres shy of the line to James. Offloading inside to Banahan, the towering centre ran on to cross over just left of the posts. James found the target to take the score to 29-0 at half time.

Despite Bath’s dominance in the first half, it was the visitors who scored first in the second half. An individual show of brilliance from young winger Alex Tait saw him beat his opposing defender with a neat chip and chase, touching down on the ball left of the posts. 29-5.

Bath responded quickly with a period of sustained period of attack and with Newcastle crumpling under the intensity, they gave away a penalty. Bath opted for the three points and James converted.

Newcastle, fighting for their Premiership lives, came surging back at Bath. Making good use of their limited time in Bath’s goal area, a superb cross field kick found Luke Fielden who scored in the corner. Jeremy Manning added the conversion. 32-12.

But James was on hand once again to increase the lead, with just under 15 minutes left in the game. Bath were busy attacking in the midfield with Nick Abendanon sprinting through the middle. Having been tackled just past the half way line, Bath looked to play the ball quickly but were awarded a penalty for the tackler not releasing. James struck the ball well, sending the ball though the middle of the sticks. 35-12.

The last try of the game was also the first try for the Club for replacement winger Jacques Boussuge, who scored with just under five minutes remaining. Breaking out towards the left touch line, a neat offload to the French flyer enabled him to sprint down the touch line and after beating his last defender, he ran in, elated with the support of the crowd behind him. Vesty converted, and despite a last minute charge to attempt a try for the retiring Danny Grewcock, it was the last score of the game.

 

 

 

 

This page was added on 12/11/2019.

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *