7 years ago
22 January 2006, 12:00am
The Leinster talisman was back to his best as he inspired the Irish Province to the five try victory that secured their place in the last eight of the competition. Showing no signs of the shoulder injury that ended his Lions tour in the summer, O'Driscoll scored a try and set up two others as Bath simply could not find a way into the game until the final quarter of the match.
"We did not deserve to win that match and therefore we don't deserve to have the home tie," said head coach Brian Ashton after the match. "One of the things we said was that we had to attack their storm from the off knowing that they would come at us, but we consistently turned over ball against a Leinster side that has world-class acts out wide."
The storm that Ashton expected hit the Rec as early as the fifth minute when Felipe Contepomi and Dennis Hickie's quick thinking led to a sublime score by powerful Ireland winger Shane Horgan which was converted by Contepomi. From that moment on until the end of the half it was all Leinster.
Barkley reduced the arrears with a penalty five minutes later, but Leinster, playing on the front foot, took a stranglehold on the match. Contepomi intercepted Barkley's inside pass to race fully sixty metres to score a try which he converted, before prop Will Green rounded off a moment of class from O'Driscoll and midfield partner Gordon D'Arcy to give the visitors a healthy 21-3 lead with just seventeen minutes gone.
Whilst Bath's heroic defence stemmed the tide and Barkley struck over a second penalty, the home side needed a score to lift the game and check Leinster's momentum. However, Bath simply could not retain the ball long enough to build pressure situations and although Leinster did not add another score before the interval, Ashton's men, who lost Andy Higgins to the sin-bin, could not make a breakthrough themselves.
Bath had to come out of the blocks in the second half if they were to have any chance of securing that home tie, but it took until the fifty-seventh minute for the home side to enjoy their first period of sustained pressure in the game. Barkley slotted over his third penalty to keep Bath's hopes alive, but just two minutes later came the hammer blow.
Attacking inside the Bath twenty-two, O'Driscoll showed two dummies before releasing Horgan for his second try of the match. Contepomi, who had an immaculate afternoon with the boot, added the extras. Leinster then scored a fifth try when O'Driscoll rounded off a good move to score in the corner to leave the visitors sitting pretty at 35-9.
Then came the Bath revival. Ashton said after the game that he wished his side could have started the game the way they ended it, and you could certainly see why. Bath's final quarter performance was as good as any seen by the club this season. Playing with greater urgency, incisiveness, pace and precision, the home side played some cracking rugby whilst denying Leinster the ball.
With seven minutes to go Andy Higgins showed a good step and made a cracking break to set up full back Michael Stephenson for a superb try in the corner which replacement fly half Chris Malone converted.
Suddenly the atmosphere in the Rec was lifted as the majority of the 10,600 crowd got behind the home side and a second try came two minutes later as Higgins again set up Matt Stevens for a powerful try after Leinster were penalised inside their own twenty-two. It was a well finished score after some great build-up play and suddenly the Rec entertained the thought of securing a losing bonus point.
However, it was not to be as Leinster's defence held firm in the dying moments. Bath may be reflecting on what might have been - a home quarter-final, but the West Country side's Heineken trail will now take them to Welford Road at the end of March.
Bath: 15 Stephenson (1t), 14 Andy Higgins, 13 Tom Cheeseman, 12 Salesi Finau, 11 Frikkie Welsh, 10 Olly Barkley (3p), (Chris Malone 2c), 9 Nick Walshe (Andy Williams), 1 David Flatman (Duncan Bell), 2 Lee Mears, 3 Matt Stevens (1t), 4 Steve Borthwick (James Hudson), 5 Danny Grewcock, 6 Andy Beattie, 7 Michael Lipman, 8 Gareth Delve (Peter Short)
16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Duncan Bell, 18 Peter Short, 19 James Hudson, 20 James Scaysbrook, 21 Andy Williams, 22 Chris Malone
Ref: Nigel Owens (WRU)
By Dom Rumbles
Other results for this match are not available.
Lineups for this match are not available.