2012-2013

by BRIAN.JENKINS

2012 2013 MATCH REPORTS

1st SEPTEMBER 2012 WORCESTER V BATH

18 second-half points from the boot of Olly Barkley secured Bath Rugby’s first win of the season after a second-half resurgence and dramatic last minute penalty saw them to a 23-24 victory over Worcester Warriors at Sixways.

It was a disjointed start to the game for Bath as Andy Goode scored four unanswered penalties inside the first quarter, the fourth coming after Matt Banahan was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on as the Warriors mounted their first meaningful attack of the half.

The visitors were seeing very little ball and whilst the defence held firm to stop Worcester crossing the try line, they were unable to mount any significant attack.

Matters were not helped when captain Stuart Hooper, along with Warriors captain Dean Schofield, joined Banahan in the sin-bin following an off the ball scuffle.

Bath’s first points came on the 25 minute mark. Michael Claassens gathered the high ball, and the ball was quickly shipped wide via Francois Louw to Dan Hipkiss. The centre held steady and tried to release Tom Biggs, but for the winger to be tackled into touch by Josh Drauniniu. However, play was taken back for an earlier Worcester offence and Barkley sent the first of his eight penalties through the posts. 12-3.

Barkley and Goode traded another penalty a piece before half-time, and it looked as if the Warriors’s fly-half had scored the first try of the afternoon on the stroke of half-time but for referee Luke Pearce to disallow the score for a forward pass. Half-time score – 15-6.

Whereas in the first half it was Worcester dominating both the score board and the possession the momentum shifted in the second half, with Bath retaining possession, building phase after phase of pressure which enabled Barkley to chip away at Worcester’s lead.

10 minutes into the second half and Bath had forced three more penalties from the home side, Barkley converting them all and tying the scores.

Bath looked to build on their increasing dominance with wave after wave of attack, but were unable to break-through the Worcester defence.

A neat chip from Barkley for Kyle Eastmond to run onto nearly paid off as the winger surged forwards to collect it, and whilst Worcester fullback Chris Pennell initially gathered the ball he couldn’t hold on. There was no chasing support for Bath, and play was brought back for an earlier penalty. Barkley made no mistake in taking the lead for Bath. 15-18, 66 minutes.

The see-saw nature of the game continued however and Worcester hit back from the restart. They inched closer towards the Bath line, the forwards picking and going, stretching the Bath defence until lock James Percival was able to find a gap from close range. Goode saw his conversion come back at him off the post, so there remained just two points between the two sides. 20-18.

And so Barkley and Goode traded further penalties to keep all at Sixways on the edge of their seats.

Goode missed one attempt, which looked to have sealed the win for Bath, only for the home side to be awarded another penalty in an identical position. The fly-half made no mistake at the second time of asking with just two minutes remaining. 23-21.

Bath weren’t giving up though, and from the restart the pushed hard at the Warriors. They made vital yards into home territory, before forcing the penalty. With time dead on the clock, Barkley stepped up and, with nerves of steel, sent the ball clean through the posts to seal the win.

FINAL SCORE WORCESTER 24 BATH 23

8th SEPTEMBER 2012 BATH V WASPS

Bath Rugby recorded their second win of the season with a 30-23 win over London Wasps after an exciting and at times frantic game.

Olly Barkley carried on where he left off against Worcester Warriors last week by kicking six from six goals throughout the game, with tries for the home side coming from Matt Banahan, Tom Biggs and Kyle Eastmond.

Barkley started with a penalty in the first five minutes giving the hosts an early lead. There were early attacking opportunities for Bath, but they were unable to take advantage, and after 15 minutes Nick Robinson responded with a penalty of his own at the second time of asking, drawing the sides level.

Both sides were looking to play the ball, using the width of the pitch to try and find holes in the opposition defence, and the much talked about backlines on either side were keeping the defences and crowd on their toes.

Patience in attack paid off for the home side as – just under the half hour mark – they were first to cross the try line, Matt Banahan powering over. A well taken lineout from Dominic Day saw the ball spun wide, with Barkley picking out Dan Hipkiss. The centre put in a deft touch to release Banahan who stormed over the line and touched down. Barkley added the extras, taking Bath’s lead to 10-3.

In keeping with the frantic nature of the game, Wasps responded quickly. Nathan Catt put in a barnstorming chip and chase, but Joe Simpson gathered for Wasps and released Christian Wade along the line. The winger looked set to score, but a fantastic try-saving tackle from Barkley saw the danger averted – for the moment at least.

The visitors kept the ball, and, after a period of sustained attack where they tried to find a way through the staunch Bath defence, a penalty was given and Robinson clawed back three points as the half-time whistle blew. 10-6.

Bath came out for the second half ready to press home their advantage, and quickly increased the lead with another penalty from Barkley after a great scrum from the home pack saw Wasps penalised.

The advantage was added to just minutes later with Biggs crossing over for Bath’s second try. A loose pass from Robinson hit teammate Tom Palmer on the back and ricocheted into the path of Biggs who chipped ahead, setting up a footrace between himself and Wade as they headed for the line. The Bath man held his line, powered in front of the Wasps wing and held on to touch down under pressure. Barkley again converted. 20-6.

Wasps were not letting go though and Tom Varndell managed to get on the end of a neat chip from lock Marco Wentzel to go over for their first try and to bring them back to within seven points as Robinson added the conversion. 20-13.

Bath had the opportunity to close the game out going into the final quarter of the after Carl Fearns stormed towards the tryline. The flanker was unable to find either Biggs or Michael Claassens with his pass though, and Wasps managed to escape and clear.

A good kick from Banahan gave Bath some vital territory, and set up the final home try of the game. From the lineout, the ball was shipped wide, Nick Abendanon making a strong run in the midfield, before Barkley picked out Kyle Eastmond in the centres. The wing collected the ball and jinked his way to the tryline, bursting through a number of tackles on his way to dance over for a superb score – his first in a competitive fixture for Bath. Barkley again completed the try, 27-13.

A turnover from Joe Launchbury gave the visitors hope of a losing bonus point, as he released Christian Wade to run in down the line, with Robinson converting, and the fly-halves traded a penalty a-piece as the game drew to its conclusion, Robinson’s coming on the final whistle.

Final Score – Bath Rugby 30 – London Wasps 23.

 14th SEPTEMBER 2012 BATH V NORTHAMPTON

Despite not conceding a try, Bath Rugby could only take a losing bonus point in their hard-fought 14-18 defeat to Northampton Saints at the Recreation Ground.

A promising start saw Nick Abendanon cross the try-line within the first minute to give Bath the lead. A well taken lineout in the Saints half saw the ball spun quickly across the pitch, before it found its way back to Tom Biggs who put in a well-timed grubber kick for Abendanon to run onto and go over in the corner. The conversion attempt was on the touchline for Olly Barkley and the fly-half couldn’t quite find the angle to add the extras. 5-0.

Shortly after though, the lead was reduced after referee Andrew Small adjudged Bath to have come in from the side, allowing Stephen Myler to reduce the deficit. 5-3.

Bath were soon back on the attack though and a surging run from Dan Hipkiss saw the centre win a penalty, which Barkley successfully converted, restoring the five point lead.

Two quick penalties for Saints saw them draw within two points and then take the lead just after 20 minutes, Myler maintaining his 100% kicking record for the evening. 8-9.

Bath were building in attack, and Ben Williams came close to breaking through the strong Saints defence, only for the referee to call a knock-on after Williams was tackled.

Despite the pressure, it was Saints who added to their tally next. Bath turned over the ball, but were penalised in the process, giving Myler the opportunity to make it 8-12 with five minutes left of the half. Barkley had the chance to bring the home side to within a point on the stroke of half time, but his attempt came rebounding off the post and allowed Saints to clear.

Half-time – 8-12.

Saints came out firing and were putting pressure on the home defence from the start of the second half. An accidental knock-on from Tom Biggs broke the momentum, but it wasn’t long before Myler added to the Saints score with another penalty. 8-15.

Bath hit-back straight away from the kick-off though, forcing Saints to give away a penalty at the ruck through strong attacking play, which Barkley sent sailing through the posts to bring Bath back to within four points.

He added to this six minutes later after a powerful driving maul resulted in a scrum and then penalty in Bath’s favour. 14-15.

Myler’s only miss of the evening came at 65 minutes after they had been awarded a penalty at the scrum. Bath tried to take advantage of the slight momentum shift, and had some good phases building towards the Saints line.

A stolen lineout saw Barkley send the ball wide to Abendanon, which he swiftly offloaded to Hipkiss, who won the penalty as Saints went over the top. Barkley’s kick was low though, and it dipped under the bar with ten minutes to go.

A charge down kick from Barkley saw Luther Burrell burst through and give Saints good field position, allowing replacement full-back Tom May to slot a drop goal, reinstating their four point lead. 14-18.

Bath refused to give up, and attacked hard for the remaining few minutes. However, despite heavy pressure, they were unable to breach the Saints defence, and had to settle for the bonus point as the final whistle blew.

Final Score 14-18.

22nd SEPTEMBER 2012 LONDON IRISH V BATH

A try from Kyle Eastmond alongside a conversion and five penalties from Olly Barkley wasn’t enough for Bath Rugby to overcome London Irish at the Madejski Stadium as they fell to a 29-22 loss.

Both sides were looking to press forward in the early stages of the game, and when Marland Yarde failed to gather the high ball it gave Bath the chance to take an early lead as Olly Barkley looked to strike a drop goal from the back of a scrum. The attempt was wide, but Bath maintained the pressure. A good lineout, following a penalty in the visitors favour at the scrum, saw a powerful driving maul set up and Irish had no choice but to give away the penalty to halt it. Barkley made no mistake this time, giving Bath the lead after nine minutes. 0-3.

Irish were looking lively in attack though, and it wasn’t long before Steven Shingler had levelled the scores for the hosts.

An exchange of penalties followed, with both Barkley and Shingler striking the ball well, before the Irish centre gave them the lead on the 23rd minute with his second kick from the halfway line.

Staunch defence from Bath quickly snuffed out the attacking opportunities for Irish, and they were soon on the attack themselves. A well-secured lineout saw the ball come back to Stephen Donald, and as Eastmond looped behind him, the fly-half floated the pass out the winger. Eastmond broke and fedNick Abendanon who continued the break, with Tom Biggs outside him in support. Eastmond was quickly on his inside shoulder though, and as the ball was offloaded he had a simple run in. Barkley’s conversion was good, and Bath were back in front on the half hour, 9-13.

Shingler’s monster boot came to the fore again moments later though, this time kicking from just inside the Bath half to reduce the deficit to just one point.

The hosts continued to push hard, and with just a minute left of the half they got the break as Halani Aulika drove over from short range. Shingler got the conversion, and it was 19-13 at half-time.

Barkley immediately clawed three back for the visitors when the teams returned to the pitch after Irish were seen to come in from the side, but the home side were refusing to give in to the pressure, instead forcing their way up the field and into a good position on the field. The Bath defence held their ground, but when Ian Humphreys combined well with Yarde in the centre, they released Jonathan Joseph to burst through and score. Shingler’s conversion took the lead to 10 points, but Bath weren’t giving up, and powered their way into the opposition half.

A strong lineout drive from Bath saw Jamie Gibson sin-binned for repeated infringements, and the visitors looked to press home their advantage with Barkley kicking for the corner rather than goal. The forwards drew the defence, picking and going from close range. The ball was shipped wide, and whilst it looked like a try was certain, there was a knock-on and the advantage lost.

The Irish defence, a problem for them in their first three games, had been shored up and weren’t giving in to the heavy pressure from the visitors attack.
Barkley reduced the gap with two more penalties in the closing stages, but Shingler was on hand again to extend the lead with one of his own, taking the score to 29-22 as the game drew to an end.

With just seven points in it, Bath continued to hit Irish with wave after wave of attack, but they were unable to find the gap they needed to wriggle through for the try, and it finished with just a losing bonus point for the visitors.

Final Score – London Irish 29 – Bath Rugby 22.

29th SEPTEMBER 2012 BATH V SALE

Bath Rugby gave Olly Barkley a winning send-off as they consigned Sale Sharks to a fifth straight defeat in the Aviva Premiership at the Recreation Ground today, final score 31-10.

The visitors had the first shot at goal, but fly-half Nick Macleod couldn’t find his angle and missed the chance to give them an early lead.

Man of the hour Barkley, who was playing his last game in the blue, black and white before departing for Racing Metro 92 on Monday, made no such mistake when he was handed the ball for Bath’s first penalty. A loose line-out from Sale saw Bath pounce and spread the ball wide. Kyle Eastmond was heavily involved in the build-up, and whilst he couldn’t quite hold on to Stephen Donald’s looping pass, the referee took play back for a penalty on the touchline. Barkley sent the ball sailing through the posts, to give Bath the lead on nine minutes.

He doubled the lead two minutes later, before Macleod got Sale on the board on 14 minutes. 6-3.

Bath kept looking to attack, forging their way up the field, but were unable to break the defence early on. Sale’s indiscipline let them down though, with Barkley striking another solid penalty just before the half hour mark.

A sensational take in the air from Michael Claassens led to the next penalty, allowing David Wilson charged up the field in possession. Sale infringed, and Barkley secured three more. 12-3.

It went from bad to worse for the visitors as they soon found themselves a man down after Tom Brady took Ben Skirving out in the air from the re-start, and they had a chance to claw back three points moments later but Macleod was again off target with his attempt.

Half time score – 12-3.

Bath came out hard from the break, eager to turn the screw on the visitors, and it was Wilson who sparked the game into life.

The tighthead prop went on a bullocking run through the midfield, carving open the Sale defence. The ball was quickly recycled and sent through the hands of the forwards, before it was spread wide to Simon Taylor and Nick Abendanon outside. Abendanon couldn’t find his way through to the line, but as the ball came back into the middle of the pitch, Wilson was on hand to power over from short range. Barkley was good with the conversion, extending Bath’s lead to 19-3.

Sale were still fighting though, and hit back with a try of their own. Good work from their forwards took them within range, allowing Samoan centre Johnny Leota to burrow over and score. Macleod converted, bringing them back to within nine points of the home side.

The game was well into its closing stages when the next score occurred, and it came from an interception.

Bath were defending in their 22 when a sloppy pass found Barkley, who fed the ball wide to Tom Biggs. The winger raced away, and chipped ahead, trying to get the better of his opposite number, Mark Cueto. The ex-England wing fielded the kick well, but Biggs caught him in possession, and Cueto conceded the penalty. Opting for the lineout, the forwards secured the ball, drove hard, and sent Ben Skirving over to take Bath into a 24-10 lead with six minutes remaining.

Anthony Perenise looked to have scored Bath’s third shortly after, but referee Sean Davey ruled no try, and instead it was the last play of the game that extended the winning margin.

With just a minute left on the clock Andy Powell hit Dominic Day with a dangerous tackle, seeing yellow for his troubles and Bath awarded a penalty.

They opted for the scrum, and after a monumental shove saw the Sale pack travel back at a rate of knots, the home side were awarded a penalty try, leaving Barkley to kick the final points of the game, and his last for Bath, to seal the win.

Final Score – Bath Rugby 31 – Sale Sharks 10.

6th OCTOBER 2012 GLOUCESTER V BATH

Despite a converted try within the first minute of the game from Stephen Donald, Bath Rugby could not prevent local rivals Gloucester taking the bragging rights in a physical, hard-fought West Country derby at Kingsholm. Final Score 16-10.

It looked to be the perfect start for Bath when Donald went over after just 32 seconds. Nick Abendanon had burst through and offloaded to David Wilson, who then made a bullocking run of his own. The tighthead quickly offloaded out of the tackle to Donald who burst through the Gloucester defence and sprinted 40 metres to score. He converted his own try, giving the visitors an early 0-7 lead.

It was a lead they held on to for the remainder of the first half as they pinned the home side back in their own half, quickly snuffing out any threat of attack from the Cherry and Whites.

With the notorious Shed somewhat quieter than normal, the 14th minute initially seemed to silence them even more. Sam Vesty received the ball in the midfield and looped round to grubber through to Eastmond out wide. The wing danced along the edge of the try-line, and managed to get the ball away to Abendanon just before he was tackled. Abendanon touched down, and it looked as if Bath had doubled their lead. Referee Dave Pearson consulted the TMO however, who ruled no try as Eastmond had edged into touch before offloading.

A penalty at the scrum meant Bath could extend their lead six minutes later though, Donald sending the ball sailing through the posts following some good work from the pack. 0-10.

Whilst Bath were on top for much of the first half, two penalties late in the first half from Freddie Burns got some points on the board for the home side, and gave them a lift going in at half-time. 6-10.

Burns had the chance early in the second-half to narrow the gap once more, but he was wide with the penalty attempt.

It didn’t dent the Gloucester confidence though, and they dominated early on in the second half. They appeared to have got their first try of the match through Shane Monahan, but some critical defensive work from Tom Biggs and Ben Skirving saw the TMO rule no try after a double movement from the wing.

The Bath defence was working incredibly hard to keep the home side at bay, and after 52 minutes, they were stretched too far – Rob Cook going over in the corner. Burns got the conversion, giving Gloucester the lead for the first time in the game. 13-10.

A cliché it may be, but the game was quickly becoming one of two halves – whilst Gloucester had struggled for possession in the first half, so Bath were doing in the second. There were good breaks from Donald, Skirving and Biggs, but the visitors just couldn’t capitalise on them.

A drop goal from Burns on the 72nd minute gave the home side a small buffer, and whilst Bath battled hard for the remaining minutes, they were unable to breach the fierce home defence, and so had to settle for a losing bonus point.

Final Score – Gloucester Rugby 16 – Bath Rugby 10.

15th OCTOBER 2012 BUCHAREST WOLVES

Bath Rugby started their Amlin Challenge Cup campaign with a five try bonus point win over Bucharest Wolves, final score 17-40.

Fullback Sam Vesty secured an early lead for Bath inside the first minute with a well struck penalty. It was a lead he doubled on the 12th minute, after the home side were found guilty of pulling down a strong driving maul from the visitors. 0-6

Bath dominated the early exchanges, and whilst Vesty missed with his third penalty attempt, it wasn’t long before they had their first try of the match.

Ollie Devoto, on his first start for the Club, kicked for the corner from a penalty, and a well taken lineout saw the ball moved quickly through the hands in the Bucharest 22. It eventually found Academy lock Will Spencer who powered over from short range. Vesty’s conversion was good, extending the lead to 0-13 after 23 minutes.

Bucharest had barely made it out of their own half in the opening stages, and it went from bad to worse for the Romanian side as prop Flavius Dobre saw yellow after the referee’s impatience ran out with the persistent indiscipline. Vesty was once more on target with the resulting penalty. 0-16.

Bath took advantage of the extra man and set about once more applying pressure to the home side. A turnover from Nathan Catt in midfield saw the prop surge forward, offloading to Jack Cuthbert in support. Cuthbert found Biggs outside him, who drew the defender and passed neatly inside to Ross Batty, sending the hooker over for the second try of the game. Vesty added the extras, giving Bath a 23 point lead with 35 minutes played.

Bucharest were not about to let the visitors have it all their own way however, and when a well struck kick gave them a lineout in the Bath 22, they worked their way up to the try line. Scrum-half Florin Surugiu eventually found a gap in the defence and darted over to score. The conversion was added by Florin Vlaicu giving them a valuable seven points as the two teams went in at half-time.

The visitors were soon in control of the game again, and just five minutes into the second half they had once more breached the Bucharest tryline. Guy Mercer stormed up the field, gaining valuable territory. The ball was worked inside to Devoto, who, seeing the overlap Bath had outside, spun the ball to Cuthbert. The centre drew the defence before offloading to Vesty, who went over in the corner. He converted his own try, giving Bath back their 23 point advantage.

Vlaicu got another three points on the board for Bucharest with a well struck penalty, but with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game, Devoto crossed the whitewash for the all-important bonus point try. Replacement scrum-half Chris Cook took the ball into the Bucharest 22 and found his fellow replacement half-back, Kyle Eastmond, who had come on at fly-half. Eastmond threw an excellent long pass out to Devoto who darted through the defence to score his first try for Bath. 10-35.

Bucharest were still battling hard though, and hit back with a try from their captain Cristian Munteanu with just six minutes left on the clock. Fly-half Michael Wiringi converted. 17-35.

The visitors refused to give up either however, and after both Guy Mercer and Bucharest replacement hooker Otar Turashvili were sent to the sin-bin for an off the ball altercation, Kane Palma-Newport scored the final try of the game. Nick Abendanon, on for Devoto, put in a lovely kick to touch, and the resulting lineout saw a powerful driving maul established. The dominant forwards rumbled on, and Palma-Newport crashed over the line to finish the scoring and seal Bath’s first European victory of the season.

18th OCTOBER 2012 SU AGEN V BATH

Francois Louw’s last minute try secured a second away bonus point win for Bath Rugby in the Amlin Challenge Cup this evening, after a nail-biting game with SU Agen. Final Score 22-27.

It was the home side who struck first after they had enjoyed the majority of possession in the opening stages. It looked like fly-half Raphael Lagarde was going for a drop-goal, but instead he was chipping over the Bath defence towards the posts, and whilst Dan Hipkiss was quick to react, Agen centre Benjamin Petre got there first and touched down for the opening score. Lagarde added the extras, 7-0.

In blustery conditions, Stephen Donald hit back for the visitors just a minute later with a penalty after Agen were pinged for not rolling away. 7-3.

It looked as if Agen had got their second try soon after, but Dave Attwood managed to get underneath the home attack to hold the ball up over the line.

Lagarde added three more points after 20 minutes with a penalty of his own, and whilst Donald had the opportunity going into the last ten minutes of the half, his kick was wide. 10-3.

However, it was the visitors who finished the first half with the momentum. The Bath scrum had been dominant for the majority of the first half, winning an early penalty against the head. They did the same again on the 33rd minute, shoving the Agen scrum back towards the line, and when Opeti Fonua lost control of the ball, Michael Claassens snipped from short range to touch down. Donald was just wide with the conversion, meaning there was just two points between the sides at half-time.

Bath looked set to carry that momentum through to the second-half, and whilst Agen were again first to strike with a penalty from Lagarde, Nick Abendanon made a scintillating break from deep to take play right into the home 22. Dave Attwood and Paul James were quick to recycle the ball, and having found Kyle Eastmond out wide, the winger stepped outside the defender and dived over the line for Bath’s second try. Donald converted, giving Bath the lead for the first time in the game. 13-15.

A tense, see-saw game developed as the second-half continued, with Lagarde putting the home side back in front moments later with another successful penalty.

Bath hit back five minutes after with another try. A powerful drive from the forwards saw play taken right up to the Agen try-line, and as the defenders were drawn in, space was created outside. The ball came out quickly, and Donald burst through the gap to touch down and regain the lead for Bath. 16-20.

Agen were not letting the visitors have it all their own way however, Lagarde scoring two more penalties going into the last ten minutes, one of which was a speculative effort from way out that sailed through the posts. 22-20.

With just five minutes left on the clock, Agen lock Damien Lagrange saw yellow after referee Neil Hennessy lost patience with their repeated infringements. A tense closing period began, as Bath tried all they could to force their way back up the pitch and into the red zone.

A lineout inside the Bath half saw the ball quickly passed across the pitch, finding Ben Williams in the middle who broke free of the Agen defence, taking play well into the home half. Donald and Tom Biggs both played their part in edging the attack closer to the line, and as time ticked dead, Francois Louw looked to have scored from short range. Hennessy wanted to make sure though, and referred the decision to the TMO who awarded the try. Donald secured the conversion, and with it Bath’s second bonus point win in the Amlin Challenge Cup.

Final Score – SU Agen 22 – Bath Rugby 27.

  27th OCTOBER 2012 BATH V EXETER

Bath Rugby maintained their unbeaten run against the Exeter Chiefs with a 23-15 win at the Recreation Ground.

The home side opened the scoring after just three minutes with a try from Ben Williams. The centre had put in a huge hit on Jason Shoemark moments before, securing a penalty for the home side. From the resulting lineout, possession was held, and the ball spun through the hands, eventually finding Nick Abendanon who burst through. Williams was on the wing in support and crashed through the tackle of Gonzalo Camacho to go over in the corner. Fly-half Stephen Donald sent the touchline conversion sailing through the posts to give Bath a 7-0 lead.

Gareth Steenson had the chance to get the Chiefs on the score-board minutes later, only to see his penalty attempt bounce back at him off the upright.

Instead it was the home side who continued to control the early stages of the match, running the ball through the hands and working hard to find holes in the Exeter defence.

They were rewarded after 16 minutes, with Kyle Eastmond crossing in the corner. Another sparkling run from Abendanon allowed Francois Louw to bulldoze his way to the line. The flanker was felled just short, but the ball was quickly recycled by Donald. The fly-half saw the space out wide with Eastmond virtually unmarked, and looped the ball to the wing to score Bath’s second try. 12-0.

Another penalty attempt was missed by Steenson before Exeter found their way onto the scoreboard, as they stretched the Bath defence to its limit, allowing prop Brett Sturgess to cross. 12-5.

Bath didn’t panic and kept the majority of possession for the rest of the half, probing at the Exeter 22. Another period of attack close to the half-time whistle proved too much for the Exeter defence and they conceded a penalty at the lineout. Advantage was played but play was eventually brought back for the original penalty. Donald was straight and true with his attempt, and it gave Bath a 10 point advantage going into half-time. 15-5.

Exeter started the second half much brighter, attacking from the kick-off. Steenson managed to dissect the uprights at the fourth time of asking after 49 minutes, and the visitors’ confidence was growing.

Despite the growing amount of possession Exeter were enjoying, they were finding it hard to get out of their own half, choosing to run the ball back at the home side. Turnover ball from the hosts created the third try, after some patient build up through the hands saw Louw barge his way through the Exeter defence and crash over the line, extending the lead back to 12 points with 20 minutes left to play.

And what a tense 20 minutes it turned out to be. Exeter continually tried to work their way through the Bath defence, sneaking through any gap they could find. Twice they looked to have gone over the tryline, only for the scores to be ruled out for a double movement and being held up. The pressure eventually told though, with Dan Hipkiss being shown a yellow card in the build-up to the second for slowing the ball down.

Exeter took advantage of the extra man, piling on more pressure from five metres out, and as the defence tried to hold firm a gap eventually emerged, Ignacio Mieres finding it to score. He converted his own try, taking Exeter to within seven points with 10 minutes remaining.

Given the chance to relieve the pressure, Donald dutifully did with a touch finding kick, however Hipkiss picked up a second yellow card whilst in the sin bin for trying to prevent the quick lineout, meaning Bath were forced to play the remainder of the game with 14 men.

The defence was working tirelessly to try and prevent Exeter from entering the red zone again, and when Chris Whitehead pulled Nathan Catt back off the ball, Donald wasted no time in taking the opportunity to go for goal and put three more points between the two sides as the clock counted down.

Both sides were searching for the elusive bonus point as the game drew to its close – Mieres’s missed penalty for Exeter saw Bath charge back at them, but eventually the ball was lost and the game ended with no further scores.

Final score – Bath Rugby 23 – Exeter Chiefs 15

 4th NOVEMBER 2012 LONDON WELSH V BATH

Bath Rugby came away from the Kassam Stadium with a losing bonus point this afternoon after Nick Scott stole a 16-9 win for London Welsh with an intercept try in the last minute of the game.

Stephen Donald and Gavin Henson exchanged early penalty misses as the game commenced, before the Welshman broke the deadlock on 10 minutes.

Bath were looking to create space to attack with centres Matt Banahan and Ben Williams combining well to bust holes in the Welsh defence. However, the home side held on and managed to re-group and keep out Michael Claassens, Guy Mercer and Tom Biggs as they launched a series of attacks on the try line.

With just under 20 minutes gone, Welsh forced their way up-field. A great covering tackle from Mercer prevented the breakaway try, but a couple of phases on and Henson extended the lead after referee Andrew Small awarded a penalty. 6-0.

Bath were working hard in Welsh territory, with the home side struggling to get out of their own half much in the first half. However it took until the 29th minute before Bath could get some points on the board. Academy back-row Will Skuse drove from the lineout and earned a penalty after Welsh were guilty of holding on. It was a tricky angle for Donald, but the fly-half curled the ball beautifully inside the posts, taking the score to 6-3.

Bath had the upper hand as the first half drew to a close, and from a lineout 20 metres out Lee Mears burst through the defence. The ball was recycled and found the hands of Dave Attwood who powered his way over the line, only for Small to rule he was held-up and blow the whistle for half-time.

The visitors came out for the second half looking to convert some of their pressure into points. A collapsed scrum from Welsh on the 50 minute mark gave Donald the chance to draw the game level. The fly-half gave Bath the lead with an almost identical penalty kick ten minutes later, after Attwood was brought down in the lineout. 6-9.

With ten minutes to go the visitors were looking to close the game out with the defence working hard to snuff out any Welsh attack before it gathered momentum. Replacement fly-half Gordon Ross missed his first opportunity to bring the scores level once more, but made no mistake the second time around as the game was drawing to a close. 9-9.

As the last minute of the game ticked on, Bath looked for one last attack. Donald spotted an overlap out-wide, and threw a long pass. Ex-Bath Academy wing Scott, having read the pass, came in off his wing and intercepted, winning the 40m footrace with Kyle Eastmond to score between the posts. Ross’s conversion sealed the win for the home side, and Bath were left ruing missed opportunities.

Final score London Welsh 16 – Bath Rugby 9.

10th NOVEMBER 2012 BATH V NEWPORT

Bath Rugby kicked-off this season’s LV= Cup crusade with a 36-15 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons.

Man of the Match Semesa Rokoduguni scored twice on his debut, with Matt Banahan also crossing for his second try of the season and Tom Heathcote scoring 21 points with a 100% kicking display from the tee.

Bath exerted pressure in the Dragons half from the start, and within two minutes Heathcote had slotted the first of his eight kicks after Bath were awarded a penalty.

Newport hit back on the six minute mark with a try from Ross Wardle and conversion from Steffan Jones after they worked to spread the defence too far. 3-7.

Bath responded clinically, building phases patiently and working their way into the Dragons territory. A turnover from Olly Woodburn led to a good break from Heathcote who neatly offloaded to Rokoduguni on his shoulder. The winger raced away from the Dragons defence, scoring just to the left of the posts. Heathcote added the conversion, and Bath had restored their lead. 10-7.

Heathcote and Jones traded penalties to keep the visitors within three, before the Bath fly-half took full advantage of Newport’s indiscipline with a further three penalties before half-time, the last one coming on the stroke of half-time following a yellow card to Newport’s Ian Nimmo following a late tackle on Heathcote. 22-10.

Bath came out from the second half and continued to control the game, taking full advantage of the extra man with a great team try in the first five minutes.

Anthony Perenise, Ollie Devoto and Rokoduguni were all heavily involved in the build up as the ball was spread first one way and then the other across the pitch. Josh Ovens broke the line and delivered a well-timed pop pass for the rampaging Matt Banahan to run onto. The big centre powered his way through the Dragons tacklers and over the line to touchdown between the posts. Heathcote converted. 29-10.

Newport were trying hard to find a way into the game, and it looked as if Wardle had scored again out wide after a good period of play but Bath replacement Richard Lane had managed to drag his opposite number into touch before he planted the ball down.

On 65 minutes Newport were again reduced to 14 men after their captain, Jevon Groves, was sent to the sin-bin after a number of infringements in the 22. Bath again started to build pressure, working patiently in the red zone to try and find a way through the stubborn defence of the visitors.

The break came on the 72nd minute after quick work from the lineout saw the ball moved quickly into the middle of the field, where Rokoduguni was on hand to shrug off two Newport defenders and fly over the line between the posts. Heathcote was again on target with his conversion, extending the Bath lead to 36-10.

Newport hit back with four minutes to go with a consolation try from Dan Evans, but by then the victory was secured for the home side.

Final Score – Bath Rugby 36 – Newport Gwent Dragons 15.

 16th NOVEMBER 2012 HARLEQUINS V BATH

Despite a dogged second half performance Bath Rugby were unable to overcome a resilient Harlequins side at the Stoop tonight, falling to a 21-12 defeat.

It was a night for fly-halves, with all the points coming from the boot.

Ben Botica gave Quins their nine point lead going in at half-time, and whilst efforts from Stephen Donald and Tom Heathcote saw the visitors come to within three points, Quins replacement Louis Grimboldby was as accurate as Botica and drew the game away from Bath in the closing stages.

Botica gave Quins the lead within a minute after Bath were judged to have crossed, and he doubled it three minutes later when the visitors were guilty of not rolling away. A third penalty on the 15 minute mark came at the scrum, and Botica was once again on target.

Bath got their first points on the board the next minute, Donald scoring his first penalty after Quins were off their feet. 9-3.

Bath had seen little of the ball in the opening stages and Botica slotted his fourth penalty as the 20 minute mark approached. The visitors went on their first real foray into the Quins half shortly after, but were met with stubborn Quins defence.

Repeated infringements at the scrum saw Anthony Perenise yellow-carded, but Bath were next to score as Quins were offside following a lineout. Donald converted the resulting penalty. The decrease in the deficit was soon overturned though as Botica landed his fifth in a row.

The run-up to half-time saw Bath in the ascendancy, after some patient build up saw them edge closer to the red zone. Charlie Beech bulldozed his way over on the stroke of half-time, but his effort was ruled to be held up.

Half-time score 15-6.

Bath came out in the second-half keen to pick up where they had left off, patiently working through the phases to put pressure on the home side. Some probing runs from Olly Woodburn and Ryan Caldwell saw Bath edge closer to the try-line and whilst the move broke down, the referee brought play back for an earlier Quins infringement, giving Donald the opportunity to record his third penalty of the match, reducing the gap to six points. 15-9.

Bath continued to apply the pressure but were unable to find a way to breakdown the robust Quins defence. Heathcote, having replaced Donald on the 58th minute, drew the visitors within three points with just over 15 minutes remaining, but it was to be Bath’s last score of the game as the home side forced their way back into it.

Replacement Brett Sharman was sent to the sin-bin for Bath, giving Grimboldby the chance to give Quins a six point buffer, and he restored the nine point lead the home side had established  by half-time seven minutes from time.

Bath fought hard in the closing stages looking for some sort of consolation but the stern defence that had prevented them crossing the whitewash all game was still in place, and the game ended 21-12.

 24thNOVEMBER 2012 BATH V HARLEQUINS

Man of the Match Stephen Donald kicked Bath Rugby to a 21-18 victory over current Aviva Premiership Champions Harlequins at the Recreation Ground this evening.

The visitors took an early lead. They tried going to the corner for the lineout on the first offence, but when the drive didn’t come off, they looked to the boot of Nick Evans who duly secured the opening points.

Donald had the opportunity to level the scores three minutes later, only for his shot to glance narrowly wide.

It was to be his only miss of the night though, and he made amends on the 16 minute mark after good pressure from Bath in the Quins half saw them earn a penalty. Donald stepped up and levelled the scores. 3-3.

Both teams were looking to run the ball, keeping the opposing defence on their toes. Bath had possibly the best opportunity of the half when Matt Banahan charged down a kick from Quins fullback Tom Williams in their 22. The centre gathered the ball and sensing his centre partner Semesa Rokoduguni open to his left threw the ball wide, but the Fijian couldn’t gather and the opportunity was lost.

Instead, Quins were next to score – Evans taking advantage of another kickable penalty. Donald responded though with a good kick of his own, and took Bath into the lead for the first time two minutes later.

Half-time Bath Rugby 9 – Harlequins 6

Bath started the second-half in much the same way as they had finished the first – applying pressure in the Quins half.

Both defences were standing firm, and it was the two New Zealand fly-halves who continued to provide the points.

Donald extended the home side’s lead after Quins infringed at the lineout after 46 minutes.

Quins scrum-half Karl Dickson looked to be through for a try shortly after but for a frantic covering joint tackle from Guy Mercer and Tom Biggs on the line. Bath absorbed the resulting pressure at the scrum and Nick Abendanon took the opportunity to clear.

Evans unusually missed his next penalty attempt, but made no mistake moments later when presented with another opportunity. A late tackle from Mercer on the 61st minute meant Evans drew the two sides level, and the Rec was in for a tense closing 20 minutes. 12-12.

The fly-halves exchanged another penalty a piece before it looked as if Bath had scored.

A strong lineout drive saw Bath power to the tryline. Biggs was tackled just short, and Banahan looked to have touched down from the back of the ruck. Referee JP Doyle consulted with the TMO who ruled that the ball wasn’t grounded. Doyle had spotted a Quins infringement in the build-up however, and brought play back for the penalty, which Donald converted to take Bath back into the lead. 18-15.

The Kiwi extended the lead with seven minutes remaining with a superb kick from the touchline, and whilst Evans struck one more penalty to take his and Quins’s tally to six, the determined and resolute home defence stood firm in the closing minutes to seal the win.

Final score Bath Rugby 21 – Harlequins 18.

 1st DECEMBER 2012 LEICESTER V BATH

Bath Rugby held on to claim a losing bonus point at Welford Road this afternoon in a 17-12 defeat to Leicester Tigers.

The visitors started brightly, and when ex-Leicester man Horacio Agulla was blocked after making a neat little chip ahead, Stephen Donald had the chance to take an early lead. His kick was wide, however the New Zealand fly-half made amends on 14 minutes with a well worked try.

Lee Mears threw to the end of the line-out and found Francois Louw, who offloaded to Nick Abendanon. The full-back broke through, released Matt Banahan and found Donald. The fly-half stepped around the Tigers defence and powered over to score the opening try. 0-5.

George Ford had the opportunity to respond for Tigers almost immediately, but his penalty attempt came back at him off the post – his second miss of the game.

The home side were starting to exert more pressure as the first-half wore on, and it looked as if Niall Morris had got their first points on the board only for his try to be ruled out by the TMO for a forward pass.

The score advantage remained with Bath thanks to some stern defence from the visitors, who absorbed the Tigers pressure well and held firm until the half-time whistle blew.

Ford found his angle with his first attempt of the second-half, getting Tigers on the board early on and after Simon Taylor was yellow carded on the 50th minute, Leicester continued to exert pressure. It resulted in another penalty five minutes later, and Ford was once again on target, taking the home side into the lead for the first time in the game. 6-5.

Bath were not content to sit back and defend however and came firing back at Tigers to claim the next score.

Anthony Perenise broke the line, charging his way up-field. The ball was recycled and Donald found Banahan out-wide. The centre stormed through the defence, found Tom Biggs inside and the winger had a clear run-in to stroll over the line. Donald was on target with the conversion, giving Bath a 6-12 lead.

Three minutes later though and there was a shift in momentum. Francois Louw was red carded for an off-the-ball incident, and Tigers took immediate advantage with Adam Thompstone going over in the corner after the Bath defence was stretched too far. 11-12.

Ford made up for his missed conversion moments later with another penalty to regain the lead for Tigers. 14-12.

Referee Tim Wigglesworth was soon going back in his pocket to brandish more cards after a clumsy high challenge from Banahan on Anthony Allen saw the Bath centre red carded, and Brett Deacon joined him in missing the rest of the game for retaliating.

The game seemed to lose its rhythm following the break in play, and it went from bad to worse for Bath as Donald was also sent to the sin-bin with 14 minutes left of the game.

With Bath temporarily down to 12 men Leicester were awarded a penalty and Ford extended the Tigers advantage with a further penalty with 12 minutes to go.

Bath were defending their hearts out, and a superb last gasp tackle from Abendanon on Dan Bowden when he had the try-line in front of him kept Bath in range of the losing bonus point.

As the clock ticked down, dogged defence was coupled with tireless attempts to attack but the visitors were unable to find a way through and Micky Young ended the game running the ball out when time was up.

Final score – Leicester Tigers 17 – Bath Rugby 12.

8th DECEMBER 2012 BATH V CALVISANO

Bath Rugby recorded their biggest ever home European victory this afternoon at the Recreation Ground with a 10 try 67-11 bonus point win over Calvisano to maintain their standing at the top of Pool Four in the Amlin Challenge Cup.

Tom Heathcote got proceedings underway with a penalty on the second minute, but it was the Italians who crossed the whitewash first, centre Tommy Castello scoring in the corner after some good pressure from the visitors nearly 20 minutes into the match.

They made Bath work hard in the first half, and it wasn’t until the 25th minute that Bath regained the lead, following a superb solo try from debutant Nick Koster. The South African back-row received the ball inside the Bath half from Sam Vesty and showed his pace to sprint away from the chasing defence to cross in the corner. 8-5.

A penalty from Calvisano’s captain Paul Griffen on 32 minutes drew the scores level before Bath’s patience paid off at the end of the first-half. The home side powered over the line, but didn’t ground the ball in the eyes of the referee, who instead awarded a penalty. Heathcote took a quick tap, the ball was spread wide and through the hands of Ryan Caldwell who offloaded to his second row partner Dominic Day, who crashed over for his first try in Bath colours. Heathcote converted, giving Bath a 15-8 lead at half-time.

Despite having the lead, there was room for improvement from the Bath ranks, and an early second-half penalty from Griffen was the last time that Calvisano would be given the opportunity to further their score.

Bath hit back immediately after the penalty, with Koster becoming the distributor. The South African broke through the Calvisano defence and found Josh Ovens in support on his shoulder. Ovens took the ball well and powered his way to the try-line, stretching over to score. Heathcote added the conversion, giving Bath an 11 point advantage.

From then on, the tries came thick and fast, as the home side went on to score a further 45 unanswered points.

Guy Mercer, captaining the senior side for the first time, added his own score – the all-important bonus point try – five minutes after Ovens’s score. A strong driving line-out pushed the visitors back towards their own line, with Mercer crashing over to ground the ball. 27-11.

Just a minute later and Bath were once again crossing the try-line, as Man of the Match Horacio Agulla scored the first of his brace. Kyle Eastmond broke the line and, sensing Agulla outside him, offloaded to the Argentinian who raced away to dive over for his first try for the Club. Heathcote added the extra two.

Scrum-half Mark McMillan was next to add his name to the score-sheet, following another good break from Eastmond. The winger found Jack Cuthbert who chipped ahead, with Agulla cleverly gathering. The ball was re-cycled , and McMillan pounced from short range. Heathcote was again on target with the conversion, adding to his personal tally of 17 points from the tee.

Two minutes later and Agulla showed some stunning skill to score his second. He weaved his way through the Calvisano defence before chipping ahead. He neatly gathered his own kick and glided over the line. The conversion was good again from Heathcote, and it took the score to 48-11 with just over 20 minutes remaining.

Bath were increasingly dominating proceedings, and when lock Jaco Erasmus was sin-binned for the visitors as the home side were pushing from five metres out, it seemed just a matter of time before another try would come.

The home side kept applying the pressure, and it looked like Eastmond had worked his way over for a try of his own. However, the referee disagreed and brought play back for an earlier infringement. Bath opted for the scrum, sent the Calvisano pack reeling backwards and were awarded the penalty try. Heathcote sent the conversion through the posts, taking Bath’s points tally to 55.

Replacement prop Kane Palma-Newport crashed over from short range for Bath’s ninth try after another dominant scrum, before replacement lock Dave Attwood dived over to round the scoring off with the last play of the game. Heathcote added conversions to both tries, with the last sealing Bath’s biggest ever victory in European competition.

Final score – Bath Rugby 67 – Calvisano 11.

 15th DECEMBER 2012 CALVISANO V BATH

A hat-trick for Horacio Agulla and tries from Brett Sharman, Tom Biggs, Jack Cuthbert and Josh Ovens gave Bath Rugby their fourth bonus point win of the Amlin Challenge Cup, running out 5-39 winners in Italy over hosts Calvisano.

Stephen Donald added two conversions to the final score, with a clinical performance from the visitors seeing the bonus point wrapped up by half-time.

A classy touch-finder from Donald led to the first try. Caldwell secured the resulting lineout, and as the pack powered forwards, the Calvisano defence was unable to stop Sharman from crashing over from short range for his first try in a Bath jersey. Donald added the conversion from out wide, giving the visitors a seven point advantage after just three minutes.

Bath worked hard to maintain their early pressure, and it wasn’t long before it paid off. Donald was chipped neatly across the pitch, and it looked as if the ball would be dealt with by Calvisano lock Jaco Erasmus. However, he palmed it backwards into the deadball area and Agulla pounced to score his first.

Cavlisano had a rare opportunity to get some points on the board shortly after as Bath were found to be offside, however Paul Griffen sent the penalty wide. 0-12.

Instead, Bath maintained their controlled grip on the game, and it was Agulla who was next to alter the scoreboard with his second try.

Simon Taylor stole a Calvisano lineout around 30 metres out, feeding the ball down to Nick Koster. The back-row made an arching run before sending the ball to Donald. The fly-half found Kyle Eastmond outside him who deftly passed to Cuthbert and the fullback sent the Argentinian winger over in the corner after a dance with the touchline. 0-17.

The visitors were putting in a clinical performance, and with three minutes left of the half Biggs went over for the bonus point try, with Donald again heavily involved. The New Zealander broke through the midfield and looked like he was going to go himself. He saw Biggs out wide unmarked however and looped a long pass overhead. Biggs collected it well and crossed the line, with Donald adding the extras.

Half-time Calvisano 0 – Bath Rugby 24.

Bath continued the second-half in much the same way they had started the first, dominating the forward battle and looking to create space for the backs to run into.

Donald continued to play a pivotal role in proceedings, and it was another of his cross-field kicks that created the fifth try. Having worked their way patiently up the field, Donald spotted Cuthbert open on the left wing and lofted the kick over for the fullback to run onto and touch down virtually unopposed. 0-29.

Man of the Match Ovens, who had an industrious game, added his own score with just over ten minutes remaining. A huge driving maul from the Bath pack took play within range of the try zone, and Ovens darted over to get the score. 0-34.

Calvisano were looking to work their way into the game, and put Bath under pressure for various periods as the second-half started drawing to a close. Their patience was finally rewarded in the 78th minute with a try for Luigi Ferraro after some good forward pressure close to the line.

Bath hit back straight away though, and with the final play of the game Agulla got his hat-trick try. A 22 drop out from Calvisano was well-read by Bath, who snaffled the loose kick. Eastmond darted through the gap in the defence and sensed Agulla on his shoulder. The winger sailed over in the corner, sealing the win for the visitors.

Final Score – Calvisano 5 – Bath Rugby 39.

 22nd DECEMBER 2012 BATH V SARACENS

Bath Rugby fell to a 0-22 loss at the hands of Saracens at a rain-sodden Recreation Ground this afternoon.

Whilst it was 14 minutes before Charlie Hodgson landed his first penalty, the former Champions set about controlling the game early on, using the kicking game to secure territory and possession.

A superb tackle on the line from Louw six minutes later prevented Chris Ashton from scoring, but it wasn’t long after that Richard Wigglesworth managed to wriggle his way over to finish off a good break from Hodgson. The fly-half converted, giving the visitors a 0-10 lead.

Donald had the opportunity to get some points on the board for the home side after Ashton infringed, but he couldn’t convert from the difficult angle.

The fly-halves traded penalty attempts as the half drew to a close, and whilst Donald’s next two attempts, both long range kicks from just inside the half-way line, were short, Hodgson was on target with his, meaning Saracens had a 0-16 lead going into the half-time break.

Bath came out in the second needing a response, and looked to start breaking down the tough visiting defence. They piled on the pressure, with the driving maul in particular working to good effect at driving the Saracens back. However, they were unable to convert the pressure into points, and Saracens cleared their lines when given the opportunity.

The home side kept plugging away, and after more driving work from the forwards, it looked as if Francois Louw had a way through to the try-line, but the covering tackle dislodged the greasy ball and the chance was lost.

A final penalty from Hodgson, after a miss moments before, sealed the win for the visitors and a grim afternoon for the home side in what was only their second home loss of the season, and the first in which they haven’t secured a losing bonus point.

RESULT BATH 0 SARACENS 22

29th DECEMBER 2012 EXETER V BATH

Bath Rugby battled to a hard-fought draw at Sandy Park this afternoon, holding Exeter Chiefs to 12-12 at the final whistle, maintaining their unbeaten record over the West Country rivals.

Whilst the sun shone for the game, the torrential rain that had been pouring down beforehand made for slippery conditions and a greasy ball, with the wind also playing its part in a true battle of attrition.

Exeter, who went into the game having not lost at home in the Aviva Premiership all season, drew first blood with a penalty from Gareth Steenson 12 minutes in.

The visitors were quick to respond however, keen to keep the Chiefs at bay. Michael Claassens broke from the back of the maul and fed the ball wide. Stephen Donald danced with the touchline to keep the ball in play, before passing back inside over the heads of the Exeter defenders to Claassens who dived over the line in the corner. Kicking into the wind, Donald was narrowly short with the conversion, but Bath had their noses in front.

Both sides looked to try and find holes in their oppositions defence, but both held firm. The Bath scrum in particular was holding strong, winning penalties and enabling the visitors to relieve the pressure Exeter were putting them under at times in the 22.

Exeter were to go in marginally on top however, after Bath were found to be offside. Steenson made no mistake with the kick, and took his side into the lead at half-time.

Half-time – Exeter Chiefs 6 – Bath Rugby 5.

The home side came flying out of the blocks in the second half, upping the tempo and dominating both in possession and territory and Steenson added two further penalties to the Exeter tally within 50 minutes.

Bath worked hard to try and hit back and were building good phases of possession but small handling errors with the greasy ball crept in at vital moments and allowed Exeter to clear.

As the game wore on, so the conditions worsened, and whilst both sides kept slogging away, their efforts were nullified by stern defences on either side.

With just seven points in it going into the final ten minutes, Bath had all to play for and maintained their level of effort and character in trying to keep Exeter at bay.

A penalty was awarded to the visitors with just five minutes remaining and a lovely touch-finder from replacement fly-half Tom Heathcote saw them with a lineout 5m out from the try line. The lineout was secured, a huge driving maul set up and when Exeter illegally stopped it, referee David Rose ran between the posts and signalled the penalty try. Heathcote held his nerve to nail the conversion and bring the scores level and secure the draw.

Final score – Exeter Chiefs 12 – Bath Rugby 12.

 

2013

19th JANUARY 2013 BATH V BUCHAREST

Bath Rugby secured top seeding in the Amlin Challenge Cup in style with a nine try, 53-8 win over Bucharest Wolves at a snowy Recreation Ground.

After some sterling work from the Bath Rugby groundsmen and a host of volunteers to clear the snow and ensure the game could be played, the home side quickly set about starting to exert their authority on the game.

A penalty at the scrum saw Tom Heathcote kick to touch, and after a lineout penalty was also sent to touch, Bath had their first try. Tom Dunn, on his debut start for the Club, came inside after throwing the ball in, saw a gap open up in the Bucharest defence and barged his way through. Heathcote added the conversion, giving Bath a 7-0 lead after 13 minutes.

Bucharest were awarded a penalty shortly after, which centre Florin Vlaciu duly despatched between the posts, but it was to be their only score of the half as Bath set about dominating proceedings.

The pack produced a strong driving maul to heave their way into scoring territory, but were held up over the line. The resulting scrum had a different result however, as Bucharest wheeled round and referee Laurent Cardona had no hesitation in running between the posts to award the penalty try. Heathcote added the extras, taking Bath to an 11 point lead.

Just minutes later and Man of the Match Jack Cuthbert was crossing in the corner for the first of his hat-trick of tries. The ball was worked patiently through the hands, eventually finding Dan Hipkiss who held up the defence well to release Cuthbert to score the try. Heathcote couldn’t quite find the angle with a tricky conversion, only having a one-step run-up for the kick due to the snow behind the touchline. 19-3.

Cuthbert went over for his second, and the bonus point try  two minutes later, powering his way past three of the Bucharest defenders from about 30 metres out to score in the same corner. Heathcote’s conversion attempt came back off the bar. 24-3.

Half-time score: Bath Rugby 24 – Bucharest Wolves 3

The home side came out in the second-half with all guns blazing, and Horacio Agulla added to the try tally just two minutes in. A strong run from Ryan Caldwell in the mid-field saw the ball recycled through the backs, Cuthbert turned provider and Agulla stormed over in the corner. 29-3.

Bucharest enjoyed a rare period of possession afterwards, finding some go-forward and pushing Bath onto the back foot. A strong scrum from the visitors saw scrum-half Grigorus Dianconescu peel away and dart over to score their only try of the game. 29-8.

Bath were soon back in control of the game, with Nick Koster next to get his name on the score-sheet. Bucharest back-row Adrian Ion was sin-binned for a professional foul and Bath took advantage of the extra man, pulling the defence in to create a three man overlap on the wing and Koster being the man to run in the try. Heathcote converted, taking the lead to 36-8.

A scrum in the 22 led to Bath’s next try, with the ball quickly being recycled to the backs. A lovely little reverse flick from Agulla found replacement scrum-half Chris Cook outside him, who sprinted over to score. 41-8.

With just under ten minutes left of the game, Bath were very much in charge, and it wasn’t long before Cuthbert crossed for his third and arguably the best try of the game.

Matt Banahan, on for Dan Hipkiss in the centre, found Vesty with a superb inside pass, who in turn found Olly Woodburn out wide. The winger sprinted down his line, drawing the defenders, before releasing Cuthbert on his shoulder who touched down between the posts. Replacement Sam Vesty added the conversion. 48-8.

Woodburn was heavily involved in the final try as well, with another powerful sprint down his wing. Vesty and Banahan again linked in the centre, before Will Skuse stormed over for his first try in Bath colours.

Bath continued pressing in the dying minutes of the game looking for their 10th try, but the final whistle blew and qualification to the quarter-final as top seed was secured.

Final score: Bath Rugby 53 – Bucharest Wolves 8.

 26 JANUARY 2013 EXETER V BATH

Two tries from outstanding debutant Peter Stringer helped Bath Rugby maintain their unbeaten record over West Country rivals Exeter Chiefs this afternoon, leading to a powerful 16-6 victory in the third round of the LV= Cup.

Bath put early pressure on the Chiefs, and soon had a 3-0 lead after a successful penalty from Tom Heathcote. Henry Slade equalised for the visitors on seven minutes, and the game quickly became a close, edgy affair.

As the two sides scrapped for territory and possession, it was Exeter who were starting to find their feet and test the Bath defence. They looked to have hammered their way over the Bath line but for referee Nigel Owens to rule there was a forward pass in the build-up. Another penalty from Slade just after 20 minutes gave Exeter the lead, and it looked as if they would continue to take advantage of their possession, but the relentless Bath defence refused to fall.

Heathcote levelled the scores once more after Bath were awarded a penalty after a big shove at the scrum, and, with Ben Williams and Mark McMillan being replaced by Sam Vesty and Stringer respectively, so the scores remained until half-time.

Bath came flying out of the blocks at the start of the second-half, and were soon heaping pressure on Exeter in their 22. A couple of huge drives from the forwards came close to being tries, but the visitors managed to just do enough to hold them up.

Instead, an ambitious attack from deep led to the first try of the game, and the first for new man Stringer. Slick hands from Jack Cuthbert fed Richard Lane out wide on the wing. The Academy flyer put in a huge side-step around the Exeter defence, and the resulting ruck saw the home side awarded a penalty. Kickable though it was, Heathcote signalled the hosts’ intent by sending it to the corner to set-up the five metre lineout. Ross Batty, returning from injury and having replaced Rob Webber at half-time, found his man and a driving maul powered towards the try line. They couldn’t get the ball down, but Stringer was on hand to snipe the ball from the back and dart over in the corner. 11-6.

There was a sizeable shift in momentum, with Bath having the majority of possession now. Six minutes on, and the Rec faithful were out of their seats once more, as Stringer went over for his second.

Another kickable penalty was instead dispatched to the corner by Heathcote, and with the lineout once more functioning well, the ball was secured. The super-sharp Irishman saw the blindside gap, picked the ball up from the back of the maul and flew over in the opposite corner. 16-6.

The Chiefs were never going to give up, though, and going into the closing stages of the game the tension grew as they fought back. They shifted the ball left and right, doing all try could to breach the defence, but Bath weren’t shifting and as replacement Kane Palma-Newport turned the ball over in midfield and then won the penalty, it was just left to Heathcote to send the ball sailing out once more to end the game and seal another Derby Day victory for Bath.

Final score – Bath Rugby 16 – Exeter Chief 6.

 2nd FEBRUARY 2013 GLOUCESTER V BATH

Bath Rugby kept their hopes of qualifying for an LV= Cup Semi-Final alive this afternoon with a bonus point 5-32 win over old West Country rivals Gloucester Rugby.

After the two sides had gone in even-stevens at half-time with five points apiece, 27 unanswered second-half points gave the visitors their first victory at Kingsholm since 2006.

Bath started the game much the brighter of the two sides, and a series of early penalties were dispatched to touch by Stephen Donald, signalling the visitors’ attacking intent from the start.  First Rob Webber and then the pack forced their way over the line, only for referee Ian Davies to rule no try.

Bath were bossing the opening proceedings, enjoying the lion’s share of possession and territory. Just over 10 minutes had gone when Andy Hazell was sent to the sin-bin after a dangerous tip tackle on Webber. The extra man immediately came into play for the visitors. From the lineout the ball was spread quickly across the line, and after good hands from both Peter Stringer and Sam Vesty, the home defence was stretched too far and Olly Woodburn strolled over in the corner. 0-5.

Another ten minutes into the game and, just as Hazell was returning to the field, Tom Savage took his place on the Gloucester naughty step after he was found guilty of pulling a player down in the lineout. This time though there was no advantage gained from Bath, as the home side stood firm in defence and started to look for ways to attack from turnover ball.

Nick Abendanon and Matt Banahan were looking lively in attack for the visiting side, both being involved in a number of sparkling runs.

With just five minutes left of the half, a Gloucester lineout provided their only score of the game, as hooker Huia Edmonds bundled over from short range. Rob Cook missed the conversion, seeing the two sides go in level at the break. 5-5.

Gloucester came out quickly and looked as if they may have scored, but some strong Bath defence held Lua Lokotui short of the line, and then forced a penalty.

Turnover ball gave Bath the chance to run from deep, with Donald, Woodburn, Abendanon, Banahan and Horacio Agulla all combining to take play into the Gloucester half. Charlie Sharples was forced into touch and it created the opportunity for Bath’s second try.

Clean lineout ball saw quick recycling across the field with Donald, Banahan and Agulla all heavily involved once more, before Abendanon finished off the move in the corner, exploiting the well-crafted three on two. 5-10.

Playing into the wind, the visitors were taking every opportunity to run the ball. The next points came from the only attempted penalty of the game however, Vesty extending Bath’s lead after the home side were found guilty of pulling down the lineout on 62 minutes.

Just five minutes later, and Bath had their third try – an act which saw the Gloucester fans in the infamous Shed start leaving early. Clever linking play between Donald and Woodburn started the move, and allowed Mat Gilbert, who had come on as a replacement for Ben Skirving in the back row, to pick the ball up from the back of the ruck and barge his way over for his first try in Bath colours. Vesty’s conversion attempt came back off the post, but Bath had opened up a commanding lead with under 15 minutes left to play. 5-18.

Army star Semesa Rokoduguni added the bonus point try with just under 10 minutes to go, dodging out of the first Gloucester tackle and then gliding through the rest to gallop his way to the line. Vesty added the extras, taking the lead to 5-25.

The final try, from Donald, came in an almost exact replica of Rokoduguni’s, with the fly-half cantering through the Gloucester defence to score in almost the same spot as the winger. Vesty was again successful with the conversion, and the game was won.

Bath now have to wait the result of the Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints match this evening to see if they have qualified for the knock-out stages of their second tournament of the season.

Final score – Gloucester Rugby 5 – Bath Rugby 32.

 9th FEBRUARY 2013 BATH V WORCESTER

Bath Rugby burst back into Aviva Premiership action with a barn-storming bonus point win over Worcester Warriors at the Recreation Ground this afternoon, final-score 32-9.

A tight first-half saw the two sides go in just four points apart, but in the later 40 minutes Bath opened up, spreading the ball wide and at pace, and scoring 19 unanswered points on their way to victory.

The home side set the tone early, applying pressure to the Worcester defence from the outset.

The first try came with just five minutes gone on the clock, courtesy of scrum-half Peter Stringer. Ben Skirving picked the ball up from the base of the scrum and charged towards the line. The ball was recycled and sent wide to Abendanon who jinked his way towards the line. He offloaded to Biggs who took play up to the line, with Stringer on hand to gather the ball and dart over from short-range. 5-0.

The Warriors weren’t content to let Bath have it all their own way however, and were working hard to break through the defence. They were awarded a penalty, which fly-half Danny Gray sent to touch. Winger David Lemi looked to have crossed the line, only for the try to be ruled out due to a forward pass. Referee Wayne Barnes did however award the visitors another penalty, which Gray sent cleanly through the posts to reduce the deficit. 5-3.

Bath maintained their early pressure though, building momentum patiently in the Worcester half. With 23 minutes gone on the clock, a Bath lineout five metres out and subsequent drive saw Worcester lock Dean Schofield sent to the sin-bin for an infringement at the maul. Bath immediately took advantage of the extra man. They opted for a second line-out, heaved forward with a powerful driving maul, and Rob Webber burrowed over for his first try in Bath colours, on his first Premiership appearance for the Club. 10-3.

As before though, Worcester came back at the home side, and another successful penalty from Gray edged them closer on the scoreboard. 10-6.

As the first-half wound down, Gray and Donald exchanged another penalty a piece, as Worcester stubbornly held on to stay within four points as the two sides went in at the break.

Half-time score Bath Rugby 13 – Worcester Warriors 9.

The visitors came out on the front foot at the start of the second-half, forcing their way up the pitch into the Bath half. Under pressure, the home side infringed one too many times for Barnes’s liking, and Dave Attwood was shown a yellow card. Worcester forced a series of scrums, and had prop Aleki Lutui held up over the line, before Barnes blew his whistle and signalled a Bath penalty, much to the home crowds delight.

Bath took immediate advantage as well, with the ball being spread wide from the line-out. Donald supplied the ball to Kyle Eastmond, who floated a lovely pass out to the flying Tom Biggs on the wing. The Saxons star shifted in the air, collected the ball and stepped the Worcester defender to sail over in the corner from outside the 22.

The all-important bonus point try came courtesy of Horacio Agulla, with Eastmond once again playing provider. The centre, having received a neat pass from replacement Tom Heathcote, went on a surging run, lofted a superb cut-out pass to the winger who stepped inside and dived over the line. Heathcote added the conversion, extending the lead to 16 points. 25-9.

And it was Agulla who scored the final try of the game. Worcester were down to 13 men having had both Craig Gillies and David Lemi sent to the naughty step for foul play and a deliberate knock-on respectively, and it looked as if Biggs was going to sneak over for his second, only for some desperate Worcester defending to bundle him into touch.

Heathcote took the ball deep into the 22, saw the gap out wide and chipped a sublime ball for Agulla to run onto. The Argentinian gathered the ball and slid over in the corner for his second try of the game, and Bath’s fifth. Heathcote sealed the win with the conversion.

Final score – Bath Rugby 32 – Worcester Warriors 9.

 16th FEBRURY 2013 BATH V LONDON IRISH

Bath Rugby continued their impressive form of recent weeks with another emphatic bonus point victory at the Recreation Ground, beating London Irish 40-16.

A sixth win on the spin for Bath, the home side looked in control for the majority of the match, with tries coming from Nick Abendanon, Nathan Catt, Anthony Perenise and a penalty try, and the extras from the boots of Stephen Donald and Tom Heathcote.

Bath dominated the match from the off, with the forwards in particular proving to have the upper hand. However, with Donald missing an early penalty chance, it was in fact London Irish who first troubled the scoreboard, fullback Tom Homer sending two consecutive penalties through the posts.

Donald made up for his earlier miss with Bath’s first points five minutes later after Topsy Ojo was penalised for a high tackle on Tom Biggs, and the home side then started patiently building pressure. 3-6.

It paid off on the half-hour mark. A flowing move across the field resulted in Biggs having a simple run-in to the tryline. However, a second high tackle on the winger from Ojo saw referee David Rose head towards the posts, award the penalty try, and send Ojo to the sin-bin. Heathcote, on for Donald, sent the conversion cleanly through the posts, and Bath had the lead for the first time in the game. 10-6.

It was a lead they extended just five minutes later. A driving line-out, which was a solid platform that Bath worked from all game, saw the ball sent quickly out to Heathcote in midfield. The fly-half located Abendanon with a beautifully arched pass and the fullback looped his run around the Irish defence to cross the whitewash. Heathcote, with a little help from the inside of the post, added the extra two points.

Another penalty from Homer kept Irish within touching distance as the half-time whistle blew, but Bath seemed very much in control after the first 40 minutes.

Half-time score – Bath Rugby 17 – London Irish 9.

Another three points from Heathcote saw Bath edging away at the start of the second-half, and he added to it ten minutes later when Homer was the second Irish player to see yellow after failing to release Kyle Eastmond following a surging break from the centre. 23-9.

Bath were determined to take advantage of the extra man, but it wasn’t to be. A number of driving mauls at the line were held out by the Irish defence, and when it looked as if Bath had finally got over the line, Rose called a knock-on and Irish cleared the danger.

The visitors were fighting hard to get back into the game, and on 64 minutes it looked as if they may have found their way in, with replacement Jack Moates finishing off a flowing move from deep inside their own half to slide over in the corner. Fly-half Ian Humphreys added the extras, and for all Bath’s dominance it was back to being a seven point game. 23-16.

The home side rallied though and kept their heads under the pressure. Heathcote provided some breathing room with another good penalty with five minutes remaining following another yellow card to Irish – this time to Jon Fisher who carried the can for repeated infringements from the visitors.

With four minutes to go, Bath were throwing everything they could at the line, and it quickly paid off with two more tries.

Catt went over first, with another strong line-out seeing the ball come down quickly and finding the replacement prop 5m out. He barrelled his way through the on-coming defence to touchdown. Heathcote was again successful with the conversion from out wide, although again he needed a little help from the woodwork.

Bath kept up the pressure, searching for that all-important bonus point try. Another penalty from Irish saw the home side again opt to kick to the corner. The line-out was good, the driving maul powered towards the line and Perenise burrowed his way over at the front of it. Heathcote continued his successful afternoon with the boot with another sound conversion, sealing the win.

Final-score – Bath Rugby 40 – London Irish 16.

 23rd FEBRUARY 2013 NORTHAMPTON V BATH

Bath Rugby fell to their first defeat in seven games at Franklin’s Gardens this afternoon, but managed to secure an important losing bonus point as the game finished 25-23.

Bath started the game well, and took advantage when Saints fumbled an early lineout in the 22. A series of phases inched the visitors closer to the line, and the pressure finally told with Saints infringing. Tom Heathcote knocked over the resulting penalty, but it was cancelled out moments later by Stephen Myler for the home side. 3-3.

However, despite the early endeavours from the visitors, it was Saints who took the lead on 22 minutes with a try from winger Jamie Elliott. The home side applied pressure, spread the ball wide and Myler threw a looping pass out to Elliott on the wing. He gathered the ball and darted over in the corner despite the last-ditch efforts of mNick Abendanon. 8-3.

Bath started clawing back from the re-start, with Horacio Agulla nearly breaking free for a try of his own. The resulting scrum saw Bath win the penalty, and despite slipping on making contact with the ball, Heathcote’s kick was good. 8-6.

Myler added another three, before a huge scrum from Bath against the head drove the Saints pack back over their own line. The visitors couldn’t ground the ball, but were awarded the penalty, and Heathcote kept them within two points going in at half-time.

Half-time score – Northampton Saints 11 – Bath Rugby 9

Saints maintained their slight dominance for the opening minutes of the second-half, with Myler edging them further ahead on the score-board with three consecutive penalties. 20-9.

However, despite the score-line, Bath were certainly not out of the game, and the next two scores went to the visitors.

First, more great pressure from the Bath pack saw referee Luke Pearce award a penalty try. Heathcote again converted, taking the score back to a four point game.

Next, a fantastic piece of play from Semesa Rokoduguni saw the centre, called into the starting line-up as a late replacement from Matt Banahan, intercept a pass inside his own half and sprint away from the covering Saints defence to score between the posts. Heathcote was again on song with the conversion, giving Bath the lead for the first time since the opening minutes of the game. 20-23.

Both sides kept fighting as the clock ran down, and when Saints went on the attack again, they pulled the defence too far and Elliott again slipped through in the corner to give the home side the winning score. Bath tried to work something in the dying minutes, but it wasn’t to be, and the visitors had to settle for a losing bonus point.

Final Score – Northampton Saints 25 – Bath Rugby 23.

 9th MARCH 2013 HARLEQUINS V BATH

Bath Rugby fell to a fluid Harlequins side this afternoon at the Twickenham Stoop in the LV= Cup semi-final, despite a valiant fight back. Final Score – Harlequins 31 Bath Rugby 23.

Bath started brightly with Matt Banahan bursting through the Quins line from the off. However, it was the home side who struck first with a move straight off the training field.

Quick lineout ball was spread flat through the hands, eventually finding wing Tom Williams. He fed the ball to Maurie Fa’asavalu who found back-row partner Tom Guest and the number eight sprinted towards the line. Ben Botica added the extras, giving the 7-0 lead with eight minutes played.

As Quins looked to run any ball they had, Bath were looking to respond quickly to the try. The forwards rumbled up the field, and with the ball being quickly passed through the hands of the backs, it looked as if a score was on. However, Williams read Kyle Eastmond’s long pass, intercepted and sprinted the length of the field to cross between the posts. Botica scored the easy conversion, and the hosts had doubled their lead.

Bath were fighting their way back into the game though, and the forwards started to show their dominance at the set-piece. Two lineouts led to two penalties, both of which were dispatched back into the corner by Tom Heathcote, and on the third, taken securely by Dominic Day, the forwards drove hard and over the line, with Francois Louw touching down for the score. Heathcote added the conversion. 14-7.

Quins once more proved their ability to put speed into any possession they had four minutes before half-time, with Karl Dickson breaking from his own half to inside the Bath 22 to set up the next score for the London side. Opting to kick to corner rather than goal, the ball was passed through the hands from the lineout and Dickson eventually burrowed his way over from short range. Botica was again on target with the conversion, extending the difference to 14 once more.

Heathcote clawed three points back two minutes later after an enterprising break from Horacio Agulla was stopped illegally, and as the two sides went in at half-time Quins had an 11 point lead.

Heathcote picked up where he left off once play had resumed, edging Bath closer on the scoreboard with another three points. However, Quins pulled ahead again after some patient build-up through the phases lead to a break from Luke Wallace and second try from Williams. Botica converted. 28-13.

With the hour mark approaching, Bath knew they had to get back into the game, and were putting their all in to make it happen. When Sam Smith was yellow carded, the visitors were quick to take advantage of the extra man. The ball was passed first left then right across the field, with Michael Claassens eventually spinning it to Nick Abendanon who picked his line and crashed over despite the on-coming Quins defence. Heathcote nailed the conversion, taking Bath within eight points.

The fight back from Bath continued as the young fly-half added a penalty soon after to bring Bath even closer, but the game soon swung back in Quins’s favour as Nathan Catt followed Smith into the sin-bin for trying to prevent Dickson taking a quick tap penalty. Botica sent the resulting penalty cleanly through the posts and edged Quins further into the lead.

The 14-man Bath side battled hard as the last ten minutes ticked by, but with the home side in oppressive form they just couldn’t find a way through to get the scores needed and so the game ended in disappointment for the visitors.

Final score – Harlequins 31 – Bath Rugby 23.

 22nd MARCH 2013 SALE V BATH

Bath Rugby came away from a snowy and windy Salford City Stadium tonight with the losing bonus point having been edged out by Sale Sharks in an attritional battle, 14-13.

Both sides spent much of the opening stages not only assessing the weather, but also each other. Playing into the driving wind and snow for the first half, Bath soaked up the pressure put on them by the home side early on, and neither side got much further than the opposition 22 before possession was turned over.

With both teams electing to mainly keep the ball in hand, it was 20 minutes before the first points were scored, Nick Macleod putting the home side up. Nick Abendanon’s chip through richoted off a Sale defender, and from there the home side made the break. Bath infringed in the defensive line and it was a simple three points for the fly-half. 3-0.

Ten minutes later and Tom Heathcote had the chance to level the scores, but his attempt drifted just wide.

He made amends two minutes later though, with a superb kick from 40 metres out sailing over the cross-bar. 3-3.

Two quick penalties from Macleod took the home side back in front, and Bath went in at half-time six points down.

Half-time – Sale Sharks 9 – Bath Rugby 3.

Despite the six point difference, the game had been pretty evenly balanced, and it stayed that way from the beginning of the second-half.

It wasn’t until the 55th minute that a try-line was breached, and it was the visitors who did the breaching.

It started with a penalty at the scrum to Bath. Heathcote kicked for the lineout and once Ross Batty had found Ben Skirving, the pack set up a huge driving maul. Quick ball from Michael Claassens sent Matt Banahan crashing through the centres, with Horacio Agulla being on the receiving end of the centre’s offload. The Argentinian had to use all his strength and power to force his way over the line for the score. Heathcote sent the conversion over, and Bath had the lead for the first time in the game. 9-10.

A mistake from the visitors at the re-start led to a penalty chance for Macleod, but the fly-half saw his attempt go left of the post.

However, Sale ramped up the pressure. A series of lineout drives saw them spread the ball wide through the hands, and stretch the defence enough for Tom Brady to go over in the corner. Macleod missed the conversion, but the home side had regained the lead with eight minutes to go.

It was a lead they were reluctant to let go, but Bath didn’t give up the fight. With four minutes to go, Heathcote nailed another superb penalty following another good scrum from the pack, meaning there was just one point in it. The home side battened down the hatches though, and it was to be the last score of the game, sending Bath home with just the losing bonus point.

Final score – Sale Sharks 14 – Bath Rugby 13.

 30TH MARCH 2013 BATH V LONDON WELSH

Bath Rugby moved up to sixth in the Aviva Premiership table with a five try, 40-25, bonus point win over London Welsh at the Recreation Ground this afternoon.

The home side started the game in a confident manner, keeping the visitors penned back in their own 22. The pressure told within two minutes, as Matt Banahan latched on to a superb miss-pass from Stephen Donald, powered his way through the Welsh defence and dived over the line.

Donald couldn’t find his range for the touchline conversion, but within seven minutes, the home side had another try.

Welsh infringed in the 22, and instead of taking the three points, Donald sent the ball into touch for the lineout. Day securely gathered the ball and passed down to Carl Fearns, who peeled in front of the lineout to barge his way over from short range. Donald’s conversion came back off the post, but the home side had set-up a 10 point lead within 10 minutes of the kick-off.

After the quick start, the Exiles began to work their way back into the game. Donald extended the lead with a penalty on the 21 minute mark, but  three penalties from Welsh scrum-half Alex Davies inside seven minutes saw them claw themselves back into the game. 13-9.

It looked as if Bath were going to be pegged back before the half-time whistle sounded, but for a moment of magic from Great Western Wines Man of the Match, Semesa Rokoduguni.

The flying Fijian received a pass from Donald on the 10m line, and cantered through the defence to score between the posts. Donald added the extras, and as the two sides went in at half-time, Bath held a 20-9 lead.

Welsh were quick to try and start chipping away at it in the second-half though, and Davies added another three penalties to make for a nerve-jangling 20 minutes for the Bath faithful.

Donald stretched the lead further shortly before being replaced by Tom Heathcote, before Rokoduguni produced another scintillating moment that set the Rec alight.

Collecting the ball from the restart on his own 10m line, the Army star broke the line and sprinted away down the right-hand touchline. He had Agulla in support, and when it looked as if the Welsh defence were finally going to catch him, he offloaded to the Argentinian who sailed over the line to touchdown for the bonus point try. Heathcote added the conversion, extending the score to 30-18 with 15 minutes left to play.

The Exiles kept plugging away, and the pressure eventually told on the 70th minute when Seb Jewell crashed over from short-range. Davies added the extras, and the Welsh were back within five points going into the last ten minutes.

Under pressure, Bath found their rhythm again, and when Heathcote was blocked he slotted the resulting penalty with ease. 33-25.

As time ticked away, Bath kept the pressure on. A quick lineout saw the ball come safely down into the hands of replacement Michael Claassens and the scrum-half sniped his way through to the try-line for the final score of the game. Heathcote added the extras, and sealed a strong, if slightly nervy, win for the home side.

Final score: Bath Rugby 40 – London Welsh 25.

6th APRIL 2013 BATH V STADE FRANCAIS

An impressive display from Stade Francais ended Bath Rugby’s hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals of the Amlin Challenge Cup as they beat the hosts 20-36 at the Recreation Ground this afternoon.

The game started with both sides looking for early opportunities, and it looked as if Bath would have the first points when Kyle Eastmond burst 40 metres through the Stade defence, but a good covering tackle from fullback Hugh Bonneval saw the young centre brought down 10 metres short of the try-line.

Ollie Devoto then had the chance to put the home side ahead with a long-range penalty chance, but his attempt fell just short of the crossbar.

Stade then set about taking control of the game, and fly-half Jules Plisson put them three points up after 16 minutes. It wasn’t long after that the visitors scored the first of their four tries, with Fijian winger Waisea Vuidarvuwalu powering over in the corner following a quick move through the three-quarters. Scrum-half Jerome Fillol converted, giving Stade a 10 point lead.

It was a lead they quickly extended with a penalty from Fillol, before Stephen Donald got Bath on the scoreboard on 25 minutes with a penalty of his own. 3-13.

However, just after the half-hour, a loose pass in the midfield saw Vuidarvuwalu sprint away for his second try. Fillol was again on target with the conversion, taking the lead to 3-20.

Loosehead Rabah Slimani was sin-binned four minutes before half-time after he took Nick Abendanon out in the air, but Stade’s control of the game held until the break.

Half-time – Bath Rugby 3 – Stade Francais 20.

From the start of the second-half, Bath made their attacking intentions clear. Awarded a kickable penalty, Donald instead fired it into the corner for the lineout. Stuart Hooper took the lineout well, and the pack drove hard towards the line. There would have been a try scored if it weren’t for the cynical actions of Scott Lavalla trying to prevent the score, and referee Nigel Owens ran underneath the posts to signal the penalty try. Donald added the extras, and Lavalla saw yellow for his efforts. 10-20.

The fight back looked to be on for Bath, however two quick tries in as many minutes from Stade saw them take a 20 point lead with 20 minutes to go.

Both were scored by Bonneval and made by Vuidarvuwalu. First the winger broke diagonally across the field to allow the fullback to cross, and then he began the move that led to Bonneval’s second with a neat one-handed take in his own 22 that saw Stade sweep up the field and score. 10-30.

Bath kept plugging away though and worked hard to try and breakthrough the stern Stade defence. Another Bath penalty on the 64th minute was sent to the corner. The lineout functioned well and another huge drive was established. Replacement Michael Claassens peeled off the back, and headed for the try-line. It looked as if the scrum-half had been stopped short, but he showed all his power and experience to stretch out over the line and plant the ball down. Replacement fly-half Tom Heathcote edged the conversion wide, but Bath were throwing everything into fighting their way back into the game.

Plisson had other ideas however, and when the fly-half struck a speculative drop-goal attempt from inside his own half with ten minutes to go, which was awarded by the TMO, it effectively ended Bath’s hopes of a comeback.

They didn’t give up though. Twice it looked as if a try had been scored, first when the pack heaved their way over and then when Anthony Perenise touched down but they were ruled out for being held-up and a double movement respectively.

Bath did cross for a third try as Jack Cuthbert barged his way over, but with just two minutes to go there was little more the home side could do before Jerome Porical’s penalty bounced in off the crossbar.

Final score – Bath Rugby 20 – Stade Francais 36.

 13TH APRIL 2013 HARLEQUINS V BATH

Two second-half tries for Harlequins saw off Bath Rugby’s hopes of victory at a soggy Stoop this afternoon, as the home side recorded a 23-9 win.

The visitors started the game brightly, pinning Harlequins back well in their own half through the boots of Stephen Donald and Ollie Devoto.

The pressure paid off in the fifth minute as Quins infringed and Donald sent the resulting penalty cleanly through the posts to give Bath the early lead.

Devoto doubled the lead in the 22nd minute with a long range penalty after the Bath pack were rewarded at scrum time. 0-6.

Replacement Ben Botica gave Quins their first score on 30 minutes with a converted penalty, and four minutes later it looked as if the home side were going to have their first try.

Nick Evans broke through the midfield and whilst the fly-half was halted, the ball was recycled quickly and, if not for a superb tackle from Kyle Eastmond, it looked as if George Lowe was through for the try. Quins had to settle for the penalty – Botica levelling the scores.

Bath kept their cool, testing the home defence and looking to stretch it wide. As the clock ticked down on the first half, Eastmond and Agulla carried well to get within five metres of the try line before the ball was lost in contact. Referee Wayne Barnes consulted his TMO for a suspected high-tackle on Eastmond in the build-up, and when it was confirmed, awarded Bath the penalty. With the last kick of the half, Donald restored the lead for Bath.

Half-time: Harlequins 6 – Bath Rugby 9.

Bath had worked hard throughout the first half to keep on top of the game, but from the start of the second-half it seemed as if the momentum had shifted to the home side. They attacked from the off, and when a solid driving maul took them within five metres of the line six minutes into the half, Danny Care sniped his way over the try-line. Botica added the extras. 13-9.

Quins’ other New Zealand fly-half continued his good form from the kicking tee 10 minutes later with a penalty edging the home-side further ahead. 16-9.

Conditions worsened as the game progressed, both sides resorting to high balls to test the opposition and capitalise on any mistakes made.

Unfortunately, the mistake came from Bath, as a misunderstanding between Jack Cuthbert and Olly Woodburn saw neither claim the high-ball, and Ugo Monye was on hand to chip ahead and score. Botica was again on target, adding the conversion. 23-9.

Bath kept battling, trying to work their way up out of their half, but just couldn’t break down the stern home defence. But neither did they capitulate under the pressure from Quins, and so the game finished with no further scores.

Final score: Harlequins 23 – Bath Rugby 9.

20TH APRIL 2013 BATH V LEICESTER

Francois Louw’s late try clinched a dramatic bonus point win for Bath Rugby over old rivals Leicester Tigers at the Recreation Ground this afternoon, 27-26.

Encounters between Bath and Leicester always have an extra bit of spice, and today’s clash – the last game of the season at the Rec – was no different.

Toby Flood opened the scoring within four minutes after Bath were penalised in front of the posts, but Stephen Donald couldn’t take the opportunity to level the scores when presented with the chance, after a huge hit from Ben Williams forced the error from Leicester.

However, first Donald and then the rampaging Rob Webber broke through the Tigers’s defence, allowing Simon Taylor to power over the line from short range. Ollie Devoto added the extras, giving Bath the lead. 7-3.

In a see-sawing, end-to-end first-half, it wasn’t long before the lead changed hands again, and the visitors had their noses back in front. A penalty allowed Flood to kick into the 22, and after the successful lineout, Tom Croft capitalised on a gap in the Bath defence to punch through and go over. Flood made no mistake with the easy conversion. 7-10.

Tigers kept looking to extend their lead, working at the Bath defence, but as Mathew Tait looked to pass out wide, Semesa Rokoduguni picked it off immaculately and raced away to score. Referee Tim Wigglesworth went to the TMO to double check, but it was a simple decision and the try was awarded. 12-10.

Flood added another three, taking Tigers back into the lead, before Ben Youngs stretched the lead further. The England scrum-half took a quick tap penalty and sprinted away 80m to cross the white-wash. His England colleague added the conversion from the tee. 12-20.

Bath weren’t giving in though, with some big hits and strong work at the set-piece keeping the pressure on the visitors.

It looked as if Matt Smith had given Tigers another try, only for the TMO to rule it out after a forward pass from Tait was seen in the build-up.

More power at the scrum from Bath followed, and the game continued at a break-neck pace. The pack won the penalty, Donald sent it to touch, and the resulting lineout was won. A huge driving maul came from the home forwards before the ball was spun back to Donald. The Kiwi spotted Agulla out wide, and floated an exquisite cross-field kick over to the winger. The Argentinian stepped former teammate Tait and rounded the corner to score. With the final kick of the half, Donald nailed the conversion, making it a one point game at the break.

Half-time score: Bath Rugby 19 – Leicester Tigers 20.

Both sides came out firing in the second-half, picking up where they had left off.

Flood kept the Leicester scoreboard ticking over with two further penalties, before replacement Tom Heathcote, on for the impressive Williams, had an immediate impact, getting Bath back within four points with a penalty of his own. 22-26.

With 20 minutes to go, Bath patiently started applying the pressure to Tigers, as both sides continued to run the ball and test the opposition defence.

A sublime kick ahead from Kyle Eastmond followed by a stolen lineout saw Rokoduguni nearly go over, only for the Fijian to slip five metres out.

Another penalty attempt from Heathcote ricocheted back off the post, but the home side kept up the pressure, and five minutes later it proved too much for Leicester.

Replacement Anthony Perenise stole the ball on the ground and bulldozed his way through the Tigers’s defence, before offloading to Francois Louw on his shoulder. The dynamic flanker charged away and swallow dived over the try-line to secure the bonus point try. Heathcote’s conversion attempt from the touchline drifted just wide, to make it a nervous last seven minutes for the Rec faithful.

As the game drew to a close, Bath remained vigilant and disciplined in their defence, frustrating Leicester as they looked for a final penalty. Aviva Man of the Match Louw secured the ball one final time, and it was just left for Donald to kick the ball out to end the game to the delight of a jubilant capacity crowd at the Rec.

Final score: Bath Rugby 27 – Leicester Tigers 26.

4th MAY 2013 SARACENS V BATH

Bath Rugby’s hopes of achieving a top six finish ended in disappointment this afternoon as they were beaten 23-14 by Saracens at Allianz Park.

The visitors started brightly, stringing together a number of attacking phases, and it paid off when referee Martin Fox award the first penalty of the game their way, but Heathcote’s attempt was narrowly wide.

The home side began to get into their stride and a strong rolling maul allowed Schalk Brits to peel away from the pack and find Chris Ashton out wide for the first try of the game, but Farrell couldn’t add the extras. 5-0

The Saracens pressure showed no signs of receding and they soon found themselves camped on the Bath five metre line. Just as it looked as though Bath had turned the ball over, the ref awarded Saracens a penalty and sent flanker Guy Mercer to the sin bin for killing the ball. Farrell made no mistake with the penalty in front of the posts to take the score to 8-0 after 20 minutes.

Saracens’s man advantage was telling as another penalty was awarded to the home side inside the Bath 22. A powerful maul saw Mako Vunipola touch down for what looked like the second try of the game. Fox called on the TMO and the try was awarded but Farrell couldn’t add the conversion. 13-0.

Two minutes later, and it looked as if Ashton had got his second of the day. However, the TMO was called upon again and it was ruled out for a forward pass in the build-up play.

Determined to bring themselves back into the match, Bath went on the attack and a high tackle from Farrell on Heathcote saw the England fly half spend the next ten minutes in the sin bin, just as Mercer made his return to the field.

The extra man saw the momentum swing back in Bath’s favour as a good passage of play took them into the Saracens 22 . Captain Francois Louw signalled to Heathcote to kick for touch as Bath looked to finish the first-half strongly. Webber found his jumper in the lineout and the resulting maul saw the hooker follow up for touchdown. Heathcote added the extras to take the score to 13-7 at half-time.

Bath looked to start the second half the way they ended the first and an early penalty opportunity presented Heathcote with a chance to reduce the deficit, but the tricky winds at Allianz Park meant the kick went wide of the mark.

With both sides back up to a full complement of players, Saracens went on the attack with scrum-half Neil De Kock spotting a gap in the Bath defence. Farrell was up in support and the centre touched down, converting his own try. 20-7.

Bath were refusing to give up and pushed hard to get themselves back into the opposition 22. A well taken lineout saw Michael Claassens feed quick ball to Horacio Agulla, and the wing bounced his way through five tackles from the Saracens defence to get the try. Heathcote was again on target with the conversion. 20-14.

The lightening quick pace from Tom Biggs, on as a half-time replacement for Kyle Eastmond, was causing some trouble for the Saracens defence with the wing taking on David Strettle in a footrace following a chip ahead from the Bath man. The pressure forced Saracens to take the ball over the goal line and set up an attacking scrum, but Fox awarded the scrum penalty to the home side and the chance was gone.

Farrell extended his sides lead to nine points with ten minutes to go, but Bath kept working hard to try and find a way through. Good breaks from Ollie Devoto, Dave Attwood and Nick Koster looked promising but with time ticking down, the home side’s resilient defence won through.

Final score: Saracens 23 – 14 Bath Rugby

 

 

 

 

 

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