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.