2011-2012

by BRIAN.JENKINS

SEASON 2011-2012

3rd SEPTEMBER 2011 NEWCASTLE V BATH

Bath Rugby secured a solid 9-22 win at Kingston Park in the first round of the 2011/12 Aviva Premiership Rugby season, putting them top of the table.

The visitors quickly found their stride, building momentum and working their way up field and into the Falcons territory.

Just under 10 minutes into the game, and Bath got the breakthrough they had patiently worked towards. A lineout about 30 metres out was secured and tapped down to Michael Claassens. Claassens spun the ball out to Vesty, who made an electric break through the middle of the pitch deep into the 22. Vesty found Matt Carraro on his shoulder, and the Australian paced away to cross over the line between the posts. Vesty added the extras, giving Bath an early 0-7 lead.

Newcastle soon got some points of their own however, through the reliable boot of fly-half Jimmy Gopperth. Bath were judged to have pulled down in the lineout, giving Gopperth the opportunity to step up and send the ball cleanly through the middle of the posts. 3-7, 13 minutes.

Bath were keeping their heads though, and, keeping good possession, again started making their way up field. Claassens played provider again as he scooped the ball up and passed it back to Vesty, who, sat deep in the pocket, lined up a long drop-goal, which sailed through the posts, giving Bath another three points to their lead. 3-10, 16 minutes.

The home side were obviously keen to keep chipping away at the score though, and worked hard to get themselves into a position to score from. Their patience paid off, and they were awarded another penalty on the 20 minute mark, which Gopperth slotted from just wide of the posts.

Both sides worked hard to maintain possession, but with a wet ball it wasn’t easy, and there were handling errors on both sides, with play staying in the majority in the middle of the pitch. It was late in the second half before either side troubled the score board again, with Vesty then Gopperth slotting penalties. Gopperth had the chance for a couple more, but the ambitious kicks proved to be just a touch out of his range, with both falling short of the posts. Half-time score – 9-13.

Bath came out raring to go, and made the brighter start in the second half. Within minutes they had been awarded a penalty, which Vesty duly scored, maintaining his near 100% record for the game.

A good forward drive and scrum from the Bath pack lead to the next penalty being awarded on the 57 minute mark, and Vesty increased the visitors lead to 10 points with another secure kick. He struck again moments later, after some solid play had seen Bath work their way into the Falcons half. 9-22

The home side were proving tricky to breakthrough though, and not content with letting the visitors have it all their own way, set about working hard to force their way into the Bath half. An advantage played by referee Martin Fox saw the Falcons deep into the 22, and it looked like they were away in the corner, but for a fantastic try-saving tackle from replacement Jack Cuthbert.

With the Bath defence quickly snuffing out any budding Falcons attack, there was no change to the score for the remaining few minutes, and it was just left to Vesty, who had scored 17 of Bath’s 22 points, to send the ball deep into the crowd and seal the win. Final Score 9-22

 

10th SEPTEMBER 2011 BATH V SARACENS

Bath Rugby lost out to a last minute Owen Farrell penalty as Saracens edged an away victory in a tight, see-saw game. Final Score 26-28.

Bath took the first steps in the right direction after a well-placed high ball from full-back Nick Abendanon put his opposite number, Alex Goode, under pressure. With Goode tackled well by Bath flanker Carl Fearns, Saracens overcommitted in the ruck resulting in them being penalised for infringing. Fly-half Sam Vesty stepped up and slotted the three points to give the home side an early advantage.

Within minutes of the restart, Saracens demonstrated their ability to throw the ball around as Schalk Brits jinked through the defence and offloaded to James Short, releasing the winger down the touchline. A try looked guaranteed but the superb covering tackle from Bath scrum-half Michael Claassens stopped Short in his tracks. The visitors attack did bear fruit with Bath giving away a penalty, also in the ruck, with Farrell securing the points. 3-3.

The first try of the match followed shortly after for the visitors as a sustained period of attack drew in the Bath defence, and Short snuck through a gap to touch down just left of the posts. Farrell converted. 3-10.

Bath came right back with a determined attitude and a solid set piece enabled Abendanon to grab the first try for the home side just moments later. Quick ball off the top of the lineout on the halfway line found Vesty who delicately chipped the ball over Saracens’ flat defensive line. Abendanon was on the charge and as the ball sat up nicely for him, he gathered and ran in unopposed to score. Vesty added the extras. 10-10.

Saracens grabbed another three points on the board after, much to the crowd’s dismay, referee Greg Garner awarded last season’s Aviva Premiership winners a penalty after Bath were punished for their efforts in the scrum. Farrell found his mark. 10-13.

A great piece of play occurred at the close of the half when Bath centre Dan Hipkiss took the ball on and made good ground, followed by Claassens who added few more metres from the back of the ruck. Flanker Ben Skirving assumed the scrum-half role and, sensing no-one was at home, broke through the defence to charge down the pitch with one defender to beat. Hot in pursuit was Fearns who, screaming for the ball, received the well timed offload from Skirving to run in and score his first Premiership try in Bath colours. Blood replacement fly-half, Paul Roberts, added the extra two points making the half time score 17-13.

Saracens clawed back to within a point of Bath with five minutes played of the second half, after the referee’s whistle blew once again at scrum time, awarding the visitors a relatively easy penalty. Farrell stepped up and added another three. In almost the identical position to the previous one, Saracens received another penalty, this time for Bath having hands in the ruck. Farrell added three more points to take the visitors back in front. 17-19.

The boot of Farrell was beginning to hurt Bath as again the young fly-half was given the chance to extend his sides lead when Bath got on the wrong end of the referees whistle on the half way line. A low long range effort skimmed over the cross bar to make the scores 17-22.

Some well combined forward play found Bath trundling up the pitch with some good go forward momentum. With play in Bath’s favour, Saracens crumbled under the pressure and gave away another penalty. A vital kick to keep Bath in the game, Vesty struck the ball beautifully, sending it flying though the posts. 20-22.

An attacking lineout deep in Saracens 22 saw Bath attack hard at their try line with replacement prop Duncan Bell powering at the defence. With Bath desiring the quick ball, Saracens killed the momentum resulting in Andy Saull seeing the yellow card. Bath capitalised and Vesty added another three points putting Bath in front by one point. 23-22.

Ten minutes later Bath were in control of a maul deep in their own 22 when Ryan Caldwell was penalised. Farrell stepped up and slotted another easy three. 23-25.

Six minutes remained on the clock and the restart saw Tom Biggs sprint through to follow the kick, but to be seemingly tripped. With the referee seeking the touch judges advice, the penalty was awarded against Saracens replacement Mako Vunipola. Vesty once more stepped up at the most crucial of times and put the ball through the posts to take Bath ahead as the game reached its closing minutes. 26-25.

Seconds remained on the clock and Bath had possession, waiting out the seconds by keeping it close in the forwards. However, inside Saracens half, the ball was lost forwards and the trailing side attacked hard and wide with numbers in their favour. A great covering tackle from Abendanon on Brad Barritt halted them in their tracks with Bath flooding the ruck. The whistle blew – penalty to Saracens, Bath off their feet in the ruck. The weight all lay on Farrell’s shoulders and the ball was struck and looked to be drifting wide, but sadly for Bath, it hit the upright and bounced in and over the posts clinching the victory for Saracens with time up and the game over. Final score 26-28

17th SEPTEMBER 2011 BATH V EXETER

Bath quashed the disappointment of last week’s loss with a strong performance against local rivals, Exeter Chiefs. Tries from Dan Hipkiss and Nathan Catt and 13 points from Sam Vesty. Final score 23-19.

A confident start from Bath saw them awarded an early penalty. A well taken catch from a clearing box kick set the Blue, Black and Whites up with an attacking base just outside Exeter’s 22. Scrum half Mark McMillan was snagged by an offside Exeter hand in the ruck, providing fellow half back partner, Sam Vesty with a successful penalty goal. 3-0.

The Chief’s fly half, Ignacio Mieres’ error provided the source ofBath’s second penalty. A sliced clearance kick was well collected by centre Dan Hipkiss, followed by theBathpack pick and going five metres from the Chiefs try line. Another offside infringement from the Chiefs didn’t provide Bath with any considerable advantage, resulting in referee David Rose reverting to the original penalty. Vesty stepped up and struck his second successful penalty. 6-0.

However, moments after the restart, Bath got on the wrong side of the referee’s whistle and this enabled Meares to put Exeter’s first points on the board with a long distance penalty. 6-3.

Ten minutes remained in the first half and although a lot of rugby had been played by both sides, neither team had managed to effectively break through the opposition’s defensive line. Despite this,Bath gained themselves another penalty after a sustained period of attack was slowed down, once more, by a wayward Exeterbody on the wrong side of the ruck. Vesty kept his clean sheet and added another three points for the home side. 9-3.

Bath’s six point lead was hastily reduced again after committing another penalty in the contact. A tricky kick faced Mieres from out on the full on the left side of the pitch, however a superb strike brought the Chiefs back to within three points with two minutes left in this first half. Vesty was unable to add a further three points with another penalty on the stroke of half time, so the score remained 9-6 at the break

Bath had the dream start to the second half with a try within through some individual brilliance from Hipkiss. A well taken up and under by Vesty provided the base with which the forwards drove towards the Chiefs gain line, sucking in the nearby defenders. Quick service from the back of the ruck fed Hipkiss, who stepped and shimmied through the defence using a powerful hand off to break through the initial tackle. Another huge hand off and impressive turn of speed saw the 2007 World Cup England centre sprint to the line leaving his trailing defenders behind him, scoring his debut try in Bath colours. Vesty added the extras. 16-6.

Exeter responded well to the earlier concession, with a handful of phases putting pressure on the Bath defence. With the referee signalling hands in the ruck, Meares stepped up and clawed back another three points making the scores 16-9 with just over ten minutes played.

Two minutes later, Bath rang a quartet of changes with Nathan Catt, Kane Palma-Newport and Michael Claassens replacing David Flatman, Duncan Bell and Mark McMillan respectively.

Tempers flared in the forwards minutes later after the Chiefs were awarded another penalty after the Bath scrum collapsed, with Mieres slotting another three points. 16-12.

Bath turned up the heat with an excellent string of phases. Showing patience and composure theBath boys threw the ball from one touch line to another with Matt Carraro and Hipkiss linking up well. As they neared the Chiefs try line the forwards kept it tight, and with an almighty drive Nathan Catt grounded the ball. Initially unsure of the grounding, referee Rose turned to the advice of the TMO, who after watching the replay, deemed Catt’s effort a try. Vesty was on song once more and slotted the conversion. 23-12.

Despite Bath’s dominance in the second half, Exeter finished on a high gaining a losing bonus point. A period of sustained pressure found the Chiefs onBath’s try line. A penalty against Bath found them defending a scrum on their five metre line and after two collapses, the referees’ patience was up and Exeter were awarded a penalty try. Meares converted making the final score Bath Rugby 23 Exeter Chiefs 19.

24th SEPTEMBER 2011 GLOUCESTERV BATH

Bath Rugby recorded their first away loss of the season as they went down 23-6 at Kingsholm to fierce rivals Gloucester Rugby.

The opening quarter saw Bath maintain the majority of the possession and territory, as they slowly built the pressure on the home side. It was only through some strong last ditch defending from Gloucester forcing handling errors in the red zone that meant the visitors were unable to breach the try line in the first half.

As it was, it was the boot of fly-half Sam Vesty that enabled Bath to convert the pressure into points, with two successive penalties. The first came after a superb break from Nick Abendanon saw Bath camped on the Gloucester try line. The home side infringed, and Vesty took advantage, securing Bath’s first three points.

The second penalty came moments later, and whilst Vesty needed a little help from the crossbar to ensure the ball went through the posts, he had doubled Bath’s lead and the visitors looked to be in control.

Smarting from last week’s loss to Quins, Gloucester were never going to be an easy encounter, and they proved their strength, moments later as a huge driving maul saw them deep into the Bath 22. Securing a penalty, Tim Taylor dutifully stepped up and sent the ball through the posts to give the home side their first points of the game, with just under 10 minutes left of the first half. 3-6.

Gloucester seemed to gather momentum from the penalty, and minutes later they were securing line-out ball and setting up another huge drive within sight of the try line.  The maul drove over the line, and Darren Dawidiuk was awarded the try. Taylor converted, increasing the lead to 10-6 as the two sides went in at half-time.

Gloucester continued the second half much as they had finished the first, with Taylor stepping up to send another penalty kick through the posts, increasing the home sides lead. He added three more with about 20 minutes left of the game, after the referee had played advantage to the home side.

Bath were by no means down and out of the game, and came fighting back with a good series of phases. Having been awarded the penalty, Vesty stepped up for the long range kick, but it drifted just wide. Later attempts from Jack Cuthbert and debutant Tom Heathcote also failed to find the target, so despite Bath fighting hard there was no change in the score line for the visitors.

A turnover ball in the last minute of the game gave Gloucester their second try, as Charlie Sharples chipped through, beat replacement Nick Scott in the footrace and gathered the ball to run through unopposed. Burns converted with the final kick of the game, and the home side had secured the victory. Final score 23-6.

24th SEPTEMBER 2011 GLOUCESTERV BATH

Bath Rugby recorded their first away loss of the season as they went down 23-6 at Kingsholm to fierce rivals Gloucester Rugby.

The opening quarter saw Bath maintain the majority of the possession and territory, as they slowly built the pressure on the home side. It was only through some strong last ditch defending from Gloucester forcing handling errors in the red zone that meant the visitors were unable to breach the try line in the first half.

As it was, it was the boot of fly-half Sam Vesty that enabled Bath to convert the pressure into points, with two successive penalties. The first came after a superb break from Nick Abendanon saw Bath camped on the Gloucester tryline. The home side infringed, and Vesty took advantage, securing Bath’s first three points.

The second penalty came moments later, and whilst Vesty needed a little help from the crossbar to ensure the ball went through the posts, he had doubled Bath’s lead and the visitors looked to be in control.

Smarting from last week’s loss to Quins, Gloucester were never going to be an easy encounter, and they proved their strength, moments later as a huge driving maul saw them deep into the Bath 22. Securing a penalty, Tim Taylor dutifully stepped up and sent the ball through the posts to give the home side their first points of the game, with just under 10 minutes left of the first half. 3-6.

Gloucester seemed to gather momentum from the penalty, and minutes later they were securing line-out ball and setting up another huge drive within sight of the tryline.  The maul drove over the line, and Darren Dawidiuk was awarded the try. Taylor converted, increasing the lead to 10-6 as the two sides went in at half-time.

Gloucester continued the second half much as they had finished the first, with Taylor stepping up to send another penalty kick through the posts, increasing the home sides lead. He added three more with about 20 minutes left of the game, after the referee had played advantage to the home side.

Bath were by no means down and out of the game, and came fighting back with a good series of phases. Having been awarded the penalty, Vesty stepped up for the long range kick, but it drifted just wide. Later attempts from Jack Cuthbert and debutant Tom Heathcote also failed to find the target, so despite Bath fighting hard there was no change in the score line for the visitors.

A turnover ball in the last minute of the game gave Gloucester their second try, as Charlie Sharples chipped through, beat replacement Nick Scott in the footrace and gathered the ball to run through unopposed. Burns converted with the final kick of the game, and the home side had secured the victory. Final score 23-6.

1st OCTOBER 2011 BATH V LEICESTER

In an incredibly close encounter, Bath emerged victorious after tries from Dave Attwood and Matt Carraro and eight points apiece from Sam Vesty and Tom Heathcote – final score Bath Rugby 26 Leicester Tigers 25.

With the blazing sun beaming down over the Recreation Ground, Bath Rugby welcomed old rivals Leicester Tigers in an eagerly awaited fixture. Bath asserted their physicality in the opening minutes of the game forcing Leicester to concede two early penalties; the first fly-half Vesty struck just wide of the posts but the second found it’s target and Bath had the early lead. 3-0.

Unfortunately for Vesty he was also involved with the next score, a Leicester try. A well taken lineout found Vesty, who looking to find a runner fed the ball to his opposite number, Jeremy Staunton, who intercepted to score under the posts and then converted his own try. 3-7.

The home side’s deficit was reduced to one point after another solid Bath scrum forced the Tigers to collapse under the pressure, and Vesty provided the three points. 6-7.

A near instant turn around of fortunes followed as Bath were penalised from the kick-off for not releasing, allowing Staunton to return his sides advantage to four. 6-10.

A period of sustained attack from the visitors seemed to be being dealt with well by the Bath players, however, a moment of over excitement at the contact led to Bath being penalised for entering the ruck in the side and Staunton slotted three more points. 6-13.

Another Leicester attack led to another penalty soon after, with Staunton taking the Tigers tally to 16, compared to Bath’s six.

On the stroke of half time, Bath fought back and secured their first try of this fiercely contested rivalry. A James Grindal clearance found a waiting Tom Biggs, who sensed the gap, turned on the gas and blitzed through the Tigers defence. Whilst he found himself tackled by a scrambled defence, he did make the breakthrough into the Tigers’ 22. Maintaining their composure and structure, Bath carried out a barrage of attack, recycling the ball well and each time, inching closer to the Leicester line. Finally, a Michael Claassens pass found lock Dave Attwood who found a hole in the defence and crashed over the line from close quarters to score his first try in Bath colours. Vesty converted making the half time score Bath 13 Leicester 16.

Five minutes had passed in the second half and a well placed up and under put winger Matt Carraro under pressure, knocking the ball onwards. Despite Bath clearing up the spillage, the referee awarded Leicester another penalty for Bath playing the ball from an offside position. Staunton struck another three points. 13-19.

Ten minutes later, Bath once more were on the wrong end of the referee’s whistle allowing Staunton to add three more points to his 100% record. 13-22.

Bath responded well though, and attacked hard and with purpose on the Leicester goal area. Another Biggs break opened up the away side’s defence initiating the beginning of the try. The Bath forwards went through the phases, sucking in the defence, and through fast hands the ball found prop Kane Palma-Newport who drove onwards and slickly offloaded out of the tackle to put Carraro over in the far corner. Replacement fly-half, Tom Heathcote struck a superb conversion to take Bath just two points behind the Tigers. 20-22.

With just over ten minutes left of the game, Leicester knocked the ball on and Nick Abendanon counter attacked, weaving his way through the defenders and linking up well with his outside man Carraro. Playing the quick ball, a wayward Tigers player was deemed offside, providing Bath with a chance to take three points and go ahead. Heathcote stepped up and coolly struck the ball sending it through the middle of the posts. 23-22.

Bath’s efforts were almost in vain however, as moments later Leicester were awarded a penalty at the scrum. Staunton was on song again and took his side ahead with five left on the clock.

The Bath crowd couldn’t have been more on edge as the home side came back at Leicester with everything they could muster and began another onslaught on the Tigers line. Phase after phase, the Blue, Black and Whites plugged away at the defence, and eventually a Leicester body was found offside, providing Heathcote with the most important kick off the game. Another great strike sent the ball through the posts and put Bath back in the lead, again.

There was just a minute left and a scrum down became the source of the last penalty of the game. In favour of Leicester, Simon Taylor had ball in hand and after the complaints of the Leicester players, the referee deemed Taylor to be slowing the ball down and marched Bath back ten metres, taking the penalty to within 45 metres of the posts. Staunton stepped up and having had a 100% record all game, the Bath crowd were quiet with worry. Staunton’s leg swung, and as the ball began to rise so did the Bath supporters as the kick went sailing wide and the game was over. Bath had beaten the Leicester Tigers, 26-25.

9th OCTOBER 2011 WASPS V BATH

 Bath Rugby secured a losing bonus point at Adams Park this afternoon, with tries from Kane Palma-Newport and Guy Mercer, and kicking points from Tom Heathcote keeping in touch with the home side. Final score 27-24.

Bath took an early lead through a penalty from Heathcote, which was quickly cancelled out by one from Nick Robinson for the home side. Robinson doubled the lead a short while later, and whilst Bath maintained both pressure and possession in the Wasps half throughout the opening quarter, it was Wasps who scored the first try. A neat chip through from fullback Hugo Southwell just escaped Michal Claassens who was looking to gather, and Christian Wade pounced, sneaking through down the line to touch down. Robinson added the extras, taking the Wasps lead to 13-3.

Bath hit back quickly though, and were soon making their way over the try line through prop Palma-Newport. A surging clean break from Michael Claassens saw the visitors clear into the Wasps 22, and the forwards drove the ball ever closer to the try line. Palma-Newport was at the back of a ruck as first receiver, and powered his way over the try line to touch down. Heathcote converted, bringing Bath back to within three points with just over 20 minutes gone.

Tom Biggs broke through again moments later, offloading to Heathcote who looked like he was going to cross for Bath’s second, only to be held up on the line. The resulting scrum saw the ball spun out to Ben Williams, who crashed over the line and touched down, only for referee Andrew Small to judge he had knocked on and disallow the valid try.

Heathcote drew the sides level on the 30 minute mark with a penalty when Wasps were deemed offside, but it was the home side who next crossed the try line, with Tom Varndell pouncing from a Robinson offload. It was the final score of the half, and so as the teams ran in, Bath were adrift by five points, 13-18.

The start of the second half started in much the same way as the first, with Heathcote securing his fourth successive kick of the game, to bring Bath back to within two points of the home side. Robinson once more cancelled it out with a successful kick of his own, and the two fly-halves traded two more penalties before Robinson’s kick on the 62nd minute edged Wasps eight points ahead.

Bath refused to give up the fight though, and kept attacking Wasps, and a sustained period of pressure in the final quarter led to the visitors earning the last score of the game. The forwards built up the pressure, edging closer towards the try line, and a rumbling driving maul got to within five metres, before Guy Mercer broke off the back to dart over the line. Heathcote missed the conversion, but the losing bonus was secured. Final score 27-24.

15th OCTOBER 2011 NEWORT V BATH

Bath Rugby scored seven tries in their opening fixture of the LV= Cup at Rodney Parade, to secure a bonus point 16-46 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons.

Bath scored their first within just two minutes of the start, with debutant Olly Woodburn the scorer. The visitors had patiently worked their way up the field from the collected kick-off, and a final break from the returning Matt Banahan, on his 100th appearance for the Club, gave Woodburn the pass for his first try in Bath colours, as the Academy winger touched down in the corner. 0-5.

Dragons fly-half, Matthew Jones was quick to take advantage when Bath were penalised however, and from 48 metres out, struck a huge kick to get the home side on the scoreboard. 3-5.

Bath maintained control of the game however, and minutes later, Banahan was strolling under the posts for a try of his own. A successful lineout saw the ball driven up the pitch hard and fast by the forwards, with the ball being spun out wide to fly-half, Tom Heathcote, who slipped a pass inside to Banahan who ran in the try. Heathcote added the conversion, extending Bath’s lead to 3-12.

As before however, the Welsh side were fighting hard, and after another penalty from Jones, they took the lead for the first, and only, time in the match, as South African winger Tonderai Chavhanga made something out of nothing. From 45 metres out, the pace-man, after leaping over a pile of bodies, sprinted clear of the chasing defence, and touched down for the Dragons’ only try of the game. Jones added the extras, taking the score to 13-12 after 16 minutes of play.

The lead was short lived however, as Bath once more seized possession. From the restart, the ball was quickly worked forward, and as the ball was worked through the phases, it found Jack Cuthbert on the outside who surged forward, before offloading to Tom Biggs, who shot past the Dragons defence and slid over in the corner. 13-17.

Bath maintained the pressure on the home side, not letting them out of their own half for the majority of the first half. An exchange of penalties between the two fly-halves in the last ten minutes were the only other two scores of the first half, and as the two teams went in the break Bath were holding onto a four point lead, 16-20.

Bath started the second half with the same speed, purpose and determination as they had the first. Matt Carraro burst through the middle and over the line to claim the bonus point try, following great breaks from Mark Lilley and Woodburn. Heathcote added the extras, seeing Bath take an 11 point advantage. 16-27.

Bath continued to play a tight, well-organised game, keeping the pressure constantly on the home side. Will Spencer was next to get on the score sheet, adding a try to a strong debut performance from the Academy lock. Heathcote was once more on target with the boot. 16-34.

A yellow card for Dragons lock, Robert Sidoli, was shown shortly after Spencer’s try, on 49 minutes, and the visitors took advantage of the extra man. They patiently worked through the phases, building the pressure once more on the Dragons, eventually making the advantage count as Heathcote picked out Cuthbert in space on the wing who ran in and touched down unopposed. The fly-half added the conversion, extending Bath’s lead once more. 16-41.

Bath’s seventh and final try came courtesy of yet another debutant, Anthony Perenise. The Samoan prop had only been on the pitch a matter of moments, adding yet more power to a scrum that had been impressive all game, before he powered over from short range to add the final points with just over ten minutes left.

A spirited fight from the Dragons came, but the Bath defence stood firm, and the home side were unable to penetrate, and when the ball was kicked out for the last time, Bath had inflicted the Dragons’ equal worst ever home defeat on them. Final score 16-46.

22nd OCTOBER 2011 BATH V WORCESTER

 

Bath Rugby scored seven tries for the second week running in a bonus point win over Worcester Warriors at the Recreation Ground.

29th OCTOBER 2011 LONDON IRISH V BATH

Bath Rugby secured a 12-13 win over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium this afternoon, with Sam Vesty and Dave Attwood scoring the tries, and Vesty the vital winning penalty.

The first half saw a bit of a see-saw start to the game, with each team seemingly taking turns to enjoy large periods of pressure and territory, before switching over. Bath made the brighter of the starts, attacking solidly for the majority of the first 20 minutes. However, the Irish defence held firm, even when the forwards were camped on the try line, picking and going, just inches from being over.

Then it was Irish’s turn to attack, and although they had a couple of chances, the Bath defence stood strong, cutting down the onslaught with big hit after big hit.

A missed penalty from Vesty was the only real chance for either side in the opening quarter, and it wasn’t until just over 30 minutes into the game that there was some real spark.

A loose lineout from Irish was snaffled up by flanker Guy Mercer, who released the ball, allowing it to be steadily worked through the phases before it was released out on to the wing, and into the hands of the flying Tom Biggs. His run was cut short however, as Delon Armitage tackled the winger from behind, his arm swinging around Biggs’ neck. Whilst Biggs was able to get up and carry on, the high tackle earned Armitage a yellow card. Vesty sent the resulting penalty into the corner, and Bath secured the lineout. A driving maul formed, with the forwards powering to within five metres of the try line. The ball was spun out wide, eventually finding Vesty, who darted through the gap in the Irish defence, to cross the line and give Bath the lead until the half-time whilst blew. Half time score 0-5.

Irish came bursting out of the blocks at the start of the second half, with Tom Homer scoring two quick penalties, and giving the hosts the lead. 6-5.

It wasn’t long before Bath were once more on the front foot though, controlling the play of the game, although unable to break down the Irish defence.

A break from ex-Bath centre Shontayne Hape nearly proved fruitful for the home side, but a vital turnover from Mercer secured possession once more for the visitors, and another wave of Bath attack came at Irish. Michael Claassens chipped through, allowing more Bath numbers to get up to the five metre line with him, and the ball was shipped out wide to Man of the Match Dave Attwood, who pulled off quite some acrobatics to keep himself in play as he touched down the ball. Referee David Rose wasn’t sure if the score was good, so he referred it to the TMO, who, after a lengthy wait, awarded the try. Vesty couldn’t quite find the angle for the touchline conversion. 6-10.

With just over 10 minutes left of the game, Bath were penalised at the scrum, and Homer stepped up to take another penalty from an almost identical position to the first two. Once more, he sent the ball sailing through the posts, clawing back a vital three points for the home side. 9-10.

Irish were next to score just five minutes later, as Vesty was penalised for being offside, and Homer stepped up to slot the penalty again, giving the home side the lead going into the final few minutes of the game. 12-10.

As the dying moments of the game ticked away, Bath attacked once more, and Hape was pinged for hands in at the ruck, almost dead in front of the posts. Vesty stepped up and coolly slotted the goal, edging Bath in front 12-13. It proved to be the deciding act of the game, as Irish spilt the ball in their final attack, and Vesty sent it sailing into the stands.

Final Score 12-13.

5th NOVEMBER 2011 BATH V HARLEQUINS

Despite a try from Dave Attwood and eight points from the boot of Sam Vesty, Bath couldn’t beat table toppers Harlequins at a sold out Recreation Ground. Final Score Bath Rugby 13 Harlequins 26

Bath began the game on the front foot attacking the Harlequins defence directly and with purpose. Two penalty chances emerged within the first five minutes and Vesty coming close on both occasions but sadly couldn’t find his mark. However, Quins fly-half Nick Evans had his own chance to grab the first points and he did, giving the visitors the early lead 0-3.

A counter attacking up and under kick from scrum-half Michael Claassens put Quins captain Chris Robshaw under immediate pressure from the chasing young academy winger, Olly Woodburn, who smashed Robshaw and rucked superbly turning over the ball. Quick recycling saw Bath ship the ball slickly through the hands and it looked as if winger Tom Biggs had scored the first try but for referee Dean Richards to say it was the held up. Bath scrummed down powerfully, setting a great platform to play from. Despite the spilt ball out the back of the scrum, close forward play edged inches nearer to the line, drawing in the defence. Claassens found a waiting Attwood who crashed over from short range to score the deserved Bath try. Vesty converted. 7-3.

Harlequins responded immediately though, and a well taken line-out deep in Bath’s 22, rewarded the Quins as they drove over the line after a handful of pick and drives, with Robshaw touching down. Evans added the extras. 7-10.

Quins added another three points shortly after the restart when Bath were initially penalised for offside at the breakdown and penalised a further ten metres after not retreating. Evans was again on song taking Harlequins ahead by six points at half time. 7-13.

As the game resumed with the start of the second half, a penalty a piece quickly allowed both teams to add another three points to their scoresheet. Ten minutes had passed and after play broke down, following some ‘fisty-cuffs’, the referee sought the advice of the touch judges and awarded a penalty to Quins in which Evans added another three points to his tally. 10-19.

Bath showed great attacking sense with just over ten minutes remaining and made their way to within a metre of the Quins try line. They were awarded the penalty after Quins were found guilty of not rolling away and Vesty put the ball through the posts. 13-19.

Bath’s hopes of a late comeback were shattered with just over five minutes remaining, as Mike Brown broke away from the back of an attacking Quins ruck and sneaked through a gap at the fringes, stepped the last defender and scored just right of the posts. Evans converted. 13-26.

Final score – Bath Rugby 13 Harlequins 26.

13th NOVEMBER 2011 GLASGOW V BATH

Despite six kicks out of six from Academy fly-half Tom Heathcote, and a late penalty from debutant Stephen Donald, a devastating last minute try from Richie Gray meant Bath Rugby were only able to gain a losing bonus point from their opening Heineken Cup game against Glasgow Warriors. Final score 26-21.

Bath started well, and were ahead after just a minute and a half, when Heathcote was given the first of his penalty opportunities. Glasgow were found guilty of not releasing, and the fly-half calmly sent the ball through the posts. 0-3.

Glasgow equalised moments later, but Bath were on the front foot for the majority of the opening quarter. First Dan Hipkiss and then Francois Louw broke free of the Glasgow defence, and the ball was recycled quickly out wide, but the move came to nothing as Olly Woodburn was bundled into touch on the right wing. The pressure continued, as wave upon wave of Bath attack came up against solid defending from the home side. The pressure paid off though, with another successful penalty from Heathcote as the clock approached 20 minutes, this time after Glasgow were guilty of collapsing the scrum. 3-6.

The scrambled defence continued for Glasgow, as the visitors were unrelenting in their attempts to cross the try line. However, it was the home side who took an unexpected lead into half time, after two quick successive penalties from fly-half Duncan Weir equalised and then over took Bath’s efforts. Half time 9-6.

Glasgow attempted to pick up in the second half where they had finished the first, but Weir’s attempt at goal was shy of the centre. Heathcote however made no mistake with his next attempt – his second storming 50 metre kick of the game, which he sent sailing through the centre of the posts to level the scores. He struck again on 55 minutes to regain the lead for Bath, this time from the far touchline. It would be the first of six lead changes as the two teams battled out the later stages of the match.

Glasgow scored their first try of the match to take the lead on 60 minutes, with full-back Stuart Hogg slipping through a gap in the defence from 15 metres out to touch down. Weir converted, taking the lead to 16-12. Heathcote clawed back three points minutes later, after Glasgow were again penalised for not releasing, and then took the lead once more after another penalty at the scrum proved fruitful for the visitors, 16-18. It was Heathcote’s last contribution to the game though, as he was soon after replaced by Donald, making his debut in Bath colours.

Glasgow enjoyed their own spell of pressure from the kick-off, and the home side turned it into points when Weir was once more successful with the boot after Bath were judged to have used their hands in a ruck. 19-18.

With just 90 seconds left of the game, the home side were penalised for once more infringing at the scrum, and up stepped Donald to try and regain the lead once more for the visitors. His kick was as straight and true as Heathcote’s had been before him, and he looked to have sealed the victory for Bath. However, Glasgow regained possession from the restart and steadily worked their way up field, with Weir settling himself into the drop-goal pocket. Whilst he got the kick away, it took a wicked deflection off a Bath hand, and the ball bounced awkwardly for full-back Nick Abendanon, who was unable to gather it to safety. The awaiting Gray pounced, and Weir had the final say with the conversion. Final score 26-21.

20th NOVEMBER 2011 BATH V MONTPELLIER

Tries from Olly Woodburn and David Flatman, as well as six points from the boot of Stephen Donald secured a vital victory in front of a packed Recreation Ground. Final Score Bath Rugby 16 Montpellier 13.

Bath started well getting out the blocks fast and using the width of the pitch well, with Olly Woodburn running a great angle early on and breaking the gain line. The Bath pressure told on the visitors as the French outfit folded under the relentless Bath attack, giving away a penalty and allowing home debutant Stephen Donald to slot his first penalty at the Rec. 3-0.

The Blue, Black and Whites were soon again on the attack as Montpellier threw a defending line out in their own 22. A spilt ball landed in the hands of scrum half Michael Claassens, who whipped the ball quickly to Donald. Using his footwork to hold the defence, the World Cup winning fly-half showed his experience and vision by throwing a beautiful lofted pass wide and over the heads of the flat defence to Woodburn, who sprinted down the wing to score unopposed. Donald struck the conversion superbly, but the ball hit the upright. 8-0.

The home side were dominating the first 20 minutes of this contest and Man of the Match Donald was in the thick of it. Montpellier were stringing  together their first set of phases as they entered the Bath 22, but the pass of French World cup finalist, Francois Trinh-Duc, was intercepted by Donald who turned on the gas and sprinted the remaining 80 metres towards the try line. Montpellier put together a scrambled defence, and Donald was tackled metres short of the line, however, the Bath support was there in numbers. Despite Trinh-Duc slowing the ball down illegally providing Bath with the advantage, Claassens quickly recycled and span the ball left with the final receiver being prop David Flatman, who with the roar of the crowd, scored his first ever Bath try after 147 appearances. As well as Bath breaching the try line, Montpellier felt the sting of referee Alain Rolland as Trinh-Duc was sent to the bin following his professional foul in slowing down the ball.

Montpellier recovered slightly after Bath’s brace of tries with a long range penalty effort from Martin Bustos Moyano, supplying the first points for Montpellier. 13-3.

As half time arrived, Bath were clearly the side in control and two missed Montpellier penalty opportunities kept the half time score 13-3.

Bath were again on the board first in the second half as the packs physicality at the breakdown earned a penalty just inside the visitors half. Donald stepped up and hit the ball perfectly sending it over the posts. 16-3.

Montpellier, who last week drew against last year’s Heineken Cup winners, Leinster, came back with a determined attack. With Bath a man down as hooker Ross Batty lay injured, the French Top 14 side attacked with width and two quick offloads allowed Moyano to cross over the line, despite the calls of the crowd for a forward pass. The wing added the conversion, taking the score to 16-10.

The French seemed to have found some cohesion and were now maintaining their possession and using it to great effect. Another promising attack became fruitful as Bath were penalised and no advantage came. Trinh-Duc showed his international calibre and slotted a wide penalty kick to claw his sides deficit back to within three points. 16-13.

The forward battle had been immense and Bath freshened up their front row with Anthony Perenise and Charlie Beech replacing David Wilson and Flatman respectively.

Bath’s revitalised front row, also now with Mark Lilley who replaced the injured Batty, gathered some go-forth momentum and were applying the pressure once again through the phases as they entered the Montpellier 22. A neat Sam Vesty grubber put their winger under pressure, taking the ball into touch. A missed line out opportunity seemed to have wasted Bath’s earlier possession but the home side regrouped well and attacked once again. However, Montpelier’s defence was solid and for the moment, prevented Bath capitalising on their possession.

Bath made further changes as the game was in its latter stages with Guy Mercer and Mark McMillan came on for Lewis Moody and Claassens, as well as a notable return to first team action for Olly Barkley, who came on for Vesty with just over five minutes remaining.

The last five minutes was extremely tense as Montpellier piled on the pressure and sought the draw. Bath’s defence was tested to the limit as Montpellier threw everything they had at the home try line, however, the patience and discipline of Bath prevailed and a knock on provided the opportunity to end the game. As the seconds ticked down, Bath held strong and Donald sealed the victory by sending the ball flying into the stands. Final Score 16-13.

25th NOVEMBER 2011 WORCESTER V BATH

Despite a second half fightback and a try from Charlie Beech and conversion from Olly Barkley, Bath Rugby were unable to overcome the Worcester Warriors at Sixways, and they fell to a 16-7 defeat.

Bath were defending from early on in the game, as Worcester came out of the changing rooms all guns blazing, and they took the lead on the 10 minute mark with a penalty from fly-half Joe Carlisle.

The visitors slowly started working their way back into the game, and a bullocking run from Beech was the first real penetration Bath had into the Worcester 22. Whilst the move fizzled out, Bath had the advantage, and play was brought back for the penalty. Stephen Donald stepped up but couldn’t quite find the angle with his kick.

Chances were limited for the visitors as Worcester dominated possession, but they continued to try to find a way through the stern home defence. Another meaningful attack ended with play being taken back for a Bath penalty, but again, Donald couldn’t find his mark with the boot, and the score remained 3-0 to the home side after nearly half an hour of play.

The home side attacked with verve and looked threatening on the ball throughout the first half, and the last play of the first half saw them finally break through the Bath defence, as Miles Benjamin surged through and over the try line. Carlisle  converted, giving the home side a 10-0 advantage at the break.

Bath came out for the second half determined to take control of the game, but were met with a resistant Warriors side, who were able to halt any significant attack.There was just 10 minutes left of the game before either side troubled the scoreboard again, with Bath finally finding a way through the Warriors.

After a lengthy injury delay as lock Dave Attwood, who had been injured in the previous attacking drive, was treated, Bath had an attacking lineout 20 metres from the try line. Replacement hooker, Will Tanner, found his man, and the forwards drove the Warriors backwards, and broke off to power over the line. After a long consultation with the TMO, the try was awarded to Beech, his first in Bath colours. Olly Barkley converted, securing the extras. 13-7.

The fightback looked to be on for Bath, as they tried to wrestle control from the home side. However, with 6 minutes remaining, the Warriors had worked their way into the Bath 22, and looked to try and pick a gap through the defence. The strong line prevented the Warriors from breaching the try line, but it wasn’t enough to stop Andy Goode from dropping a goal that took the losing bonus point from within Bath’s grasps. Final Score Worcester Warriors 16 Bath Rugby 7.

3rd DECEMBER 2011 BATH V SALE

Bath Rugby were unable to get back to winning ways after they lost out to a defiant Sale Sharks. Despite a try from Michael Claassens and six points from Olly Barkley, it wasn’t enough to overcome a dogged Sale side. Final Score Bath Rugby 13 Sale Sharks 16.

Bath began the game at a ferocious pace putting the defending Sale under immediate pressure. A sliced clearing kick provided the home side with an early platform to attack from with which they began their onslaught on the Sale try line. The possession of the ball changed a handful of times following turn overs in the contact and Sale took their turn in attacking as they made their way into the Bath half. Despite a busy five minutes both teams failed to manage to capitalise on their possession.

However, another well answered clearance kick by Nick Abendanon initiated the next promising attack from Bath. As the slick hands enabled the ball to make its way that bit closer to the Sharks try line, the pressure got the better of the guests and they conceded the penalty by coming offside at the breakdown. Barkley, making his first start since breaking his leg last March, slotted a fantastic penalty and subsequently reached an impressive milestone of over 2000 points for Bath. 3-0.

The opening quarter seemed to show Bath displaying a dominance over their opposition, but just lacking the points to show for it. Despite this, Bath’s constant bombarding on the Sharks defensive line eventually bared fruit. The quick distribution among the Bath hands, with Barkley managing traffic superiorly, unleashed the outside backs and they tore down the touch line. Great supporting play from the likes of flanker Guy Mercer secured the ruck and the momentum seemed to have been lost as a flailing foot in the ruck chipped the ball into open play. But Sale’s over exuberant defence blitzed up and as scrum-half Claassens scurried to collect the ball, the defence left a gaping hole and Claassens didn’t need a second invite, bursting through to score just right of the posts. Barkley added the conversion. 10-0.

As the half time whistle blew, Bath had taken a ten point lead and would have gone in at half time frustrated having not scored more points having had the vast majority of possession. However, ten points to nil at the half way mark signified a clear lead and a solid defence for the home side.

A not so positive start to the second half for Bath resulted in a brace of penalties to Sale, allowing fly-half Nick Macleod to take his chances at goal, luckily only one of which he succeeded in. Sale seemed to be building confidence in the second half and an apparent role reversal saw the away side start to control the game. Huge prop Tony Buckley snipped through at the fringes and bundled down the centre of the pitch and towards the Bath line. Quick recycling by the Welsh international, Dwayne Peel, fed the Sharks backs the fluid ball they needed and as the ball reached the touch line in possession of England winger, Mark Cueto, he smashed through to cross over for a Sale try. Macleod struck a wide kick well to level the scores. 10-10.Bath rang a handful of changes as the game entered the last quarter with new loan signing Chris Biller, Charlie Beech, and Anthony Perenise coming on for Will Tanner, David Flatman and David Wilson respectively. Fresh legs in the pack brought a new lease of life to the Bath side and they began to work their way once again into the Sale half. Once again, Barkley was pulling the strings in the backs, lofting a beautiful pass to the winger Olly Woodburn who made considerable ground. The Bath pace was causing problems for the Sale defensive line again and another offside infringement provided Barkley with a key opportunity to take Bath ahead. From around 35 metres out, a great strike sailed through the posts to take Bath ahead by an important three points. 13-10

However, two successive penalties against Bath cancelled their advantage and witnessed Sale going ahead for the first time all game with two successive penalties as the game entered the final ten minutes. 13-16.

Bath, desperate to make amends for last weekend’s disappointing loss to Worcester Warriors, mounted a dedicated assault to cross the line. An attacking lineout set base needed for the Bath attack and a break though the middle from fly half Tom Heathcote looked to be promising, only for the young fly-half to be halted by Cueto, resulting in referee JP Doyle reverting to a previous penalty advantage awarded to Bath. After a worrying period in which the Bath medical team treated Heathcote after the hit from Cueto, the game resumed and Bath, looking for the win, opted for the lineout instead of the penalty to draw the game.

Bath were throwing everything they had at the Sale try line, following a well taken catch and drive line out. After umpteen phases of play, the Sale defence had stood strong and despite what seemed like a try from Charlie Beech crossing over from close quarters, Sale managed to regain possession of the ball following a knock on, and as the last ten seconds ticked away, they held there until the time was up and the whistle had blown.

17 DECEMBER 2011 LEINSTER V BATH

Although the second half saw tries from Stephen Donald, Dave Attwood and Ben Williams, Bath Rugby were undone by a powerful Leinster side at the Aviva Stadium, as the visitors went down 52-27 in Round 4 of the Heineken Cup.

Olly Barkley provided Bath’s other points with three conversions and two penalties, but Leinster had control of the game throughout, scoring tries through Rob Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald (two), Jonny Sexton, Eoin Reddan, Rhys Ruddock and Ian Madigan, with Sexton adding six conversions and a drop goal, and Isa Nacewa the final conversion.

Leinster opened the scoring with a try in the 4th minute. Jonny Sexton had attempted a penalty, only to see the ball rebound off the post. It fell into the hands of Jamie Heaslip, and from there the first assault on the Bath try line began, with Rob Kearney eventually powering over from short range. Sexton added the extras, giving the home side a 7-0 lead.

A penalty at the scrum gave Bath their first chance for points, and Olly Barkley stepped up and made sure the kick was successful. Sexton extended the lead though moments later with an audacious drop goal attempt from 40 metres out. 10-3.

Barkley clawed back another three points to take Bath to within four points, and whilst the champions had the run of play, the normally resilient Bath defence stood firm for the next ten minutes, until a yellow card for Leinster’s captain Leo Cullen seemed to spur the province on to up their performance another level.

Cullen had been off the pitch for just a minute when Fitzgerald went over for the first of his brace, as Devlin Toner stole the ball deep down the field and barged his way into space. He offloaded to the supporting Rob Kearney, who broke free of the chasing defence, and put Fitzgerald in to cross. Sexton converted, extending the lead to 17-6.

The fly-half turned try scorer for Leinster’s third, as they set up a neat overlap out wide for Sexton to go over in the corner. He converted his own try, and the scores remained the same until half-time. 24-6.

Whilst Bath would have come out for the second half desperate to find some way to get themselves back into the game, Leinster had other ideas, and scored their fourth try within moments of the re-start. They broke from deep, working the ball into the hands of Fitzgerald who sprinted away to cross for his second. Sexton was once more accurate with the boot, taking the score to 31-6.

Leinster were converting every opportunity they had into points, and although Bath were making headway into the opposition half, they were unable to find a way through the staunch Irish defence.

It went from bad to worse for Bath on 49 minutes, as Sam Vesty was yellow carded for attempting to kill a ruck, and Leinster took advantage, scrum-half Eoin Reddan taking a quick tap penalty and diving over from short range. Man of the Match Sexton converted. 38-6.

Hooker Chris Biller joined Vesty in the sin bin six minutes later, and it took just two minutes for Leinster to work the gap once more and for replacement Rhys Ruddock to canter over the line from short range. Sexton added the extra two. 45-6.

With under 20 minutes left of the game, Bath were still striving to get some points on the board, and were finally able to find some gaps in the Leinster defence.

Nick Abendanon weaved his way through, and the move resulted in the ball being spun quickly through the hands. Fly-half Donald powered through the Leinster tacklers to touch down for Bath’s first try of the game. Barkley completed the try with a tricky conversion from out wide.

Albeit too late to alter the outcome of the game, Bath didn’t give up, and with just under ten minutes remaining, some strong phase play worked Attwood into space and the towering lock went in under the posts unopposed to score. Barkley was again accurate with the boot to turn the five points into seven. 45-20.

The final three minutes saw both teams score once more, with replacement Ian Madigan crossing and Isa Nacewa adding another seven for Leinster, before Ben Williams took advantage of some loose defending to cross over for Bath’s third try with the last play of the game and Barkley secured the conversion.

Final score 52 – 27.

24th DECEMBER 2011 NORTHAMPTON V BATH

 

Bath Rugby were defeated 22-13 at Franklin’s Gardens after three first half tries from Northampton Saints proved too big a gap to close for the visitors.

Bath started the first half brightly, putting early pressure on the home side. It paid off on 13 minutes, with a penalty being awarded to Bath, and Olly Barkley stepping up to secure the three points and an early lead.

However, Northampton soon came back at the visitors, and in their first real foray into the Bath half, came away with a try. From the lineout, Saints kept hold of the ball, worked through phase after phase, and eventually stretched the Bath defence too far as Phil Dowson snuck over in the corner. Ryan Lamb just pushed the conversion wide, 5-3.

Their second came soon after, as Ryan Lamb chipped through and over the defence, and centre George Pisi gathered. Tom Wood was on hand to collect the scoring pass from Pisi, and the flanker went in under the posts, giving Lamb a simple conversion. 12-3.

After Nick Abendanon had seen yellow for killing the ball and Lamb had secured the subsequent penalty, Saints took advantage of the extra man. Lamb once more chipped ahead, and this time the kick was gathered by James Downey. Lee Dickson slung a loose pass out on to the wing, and Jamie Elliot juggled and just held on to the ball to touch down for the Saints’ third try. Lamb once more added the extras, and the score remained the same up to half time – 22-3.

The second half started in much the same way as the first – Barkley landed a penalty after Saints were judged to have made a high tackle, but the home side were soon piling on the pressure again. This time though, Bath’s defence stood firm, even when fly-half Stephen Donald was sent to the sin-bin after being found to have held Wood on the line illegally.

More determined defence from Bath kept the home side out, and even though it looked as if Elliot had crossed for his second, Lamb’s pass was deemed forward and the try was not awarded.

Bath were fighting hard, and slowly working their way up the pitch into the Saints half. The pressure was telling on the home side as first replacement Samu Manoa and then Downey saw yellow within a minute of each other as Bath were on the attack.

The Bath forwards were now on the front foot, and surged forward in the resulting scrum, pushing the Northampton pack backwards and over the line, and allowing captain Francois Louw to touch down for the try. Barkley added the extras, taking the score to 22-13.

Both sides battled hard in the last quarter of the game, but whilst it was a much improved performance in the second half, Bath were unable to break through the strong Saints defence to earn a losing bonus point.

Final Score 22-13.

1st JANUARY 2012 BATH V IRISH

Bath Rugby kicked off the New Year in style with a huge home win over London Irish. Three tries from Anthony Perenise, Michael Claassens and a penalty try, added to 15 points from the boot of Stephen Donald proved far too much for visitors, who could only manage to score one penalty all game. Final Score Bath Rugby 30 London Irish 3.

London Irish did not start the game well with the kick-off going out on the full, providing Bath with the first opportunity to attack. As the heavens opened on the Recreation Ground, the handling from both sides suffered as the ball became increasingly greasy. However, as the game reached 15 minutes played, Bath appeared to be the more dominant of the two sides with a handful of promising phases of play.

Irish seemed to be playing the territory game with the majority of play sending the ball high and deep into the Bath 22, full-back Nick Abendanon dealing with the slippery conditions superbly. In addition, Bath too were keen to put Irish’s back three under pressure, and a well weighted kick put Irish full-back Delon Armitage under scrutiny as he sliced a clearance kick, which only landed a short distance away, into the hands of the waiting Dave Attwood. A great counter attack from the lock seemed to be the pivotal play that ignited the Bath onslaught. The forwards kept the ball tight and with phase after phase they made their way nearer to the Irish try line. After the backs added their contribution by drawing out the Irish backs, the forwards once again initiated their route one style of play, and after some great ball retention, the pack were awarded with a close-range try, prop Perenise the scorer. Fly-half Donald converted. 7-0.

That try seemed to have sparked the Bath pack’s fuse as, after some further tactically precise kicking, the forwards powered their way towards the Irish line once more. More tight play was slowly but surely making progress, and patience seemed to have prevailed as Bath appeared to have scored from close quarters again. However, after the referee had sought the advice of the TMO for the second time, Perenise was prevented from grabbing his brace of tries as his effort was deemed to have been knocked forwards.

Irish regrouped and cleared their lines, but with Bath high in confidence, they worked their way up the field again. A late hit on Donald by flanker Jamie Gibson, enabled the Kiwi to increase his side’s lead to 10 with a successful penalty conversion. 10-0.

As the half drew to a close, Irish did claw back a penalty shortly after with a strike from winger Tom Homer. 10-3.

Bath looked ever so dangerous as two minutes remained of the half. A great step from Irish fly-half Steven Shingler evaded a Bath defender inside his 22 and as he made good ground, he offloaded to his winger, Topsy Ojo who fumbled the ball. His opposite number, Olly Woodburn, showed lightning quick reactions, scooping up the ball and making the 33 metre dash for the try line. The crowd up on their feet, Woodburn sprinted down the try line, but to be tackled well metres short by a good covering defence. Half time score, Bath 10 London Irish 3.

Bath started the second half with the upper hand as the back’s kicking out of hand was keeping the Irish side stuck in their own half. A well replied clearance kick saw the whole team linking up well, resulting in a fluid period of play. As Bath ground their way nearer to the try line, Irish came offside allowing Donald to slot his second successful penalty kick. 13-3.

Bath soon after demonstrated their defensive prowess with some superb on-the-line tackling. An attacking Irish ball fed the waiting backline, and a slick move looked like it was about to be played out, with Homer hitting a great line. However, despite his great angle of running, he ran in to a well set Matt Carraro who stopped Homer dead in his tracks. A powerful defending scrum from Bath then forced a penalty rounding off a great period of defence.

Abendanon showed clearly why he has been associated with an England EPS call up after he set up a fantastic try. A neat chip over the flat Bath defence looked dangerous, however, the efforts of Abendanon turned the Irish attack on its head. Abendanon covered well behind the Bath defence and caught the ball at pace, taking it wide and outpacing the defending wing, Homer. Blitzing down the touchline with winger Tom Biggs and scrum-half Claassens in support, Abendanon drew his defender to release Biggs who in turn did the same, sending Claassens in to finish a full pitch effort. Donald converted the tricky kick out wide to add the extras. 20-3.

Bath looked to be truly in control when they had ball in hand with another spilt ball from Irish nearly giving Abendanon a chance to repeat his previous break. It was only the efforts of Steven Shingler and Armitage that prevented a quick succession of tries for Bath. However, Bath kept the pressure on and after further great forward interplay, Bath were awarded a penalty as the visitors crumbled under the intensity. Donald slotted an easy penalty. 23-3.

A notable substitution happened with exactly 14 minutes remaining, as rugby league convert, Kyle Eastmond made his anticipated debut to rugby union and Bath colours, Woodburn making way after a solid 65 minute performance.

Irish didn’t help their cause in the closing 10 minutes, as Claassens was taken out late by Armitage, and referee Martin Fox demonstrated his disapproval, sending Armitage to the sin bin.

The Bath forwards had been by far the more dominant and were rewarded for a cohesive and powerful match performance after an attacking scrum on Irish’s five metre line proved too much for the visitors with the referee signalling a penalty try. Donald added the extras. 30-3.

The remaining couple of minutes saw a late flurry from Irish who used the width of the pitch well, but dedicated defence from the home side prevented anything developing and kept the try line from being breached.

8th JANUARY 2012 SARACENS V BATH

Bath Rugby fought back to take a losing bonus point from the 2000th Premiership game, against current champions Saracens, final-score 26-19.

All Bath’s points came from their fly-halves, Stephen Donald and his replacement Tom Heathcote, with a try, conversion and penalty for Donald, and three penalties for Heathcote, including the vital 80th minute kick that secured the bonus point.

The visiting side started the brighter of the two, picking up where they had left off a week ago against London Irish. They dominated possession early on, controlling the game and making it difficult for Saracens to make any headway out of their own 22.

A well-taken lineout by Ryan Caldwell set up a strong driving maul deep in the Saracens 22. Quick ball was passed across the pitch, eventually finding Matt Carraro who punched a hole through the centre. The recycled ball found its way to Donald, who powered through two tackles to burst over the line in between the posts. The fly-half converted his own try, giving Bath an early 0-7 lead.

The forwards continued to dominate, and Bath came close to doubling the lead as they drove the Saracens scrum back following the sin-binning of Saracens’ loosehead Rhys Gill. However, referee Pascal Gauzere saw no reason to award a penalty try, and momentum swung in the way of the home side.

They steadily worked their way up field, with wing David Strettle in particular making headway. The champions made no mistake, and in their first real foray into the Bath half, set Steve Borthwick up to crash over the try line from short range. Owen Farrell levelled the scores with the conversion.

Donald landed a long range penalty moments later to regain the lead, but Farrell, who was having a shaky afternoon with the boot having already seen two penalty attempts bounce back off the left upright, equalised again to start clawing the home team back into the game. He extended the lead by another three just before half time, giving Saracens the lead for the first time of the game. 13-10

Bath were fighting hard from the start of the second half, and although Farrell boosted the hosts with another three points on 49 minutes, the visitors continued to scrap for possession. The forwards drove hard, and although camped on the Saracens try line, Bath just couldn’t quite force their way through but were awarded a penalty for their efforts. Replacement Heathcote stepped up and calmly slotted the three points, taking the deficit back to three with just over 20 minutes left.

The champions were slowly turning the screw, and with their scrum steadied after bringing on Carlos Nieto, they began to dominate territory, eventually leading to a try for winger Chris Wyles, who sliced through the Bath defence to touchdown. Farrell converted to extend Saracens’ lead to 10. 23-13.

Bath kept battling though, refusing to give in and working hard to take something from the match. Farrell looked to have extended the lead beyond losing bonus point range for Bath in the dying minutes, but the visitors made their way back up the pitch, and were awarded a penalty. Heathcote calmly stepped up to the tee, and despite the tight angle, sent the ball sailing between the posts to secure the point for Bath.

 

14th JANUARY 2012 MONTPELLIER V BATH

A last minute try for Montpellier spelled defeat for Bath Rugby in Pool 5 of the Heineken Cup, as the French side grasped a 24-22 victory.

With under two minutes on the clock Montpellier had taken the lead after a neat break through from the home side saw them evade the Bath defence, and winger Pierre Berard go over for the try. Scrum-half Benoit Paillaugue converted, giving an early 7-0 lead.

However, Bath worked their way back into control and were soon holding the majority of possession in the opening quarter. It wasn’t long before the pressure told as, on the 8 minute mark, Montpellier were penalised for not rolling away, and Olly Barkley slotted the kick cleanly through the posts. 7-3.

Bath managed to maintain their dominance but were unable for the majority of the first half to break through the Montpellier defence. However, after a series of penalties and a warning from the referee, Montpellier winger Timoci Nagusa saw yellow in the 38th minute, and the sin-binning sparked the game into life in the dying minutes of the first half.

Off the lineout, a powerful driving maul was set on its way by Bath, and as they inched over the line, Man of the Match Ryan Caldwell dived down with the ball to score Bath’s first try of the game. Barkley converted with the final kick of the half, giving the visitors a 7-10 lead going in at half time.

As the second half got underway, the visitors looked to continue their early dominance. However, a kickable penalty got Montpellier back on level terms, with Paillaugue again successful. 10-10

Moments later both teams were down to 14 men, after David Wilson was also sent to the sin bin, after being judged to have obstructed Montpellier from gathering a loose ball at the lineout.

It didn’t stop Bath from taking the lead once more though, after a period of sustained pressure in the Montpellier 22 and multiple phases saw Caldwell crash over for his second try of the game. Tom Heathcote converted the try, extending the lead to seven points.

A more even contest developed in the second half, and although Bath maintained the upper hand, Montpellier looked dangerous in attack. With just over 10 minutes left of the game, they proved just how dangerous as they levelled the scores once more. Montpellier worked themselves into the Bath 22, and replacement Alex Tulou picked the ball up from the back of the ruck and broke away to score near the posts. Paillaugue converted once more. 17-17.

The visitors hit back almost immediately with another try of their own, this time for centre Matt Banahan. Michael Claassens snipped through to put Heathcote straight through the centre. Some quick recycling across the pitch saw Francois Louw give Banahan the final pass to send him powering over the line. Barkley was unable to find the posts with his conversion, taking the score to 17-22.

As the game went into its final minutes Bath were defending hard against the Montpellier attack. The French side thought they had crossed for another try, but play was brought back after the touch judge spotted a foot in touch before they went over. A huge scrum followed, with the Bath pack putting in an almighty effort to win a penalty. Barkley cleared the lines, and whilst the resulting lineout was good, the referee called for a reset. A messy second attempt saw the ball go loose, which was eventually gathered by Montpellier. With time dead on the clock, they quickly spun the ball wide. A clever chip found Nagusa on the touch line, who, despite looking to have been offside when the chip went in, sprinted in to score. The resulting conversion from replacement Martin Bustos Moyano sealed the late win for the home side, leaving Bath with just a losing bonus point.

21st JANUARY 2012 BATH V GLASGOW

Bath Rugby finished their Heineken Cup campaign on a high as they held on to see off Glasgow Warriors at the Recreation Ground – Final score – Bath Rugby 23 Glasgow Warriors 18.

Bath were put under immediate pressure from the kick-off as a lineout just inside the home side’s half provided an attacking platform for the Scottish outfit. Superb defence from Bath proved impenetrable and stood strong in the face of a relentless period of attack. However, some over exuberance from the Bath defence saw them give away a penalty, which fly half Duncan Weir converted. 0-3.

However, Weir turned from hero to villain as in the midst of another Glasgow attack, the young fly half threw a reckless pass out wide, which Tom Biggs intercepted and plucked from the air, sprinting in from 40 metres to score the first try of the game. Olly Barkley converted. 7-3.

Glasgow did claw back another three points shortly after the restart as further attacking pressure forced Bath to concede another early penalty, with Weir successful once more. However, the tables turned as Bath applied some pressure of their own and this time it was Glasgow who couldn’t handle the intensity at the breakdown, with Barkley stepping up to slot the kick from in front of the posts, extending the home sides lead. 10-6.

The remainder of the first half continued in similar fashion. Both sides looked relatively dangerous with ball in hand, however, a combination of dropped ball and kicking away possession prevented either side wholly capitalising on their phases of play. A long range penalty attempt from Weir just before half time could have closed the gap to a single point, however the penalty just drifted wide, so as the players ran in at half time, the scores remained 10-6.

The second half started well for Bath, who looked invigorated after the half time break. A great little chip from centre Matt Banahan put the Glasgow winger under great pressure who played the ball into touch, giving Bath an attacking line out just outside the 22. A superb catch and drive rumbled towards the line and with Glasgow massively on the back foot, the home side couldn’t be stopped, and number 8 Ben Skirving dotted down for the try. Barkley struck the ball well to add the extra two points. 17-6.

The game seemed to have had its spark lit as a superb line in the Glasgow backs, follow by some slick hands seemed to have earned the visitors with a great try, however, much to delight of the home fans the referee called it back for a forward pass. Frustrated with their try being disallowed, Glasgow came back harder and more determined. A number of phases passed, and Bath defended bravely, with notable tackles from Biggs and fullback Jack Cuthbert. Despite the defensive efforts however, Glasgow’s intensity eventually found a hole and an offload out of the tackle allowed winger Tommy Seymour to score, which was followed by a successful conversion from replacement fly half Scott Wight. 17-13.

Bath suffered insult to injury as they went a man down with scrum half Chris Cook sent to the bin following a number of infringements at the breakdown.

Glasgow were thriving on the Rec’s wide pitch and launched a further assault on the Bath try line with more great defensive work preventing a second away try. Despite Bath holding out and resisting the pressure, they were stunned when a dropped ball allowed centre Stuart Hogg to break away and sprint down the wing. With just replacement wing Sam Vesty to beat and Rob Harley in support, there was nothing Vesty could do. A well timed offload to the supporting Harley set up the Warriors’ second try with just over 15 minutes remaining, and giving them the lead for the first time in the match. 17-18.

With the pressure on, Bath had less than a quarter of an hour to ensure their early lead had not been in vain, and it happened with just over ten minutes left. A Bath attack proved too much in the contact and Glasgow infringed just inside their half, providing Barkley with a long range effort to take Bath ahead again. The ground was silent all for a minute as the crowd held their breath as Barkley stuck the ball, and the centre sent the ball flying through the posts, taking his side ahead by two points. Barkley coolly added another three points with five minutes left as the home side looked to be gaining a late bit of momentum. The game ended deep in the Warriors half and brave defence and a determined attitude to win had rewarded the Bath players with a hard-earned victory. Final score 23-18.

28th JANUARY 2012 BATH V NORTHAMPTON

46 was the magic number once more for Bath, as they stayed on course for a semi-final place in the LV= Cup, beating Northampton Saints 46-14, securing a try bonus point in the process.

Bath started the game at a blistering pace, attacking hard and playing very flat on the gain line. Quick recycling from scrum half Michael Claassens and slick hands in the backs were stretching the Northampton Saints defence right across the pitch. A spilt line out from Saints provided Bath with an early attacking platform with a scrum on the visitors 22. A well-orchestrated backs move seemed to have enabled England Saxons fullback Nick Abendanon to slip through, but he was to be caught just shy of the line. Despite the Saints clearing their line and relieving themselves of the pressure, Bath were straight back at them with further pressure resulting in an early penalty from centre Olly Barkley. He added another three points shortly after, doubling the early lead to 6-0.

The Saints clawed back three points soon after, following an impressive break from flanker Ben Nutley, who evaded the tackle of winger Tom Biggs and good supporting play forced Bath offside as they rushed back in defence. Fly half Stephen Myler slotted the simple penalty. After further infringements from both sides, Barkley and Myler traded penalties to take the score to 9-6.

Following on from last week’s powerful forward performance, Bath were really utilising the pin point accuracy of Barkley as another penalty in quick succession saw Barkley take Bath to double figures with ten minutes left in the first half. 12-6.

It was three minutes from half time before either side managed to cross the try line, and it was Bath who struck with a deserved try. Bath’s determination prevailed as some great hands, especially from fly half Stephen Donald, used the full width of the Recreation Ground. The Saints defence, now under immense strain from the intensity of the Bath attack, suffered from a dog legged defence and as the ball found hooker Ross Batty, he threw the dummy and strolled past his defender to score to the joy of the crowd. Barkley added the extras. 19-6.

At the close of the half, Saints added a further three points to their tally with another penalty from Myler, but Bath still held a ten point lead as the teams went in for the break.

An incredible fine individual effort ignited the second half as prop Anthony Perenise lit up the field. A fantastic chase by Olly Woodburn forced Saints to knock the ball on and gave Bath the chance to attack early. As the backs whipped the ball wide with Nick Abendanon straightening up, the ruck was quickly recycled with Claassens’ pass falling low. However, the bounce was picked up well by Perenise, who threw an outrageous dummy and accelerated forwards. With a couple of defenders to beat the Samoan international turned on the skill with two fancy side steps and a ‘goose’ step to reach out and score under the sticks, followed by a huge roar from the crowd. Barkley converted. 26-9.

To the Saint’s credit, their professional response was rewarded as a well rolled maul forced its way over from close range, and after a pending TMO decision, Alex Waller was awarded a try. 26-14.

Saints, now aware of the upper hand Bath had on the game rang the changes with heavy weight props Brian Mujati and Soane Tonga’uiha making their way onto the field alongside speedster winger Noah Cato.

Despite the presence of the Saints first choice props, Bath showed they could provide the muscle up front and as a maul began to roll towards the try line, Saints came offside again allowing Barkley to slot another three points. 29-14.

Bath were showing their threat from every area of the pitch as a counter attack from Abendanon started a long run of phases that eventually led to a superb team-effort try. Bath were patient with their possession as a hold up in a ruck could have dampened their momentum with an attacking scrum. However, with Bath players running hard off every phase, something had to give. A signature Donald miss pass looped over three defenders to find Sam Vesty who gave the inside ball to young Woodburn whose athletic effort saw him touch down in the far right corner. 34-14.

With the bonus point just a sniff away, Bath went surging forward again as the Saints could not seem to get out of their half. More clinical play saw the ball make its way from one touch line to another. After some great physicality by the forwards working hard at the breakdown, the ball was spun wide once more and with holes in the Saints defence, the ball found a waiting Donald who crossed over for the bonus point try. 39-14.

Bath added insult to injury for the visitors who had nothing left in the tank with a fifth and final try. The forwards, who had been working so hard all game, sensed the try line and with a handful of pick and drives, replacement prop Charlie Beech powered over from close range. Barkley slotted the conversion. 46-14.

The final play of the game summed up the match as the Saints went surging for a last minute consolation try. However, like most of the game, the Bath defence stood strong and determined, and after a penalty to the home side, the ball was sent flying into the stands, the game won and a full five points taken. Final Score Bath Rugby 46 Northampton Saints 14.

5th FEBRUARY 2012 EXETER V BATH

Bath Rugby finished the LV= Cup top of their pool with maximum points as they comprehensively beat Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park 3-31, securing a home semi-final in the tournament.

Bath started the game strongly with some good phases of possession and following a period of patience and quick recycling by young scrum half Chris Cook, Bath seemed to have scored the first points of the game. A great miss pass from centre Olly Barkley found fullback Sam Vesty, who put in a neat little grubber kick for the chasing Tom Biggs. The speedy winger sprinted on to and looked to score but the downward pressure was unclear as Biggs was held back by an Exeter defending before making contact with the ball. However, after much deliberation, the TMO awarded Biggs the try. Barkley beautifully slotted a tricky conversion to give Bath the early lead. 0-7.

The opening 10 minutes were all action, as the referee once more sought the advice of the TMO following a charged down Bath clearance and Exeter chase. As Donald cleared his lines just inside the Bath 22, centre Sam Hill got in front of the kick and a footrace began between the covering Olly Woodburn and Hill, with both men attempting the touch down on the ball. Again, the TMO decision went in the away side’s favour with the try being disallowed.

A piece of superb vision followed shortly after providing Bath with their second try of the game. A well weighted up and under by Barkley was picked up well by Donald who turned on the speed and charged forwards. The World Cup winner then showed his high calibre to spot an unmarked Biggs flying down the wing. A neat stab at the ball sent it bobbling diagonally across the pitch from which Biggs calmly collected and touched down over the line. 0-12.

The home side regained three points after the restart with a Bath infringement at the breakdown allowing fly half Myles Dorrian to slot his first successful kick of the evening. 3-12.

However, as Exeter seemed to be gaining some momentum, Bath snatched any confidence right away from them as a piece of flowing play in the Chiefs back line was perfectly intercepted by the flying Biggs who sprinted in a near 75 metres to score his hat trick try. Barkley struck the conversion well. 3-19.

The home side started the first half on the front foot and came at Bath with a renewed enthusiasm. A wave of relentless attacks bombarded the Bath defensive line with the away side standing resilient. Despite a penalty in favour of the attacking side, they could not break down the Bath defence.

Exeter also went a man down to add further problems as lively hooker Chris Whitehead was sent to the bin after deliberately slowing down the ball in the ruck.

Bath rang the changes as the game entered the final quarter with Josh Ovens, Nathan Catt and David Wilson replacing Francois Louw, David Flatman and Anthony Perenise respectively. These changes were shortly followed by Nick Scott and Warren Fury taking to the pitch in place of Stephen Donald and Chris Cook, Fury making his debut in Bath colours.

With fresh legs now on the pitch, a reinvigorated Bath turned up the pressure and were keeping the Chiefs stuck in their own half. Unlike Bath, Exeter were unable to soak up a period of sustained pressure and as the Blue, Black and Whites began to piece the phases together, the home defence crumbled and a sweet offload from flanker Guy Mercer to Woodburn enabled the winger to take on the remaining defender and, after an athletic step inside, the winger crossed over for Bath’s forth try, securing the home advantage in the semi-finals. 3-24.

A notable replacement for Bath came with just over ten minutes left as young academy product Richard Lane came onto the field making his senior debut, as Exeter went down once more to 14 men as Bryan Rennie was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle on Scott.

Bath finished the final five minutes on a high as some great counter attacking play saw Barkley stab a little chip across the field. Lane sprinted in for the try line but was deemed to be in touch by the TMO. However, frustrated with a few missed opportunities, Bath stole the defending Chief’s line out and went surging forwards once more. The forwards kept the ball close and as Ovens picked up the ball from the back of the ruck, he made no mistake in slipping through a hole to cross for Bath’s fifth and final try. Barkley converted 3-31

 

11th FEBRUARY 2012 BATH V NEWCASTLE

A resurgent second half from Bath Rugby saw them claim a bonus point win over Newcastle Falcons at the Recreation Ground. Two tries from Olly Woodburn, as well as one from Anthony Perenise and a penalty try secured the try bonus point, with Olly Barkley and Tom Heatcote adding the extras from the tee. Final Score Bath Rugby 30 – Newcastle Falcons 24.

Bath started the brighter of the two sides, and within two minutes had been awarded a penalty after pressure saw Newcastle penalised for not rolling away. Barkley stepped up and sent the ball sailing through the middle of the posts to give Bath an early 3-0 lead.

The home side were showing their attacking intent and made numerous line breaks across the pitch. The Newcastle defence was dogged though and 18 minutes of the match had gone before Bath had chance to extend their lead.

Having missed a penalty attempt minutes earlier, Barkley threw a pass to Heathcote from the back of his hand, as Matt Banahan ran decoy through the centre. Heathcote broke away, drew the Newcastle defence , and timed the pass to Woodburn superbly, allowing the winger to saunter over the try line in the corner. 8-0.

The early lead was soon shortened though as Newcastle stole possession after Bath fumbled the re-start. The Falcons’s talisman, Jimmy Gopperth saw a man overlap out wide and sent a looping pass out to the extra man, Mark Wilson, who ran in the try. Gopperth converted, taking the visitors to within just one point 8-7.

The try galvanised the away side, and ten minutes later it was Newcastle who scored again as Rob Vickers dotted down after a powerful drive by the Falcons forwards. Gopperth was again accurate with the conversion, giving  his side an 8-14 lead.

The score remained the same until half time, despite a cracking penalty attempt from Heathcote from 45 metres out, which just hit the crossbar and bounced under the bar.

The second half continued in much the same way, with Gopperth pinning Bath back in their own half, frustrating the home side. They kept attacking, working through the phases, but small errors were stopping Bath from getting over the tryline again.

A moment of magic from Man of the Match, Anthony Perenise, however changed this 10 minutes into the second half. The Samoan prop received the ball and charged through the Newcastle defence, sending the Falcons scattering as he powered up the pitch. Sensing Woodburn flying up in support outside him, the tighthead chipped through and Woodburn surged forward, winning the foot race to touch down. 13-14.

The score settled Bath, and although Gopperth kept trying to frustrate the home side, they were regaining control of the match.

Newcastle knocked on and Heathcote took advantage, gathering the loose ball and once again breaking away down the touchline. He again drew his man, and chipped the ball through, allowing Tom Biggs to sprint away in pursuit. The winger looked to gather the ball to score, but was hauled back by Gopperth. The referee wasted no time in awarding a penalty try to Bath, and whilst Heathcote converted, Gopperth was shown a yellow card and the visitors were down to 14 men.

Bath were in the ascendency now, controlling the game in all areas. A well taken lineout saw the forwards start a strong driving maul in the Newcastle 22, and after they powered towards the try line, Perenise dived over for the bonus point try. Heathcote added the extras with a superb touchline conversion. 27-14.

Gopperth, back from the sin bin, and Heathcote traded penalties towards the end of the game, before replacement scrum-half Will Chudley stole a try at the death for the visitors. Gopperth converted with the last kick of the game to gain a valuable losing bonus point for the visitors, but it was Bath who took the win, and an all important bonus point of their own.

18th FEBRUARY 2012 BATH V GLOUCESTER

Bath Rugby narrowly missed out on continuing their winning form as Gloucester edged the win by three points in a muddy West Country derby.

Any hopes of a wide expansive game had been drowned out by the horrendous weather resulting in both sides opting for the territorial kicks, hoping for the opposition to make a mistake and give away valuable territory and possession.

As the heavens poured down upon the Recreation Ground, the game ignited early on as a near full team brawl erupted. Referee Wayne Barnes sent both Bath’s Ryan Caldwell and Gloucester’s Jim Hamilton to the sin bin having sought the advice of both touch judges.

The Bath fans were on their feet shortly after as some excellent footballing skills from hooker Lee Mears put winger Tom Biggs away to touch down. Quick recycling from scrum half Michael Claassens found the waiting England hooker who, seeing a hole in behind the defence, put in an excellent grubber. The lightening Biggs out-sprinted Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples to dive on the ball and score. 5-0.

Gloucester hit back on the 17th minute after centre Mike Tindall blasted through a hole in the Bath defence. Fly half Freddie Burns took the ball flat, drawing in the Bath defence and allowing Tindall to take a short line and break away. Despite a thumping tackle by Sam Vesty preventing the centre scoring, Gloucester recycled at a blistering pace, eventually finding Nick Wood and the prop slid in to equal the scores. 5-5.

The Cherry and Whites looked dangerous with ball in hand and after some expansive phases the ball reached flanker Akapusi Qera who, despite having a man overlap, failed to use it and lost the ball forwards. However, Gloucester did come away with three points after play was brought back for the untaken penalty advantage. After an earlier easy miss, Burns made no mistake with this chance. 5-8.

Gloucester went in at half time ahead by six points following a further succesful penalty from Burns after an apparent high tackle by Biggs. 5-11.

The visitors came out the blocks the quicker at the start of the second half and were in control of most of the possession. With so much ball, Gloucester attacked hard and fast at the Bath line for numerous phases. However, Bath’s patience and discipline prevailed as their determined defence prevented a score and initiated an attack of their own. Whilst Gloucester’s defence was also solid and staunch to begin with, they eventually crumbled under the pressure and Barkley didn’t hesitate to slot a well-deserved three points.

Bath too looked to be gaining momentum with some promising drives and close forward work. Another penalty to Bath about 40 metres in front of the posts opened up the chance for the home side to level the game. Young fly half Tom Heathcote stepped up and under immense pressure slotted the all-important kick.

For a while it seemed impossible for Bath to be able to get out of their own half with the Gloucester back three using the aerial battle to full advantage. Bath’s defence had been working hard all game and after what looked like a well taken ball, captain Francois Louw was penalised for not releasing the tackled player. Replacement fly half Ryan Mills added the three points to take Gloucester ahead once more. 11-14.

As the time ticked away, Gloucester tightened up their play and slowed the ball down. When Bath did have the ball the Cherry and Whites’ defence stood strong and seemed impenetrable. Despite an attacking line out inside the Gloucester 22, an error proved all too costly for the Blue, Black and Whites as the ball was lost forward and the game was over. Final Score Bath Rugby 11 Gloucester Rugby 14.

25th FEBRUARY 2012 EXETER V BATH

It was a case of deja vu at Sandy Park as Bath Rugby once more came away 9-12 victors, having recorded a win of the same score in the corresponding fixture last season, which took place almost a year to the day. The win also maintained Bath’s unbeaten record over their South West rivals.

The game started at a high tempo with both sides looking to attack fast and use the width of the pitch to try and break the gainline.

Olly Barkley had the chance to take an early lead for the visitors when they were awarded a penalty, but the kick, about three metres into the Chiefs’ half, fell short. Exeter were penalised again moments later, but Barkley’s kick drifted wide.

The game sparked into life for Bath on nine minutes, as Ben Skirving broke through the midfield. The ball was recycled, and Barkley, seeing Tom Biggs open on the wing, threw the wide pass. Biggs raced through the Exeter defence and touched down, but referee David Rose ruled the pass was forward and the try disallowed.

Both sides were looking to run the ball and get pace on the game, but strong defences meant any breaks were quickly snuffed out. The game remained scoreless until the 34th minute, when Chiefs’ fly-half Ignacio Mieres slotted a penalty. He doubled the score on the stroke of half-time, with a little help from the upright, giving the home side a 6-0 lead going into the break.

A break from Tom Heathcote at the beginning of the second half led Bath to within inches of the try line only for a knock on to occur at the vital moment. Exeter won the resulting scrum and cleared their lines. However, 38 metres out, the home side were penalised at the breakdown and Heathcote stepped up to land the difficult penalty, getting Bath’s first points on the board.

The score seemed to spur Bath on and they enjoyed a strong period of pressure going into the final quarter of the match. A well taken line-out saw the ball moved quickly across the pitch and into the Exeter 22, with Bath breaking through to within metres of the try-line as Rose played the penalty advantage. The attack broke down though, and play was brought back for Heathcote to slot the penalty in front of the posts, levelling the scores. 6-6.

Mieres and Heathcote exchanged another penalty a-piece in quick succession, keeping the scores level and leading to a tense 15 minutes for both teams.

A break from Exeter wing Matt Jess looked dangerous, but the solid Bath defence stood firm and forced the knock-on. Bath won the resulting scrum, and Heathcote cleared to give the visitors good field position. A secure line-out and powerful driving maul saw Bath awarded another penalty, and Heathcote again struck the ball well, making it four from four for the young fly-half, and giving the visitors the lead. 9-12.

Exeter attempted to build some pressure in the closing minutes of the game, but they couldn’t find a way through, and a line-out stolen by Dave Attwood in the last minute sealed the victory for Bath. Replacement prop Charlie Beech snaffled the ball, and after a few slow phases, Michael Claassens kicked the ball out to end the game. Final score Exeter Chiefs 9 – Bath Rugby 12.

3rd MARCH 2012 BATH V WORCESTER

Bath Rugby produced a five try winning performance to beat Worcester Warriors for the second time this season at the Recreation Ground, 36-17.

It was the home team that looked most dangerous with ball in hand, making good headway deep into the Warriors 22. Despite the Blue, Black and Whites stringing together a promising series of phases, strong Worcester rucking resulted in turnovers which ended the attack.

And it was a turnover that proved costly for Bath as a change in possession just outside of Bath’s 22 was quickly recycled by Shaun Perry who found Tom Arscott, who touched down for the first try of the game. Andy Goode added the conversion. 0-7.

Bath came back quickly and it wasn’t long until they were once again inside the Worcester half. Slick hands and good interplay saw the gain line broken by Sam Vesty and as the forwards rumbled forwards, the attacking side came within 20 metres of the try line. Olly Barkley found Matt Carraro who subsequently slipped the ball onto a flying Tom Biggs. With Biggs dragged to the ground metres shy of the line the forwards recycled, and with no one at home on the blind side, Carraro showed some quick thinking to put Biggs in from close quarters. Tom Heathcote slotted a magnificent conversion from the touch line. 7-7.

The Rec didn’t have to wait long for Bath’s second try, which came courtesy of solid team play. With the forwards bullying their counterparts in the contact, the backs were stretching the defence as they utilised the dry conditions.

Patience in the Bath ranks was rewarded as they edged closer and closer to the try line. Francois Louw picked up the ball from the back of a ruck and popped the ball blindly to his left to Matt Banahan who crashed over in style from close range. Heathcote added a simple conversion. 14-7.

Worcester clawed back three points after Bath were pinged at the breakdown, allowing Goode to slot the simple penalty.14-10.

The home side added their hat trick try with just under ten minutes remaining. Once again the team effort saw Bath force their way towards the Worcester try line and sensing a sleeping fringe defence, Michael Claassens sniped and scored. Heathcote struck well again making the half time score 21-10.

The bonus point try was secured just ten minutes into the second half with some well sustained pressure. Great hands in the backs nearly put Biggs in for his second try but he was held up short. Some quick recycling looked to have put in for his second, but referee Greg Garner ruled no try after getting caught up in the move. The attacking scrum for Bath held strong and Claassens struck with a quick dart to score his second try of the game. Heathcote was once again successful with the conversion. 28-10.

Worcester initiated another direct period of attack and were rewarded for their persistence with Miles Benjamin taking an inside pass to score. Replacement Danny Gray converted. 28-17.

Bath finished the game on top though, with a dominant period of possession accompanied with solid defence. Heathcote added a penalty in the dying minutes to extend the lead to 17-31.

The game seemed over but there was still a little bit of magic left in the Bath ranks. Replacement Jack Cuthbert attacked from the re-start and broke through with an explosive run. With Biggs in support, Cuthbert offloaded perfectly to release the winger flying down the touchline to score the Bath’s fifth and final try. Final Score Bath Rugby 36 – Worcester Warriors 17.

9th MARCH 2012 BATH V LEICESTER

Bath Rugby suffered a narrow 16-17 defeat o Leicester Tigers in a tense game under the lights at the Recreation Ground.

The game started at a frantic pace with both sides attacking hard and fast, making the most of the dry conditions, but Bath’s Tom Biggs and Leicester’s Horacio Agulla were unable to capitalise on early kicks through.

The first points went to the visitors after Sam Vesty, having taking a hanging kick well, was penalised for holding on. England Under 20’s fly-half George Ford slotted an easy three points. 0-3.

A superbly placed kick by Ford put Bath into defensive mode on their own five metre. At the worst possible minute, the usually reliable line out was misjudged resulting in Tigers lock Graham Kitchener pouncing on the ball to score an easy try. 0-8.

Bath responded well with a well organised restart, taking the initiative and attacking hard at the Leicester 22. With the pressure on, Leicester infringed allowing England’s other Under 20’s fly half, Tom Heathcote, to add Bath’s first points. 3-8.

Bath’s line out was back to full throttle and fed scrum half Michael Claassens who’s slick pass found a flying Matt Carraro who drew the defender and released Biggs. Snagged just shy of the line, quick recycling fed the forwards who smashed away at the fringes, drawing in the Leicester defence. With numbers wide, Olly Barkley shifted the ball wide with a superb miss pass to find a waiting Lee Mears who scored just shy of the touch line. Heathcote struck a fantastic conversion to take Bath ahead by two points. 10-8.

The Blue, Black and Whites looked to be taking the game to the Tigers, with some confident passing resulting in Dave Attwood making a searing break up field. With the half time whistle blown, Bath ended the half looking the more dangerous of the two sides with Leicester’s defence being tested as Bath’s attacking flare looked excitingly similar to that of the week before.

The second half also started with great tempo, Bath being the side to re-start the quickest with an excellent handful of phases, coming within inches of scoring another try if it was not for some smart defence by Ford. It was Ford that took his side back in front with another successful penalty after a collapsed scrum. However, Bath’s counter attacking abilities were on display as Biggs carved his way towards the try line forcing Leicester offside and enabling Heathcote to slot a stunning penalty of his own to recapture the lead. 13-11.

Ford added another three points as Bath were punished for indiscipline again minutes later taking the scores to 13-14 with 25 minutes remaining. As one team gave a penalty away so did the other and the Tigers, under the cosh 15 metres in front of their try line, came offside as Bath looked for the quick ball. Heathcote added the simple penalty to edge Bath back in front once more. 16-14.

Leicester looked to be soaking up the pressure from the home side, but with every clearance kick, was a waiting Bath player. Matt Banahan took the kick and offloaded to replacement Jack Cuthbert on the short line. The Scottish fullback carved up the pitch, saw his supporting players out wide and chipped onwards creating a dash to claim the ball. Unfortunately for Bath the Leicester defender claimed the ball and remained strong to allow the Tigers to clear their lines once more.

A scrum on the 70th minute was the focus of a frustrated Bath side and crowd as the referee, who initially awarded Bath a penalty at the scrum, changed his mind and awarded Leicester the penalty. Ford stepped up and slotted a hard conversion under pressure. 16-17.

The pressure was then on his opposite number, as after another great counter from Banahan, the supporting player was tackled without the ball providing Heathcote with a long range chance at goal. Despite the good strike, the ball drifted just wide.

The final few minutes were full of drama as the seconds ticked away. A try saving tackle from Cuthbert, great hands from the Bath backs and a desperate forward defence unfortunately came up short against a determined and defensively strong Leicester outfit.

24TH MARCH 2012 HARLEQUINS V BATH

Bath Rugby suffered defeat at the hands of table toppers Harlequins this afternoon, with the London side edging out the visitors 14-6.

The first half was a battle of the fly-halves as Tom Heathcote and Nick Evans traded penalties. Heathcote drew first blood within the first five minutes after Quins were penalised for not rolling away. Quins put pressure on from the restart however, and Bath were penalised for the same offence, giving Evans the opportunity to draw level. 3-3.

The home side started to try and run the ball, but the Bath defence stood firm and forced a vital turnover, allowing them to clear the lines. David Wilson broke away, setting up a barrage of attack on the Quins try line, with Simon Taylor inches from scoring. Staunch defence forced an error from Bath though, and the Londoners cleared.

This continued for the majority of the first half, with attacks from both sides being quickly snuffed out by huge defensive efforts. With just under ten minutes left of the half, Quins were reduced to 14 men after Joe Marler saw yellow for a high tackle on Tom Biggs. Bath surged forward, and after James Johnston was penalised, Heathcote stepped up to double the lead for the visitors. 3-6.

Evans had the chance to come back and take the lead twice before the end of the half, but the Kiwi sent both kicks wide, and so Bath went in ahead at half time.

The pace of the game picked up after the break, and Olly Barkley burst through the field. The centre passed out wide to Olly Woodburn, who looked to be away, but for a last ditch tackle from Ugo Monye to stop the young winger from scoring.

Bath were awarded a penalty soon after, but Heathcote was unable to find his angle. They were on the attack moments later though, as Nick Abendanon sprinted away from the defence and chipped the ball ahead for Woodburn to chase onto. The winger looked to have scored, but when referee Wayne Barnes consulted the TMO, the try was ruled out as Woodburn had knocked on under pressure from Quins flanker Luke Wallace.

A penalty at the scrum allowed Evans to draw level on the hour mark, and another successful kick put them ahead for the first time in the game five minutes later. 9-6.

A yellow card for Jack Cuthbert reduced the visitors to 14 men going into the final 15 minutes, and Quins took advantage, Maurie Fa’asavalu crashing over from short range. 14-6.

Hero turned villain for Quins moments later after the try-scorer saw yellow after tackling Heathcote without using his arms. The young fly-half left the field, and with Barkley having been replaced earlier in the game, Cuthbert, his sin-bin having expired, stepped up to take the kick, only to see it rebound off the upright. Another chance for the losing bonus point presented itself at the death, with another penalty being awarded, but Cuthbert couldn’t find his angle.

Final Score – Harlequins 14 Bath Rugby 6.

 31st MARCH 2012 BATH V NORTHAMPTON

Bath Rugby suffered a 6-26 defeat at the hands of Northampton Saints at the Recreation Ground, with Stephen Donald kicking the only points for the home side.

The visiting side started the game in the ascendancy, with Bath seeing relatively little of the ball in the first quarter. A Bath lineout stolen by Saints’ Mark Sorenson saw them set up a good attack, with Paul Diggin bursting through before Lamb chipped the ball ahead. Nick Abendanon, racing back to cover, touched the ball down to save the try, giving Northampton the put in at a scrum five metres out.

After five attempts at a successful scrum, with two re-sets and two penalties against Bath, referee Martin Fox awarded Saints the penalty try. Lamb converted to make it a 0-7 lead.

Northampton continued to control the game, but with Bath’s defence standing firm they couldn’t break through for another score, despite coming close in the 22nd minute.

Diggin broke away and sprinted 50 metres before being brought down by Matt Carraro in a try saving tackle. The winger had just got the ball away to Christian Day, but the lock was bundled into touch by the combined weight of Matt Banahan, Michael Claassens and Donald, as the three scrambled across in defence.

Saints soon had more points on the board as Bath were penalised for not rolling away from the tackle and Lamb slotted the resulting penalty. 0-10.

As the first half entered the final quarter, Bath began to gain some control of the ball. A lineout secured by Ryan Caldwell allowed Bath to push up the field, and after battling hard they were awarded a penalty. Donald was unable to take advantage however, skewing the ball wide of the posts.

He made amends moments later after a Saints knock-on allowed the fly-half to get Bath’s first points on the board with nine minutes left of the half. 3-10.
He doubled the lead soon after, after Simon Taylor had taken the ball in the air to get Bath on the front foot. Donald grubbered through, collected his own kick and set Caldwell off on a barnstorming run, with Carraro in support. The centre couldn’t gather the pass though, and play was taken back for the penalty. 6-10.

Lamb regained the six point lead before the half was out, first with a drop goal, and then with a penalty. 6-16.

The start of the second half saw the pace of the game pick up, with Caldwell breaking through once more and securing another penalty, but Donald was unable to find his range.

A flat pass from Donald found Banahan in the centre, and the wing powered through the midfield. He chipped ahead, and with Carraro and Tom Biggs chasing, it looked as if Bath may have crossed the white-wash. However, replays showed the Chris Ashton had knocked the ball forward before either could ground it, and Fox awarded a scrum to Bath. The ball found its way to Donald who crossed the line, but the referee had spotted a knock forward in the build-up and disallowed the try.

A yellow card to Sorenson saw Bath with an extra man for 10 minutes, but they were unable to take advantage as the staunch Saints defence snuffed out any promising attacks, and Donald was unable to secure another three points from a penalty awarded at the scrum.

Lamb continued to kick well however, and he further extended the lead after a break by Abendanon led to the full back being penalised for holding. 6-19. Northampton were maintaining their control of the game, and after Guy Mercer saw yellow for killing the ball, the visitors kicked to the corner. Centre George Pisi put too much on a chip through and play was brought back for an earlier penalty, with Saints again going for touch. From the resulting line-out the forwards set up a strong rolling maul and powered over the line, hooker Andy Long the man getting the ball down. Replacement Stephen Myler converted, and with 15 minutes left Bath were trailing 6-26.

The home side refused to give up as the game drew to a close, battling hard to try and find a way to break down the Saints, but the visiting side couldn’t be moved, and the game ended in a disappointing defeat for Bath.

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 Meares 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.

 13th APRIL 2012 SALE V BATH

A late converted try from Sale’s Rob Miller sealed defeat for Bath Rugby in what had otherwise been a close affair at Edgeley Park. Final Score 16-9.

The visitors started the game well, building good pressure early on through a number of phases. This paid off within two minutes when they were awarded a penalty, but young fly-half Tom Heathcote couldn’t quite find his angle.

Sale looked dangerous in attack though, and it took some staunch defence from Bath to stop the home side from breaching the try line. Breaks from Andy Powell and Sam Tuitupou looked threatening, but the visitors held firm and overturned the ball, allowing Olly Barkley to clear.

A deliberate knock-on from Sale just under 20 minutes into the game gave Barkley the chance to kick the ball to touch, and the resulting line-out saw Andrew Sheridan earn a yellow card after Sale brought down a man in the lineout for the second time. Barkley slotted the resulting penalty, and gave Bath a slim 0-3 lead.

The first half continued in the pacy style it had begun, with both sides trying to get some fluidity into the game. Sale continued to exert pressure, and whilst the defence of Bath continued to hold them away from the try line, the persistence of the home side told, with two penalties being awarded in the last ten minutes. Fly-half Nick Macleod was accurate with both, first drawing level and then securing a three point lead to take into half time. 6-3.

The second half started in much the same way as the first had, with both teams trying hard to create chances and gain dominance in the game. Sale were enjoying the majority of the possession though, and it took a great try saving tackle from Nick Abendanon on his opposite number to prevent Sale from increasing their lead, winning a penalty in the process, and allowing Bath to clear their lines and relieve the pressure.

The respite was fleeting though, and Macleod extended their lead moments later with another penalty. Barkley responded soon after with a penalty of his own, bringing Bath back to within three points, and drew level on the 63rd minute after the Bath pack won at penalty at the scrum. 9-9.

The scores remained level going into the final ten minutes, reflecting the close nature of the game, and it took an unlucky bounce off a high ball to break the deadlock. Bath put up the high ball, and after it fell awkwardly, Sale fullback Miller hacked through and chased. A straight footrace between the two fullbacks ensued, and whilst it looked like Miller had taken Abendanon off the ball, the TMO awarded the try. Macleod secured the conversion. 16-9.

With little time remaining on the clock, the Bath boys didn’t give up, attacking hard and putting together a string of phases following a missed penalty attempt by Macleod. Their efforts went unrewarded, but they did leave Edgeley Park with the bonus point.

23rd APRIL 2012 BATH V WASPS

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 MAY 2012 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 07/11/2019.

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 *