Bath Rugby opened their Aviva Premiership Rugby account with an encouraging five point win away to Leeds Carnegie, 16-32.
A sunny afternoon greeted the visitors at Headingley, with a strong wind to test the kickers, and whilst the rugby on display may have been scrappy at times, an entertaining game was played out for the 5000 plus crowd.
Leeds had the run of play in the opening quarter, attacking strongly to keep play in Bath's half, with the visitors playing on the back foot in large parts. The first chance to get points on the board fell to the home side, after a scrum infringement from Bath gave Leeds fly half Ceiron Thomas a shot just inside the 22. However, the kick went wide, and Bath responded well as just three minutes later debutante, Sam Vesty, scored the first three of his 17 point haul of the match, giving the visitors the lead. 0-3
Three minutes later Leeds levelled the score, as an easy kick for Thomas was successful. Both sides were attacking strongly, and an end-to-end game developed. Another successful penalty for the home side saw them lead for the first time of the game. 6-3
Bath regained the lead back moments later, with a try from full back Nick Abendanon, following a break from Shontayne Hape. Scrum-half, Michael Claassens recycled the ball, passing to Vesty, who fed it to Abendanon. After a neat dummy, he jinked inside the defender, to go over just inside the touchline, despite some strong tackling from Leeds. Vesty made a difficult conversion look effortless, as he curled the ball through the posts. 6-10
The sides went in with just one point between them at half time, after Leeds worked their way up the field into a strong attacking position from the kick-off. Thomas succeeded with a cleverly worked drop goal, from the back of a Leeds attacking scrum on the 10m. 9-10
Bath looked to be playing with more rhythm from the opening minutes of the second half, and increased the lead just seven minutes into the second half. A lineout taken successfully by Stuart Hooper saw the ball worked through the hands across the backs, earning a scrum on the 10m line. A good drive followed, and the ball ended up in the hands of Vesty, who scorched through the huge gap in the Leeds defence to score between the posts. An easy conversion for Vesty saw the score stand at 9-17.
As the game entered the final 20 minutes of the game, Bath were both defending and attacking well, despite some strong pressure from Leeds.
A skilful turnover from replacement prop, Nathan Catt, gave Bath the attacking edge, as the ball was passed through the hands, to Matt Carraro, who ran through virtually unchallenged from the 22m line, to score between the posts. Vesty converted to take the score to 9-27.
Despite the score-line advantage, Leeds kept the pressure on Bath, attacking hard in the final stages of the game, but Bath's defence stood firm.
Persistent offenses from Bath led to Claassens being shown a yellow card in the 70th minute. Leeds were unable to take advantage of the extra man however, as replacement scrum half Mark McMillan cleared the ball, finding touch just inside the Leeds 22m. The Leeds throw in found scrum half, Scott Mathie, who attempted a box-kick only to have it charged down by Simon Taylor, who was unlucky not to be able to gather the ball. Leeds wing, Semi Tadulala, guided the ball beyond the dead ball line, earning Bath a scrum five metres out. Captain, Luke Watson, picked the ball off the back of the scrum and showed his power and pace as he crashed over the line and touched down in the corner, earning Bath the all-important bonus point. 9-32
Leeds attacked valiantly in the final stages of the game, earning a late consolation try through replacement hooker, Steve Thompson, and conversion by replacement, Leigh Hinton, however it was too little too late for the home side.
Final score 16-32