5 years ago
20 February 2010, 10:31am
Bath Rugby, oozing confidence and sheer joie de vivre, completed their fourth Guinness Premiership victory on the trot and collected a bonus point which propels them into the top six.
The only disappointment was a 47th minute shoulder injury to fly-half Butch James, although that allowed Olly Barkley to make a long-awaited first appearance in a Bath shirt since returning from Gloucester last summer.
Bath had been leading 15-10 when James left the field but, aided by Worcester's indiscipline which saw flanker Tom Wood being sent off for a second yellow card and Chris Latham also spending time in the sin-bin, the home side eventually ran in five tries.
The result leaves opponents Worcester scrapping in the relegation zone while Bath can now set their sights on consolidating sixth place and perhaps better.
Head coach Steve Meehan said: "I was impressed with the way our guys played, the tempo and the endeavour. It's very difficult to stop us when we play like that.
"Even when we weren't having a great run earlier in the season, I said that this team was capable of going on a run of wins. We are confident and one of the major areas we wanted to concentrate on was enjoying ourselves. We are doing that."
Barkley admitted to being pretty nervous about making his comeback. "I haven't played in 10 months. It was my first home game and I was pleased to get through 20-25 minutes without any injuries. I really enjoyed playing today."
James began the game with an unconventional grubber and followed up a couple of minutes later with cleverly disguised cross kick. But Worcester held their nerve and broke out through hooker Aleki Lutui whose barrelling run earned a penalty at the breakdown. Willie Walker's kick was wide from 40 metres.
Worcester looked to the boot of former Wallaby full-back Latham to give them a toe-hold in the Bath half but Shontayne Hape was quickly up to snuff out the danger when the ball was shifted wide to Dale Rasmussen.
After Abendanon was caught 'man and ball' by a teasing grubber down the right, Bath went offside at the ruck and Latham this time opted for a kick to the corner. Two rucks from the line-out left Walker with Claassens to beat and he handed off the scrum-half to score and also added the conversion.
Being 7-nil down after quarter of an hour was not really in the script but the impressive Julian Salvi won a turnover and Bath set up camp in the Worcester 22. The pressure told when James combined with Hape and Ryan Davis and then lofted a pass to the in-form Joe Maddock who scored with a swallow dive in the corner after 20 minutes.
Davis was just wide with the conversion and when Bath were penalised at a scrum five minutes later Walker extended the visitors' lead to 10-5 with a penalty from 35 metres.
Bath's reply was instantaneous and incisive. James drew the defence from a line-out and flicked the ball inside to Maddock. A sidestep left Latham floundering as the right wing sped in under the posts to leave Davis with a simple kick.
The centre added a penalty on the half-hour to take Bath further ahead and, playing with increased confidence, they began to force Worcester into yet more penalties inside their own 22. Wood was then shown a yellow card on 35 minutes for handling in a ruck and was relieved to see his team-mates hold on as Bath failed to make the most of the opportunity.
Soon after the restart it was all hands to the pump again as a seven-man pack just kept the home side out from a five-metre scrum in the corner.
With Wood restored to the action, Worcester might have taken advantage but Chris Pennell stumbled just short of the line after collecting a clever kick through by Sam Tuitupou.
If that was not the turning point, then it came a minute or two later when Maddock was set free on the right and chipped over Latham, only to be blocked unceremoniously. The full-back protested that he was only holding his line but referee Tim Wigglesworth showed the yellow card for the second time and Davis put Bath 18-10 ahead on 52 minutes.
Walker pulled back three points almost immediately and Abendanon was forced to concede a line-out in his own 22. Worcester caught and drove but as the packs went to ground, the outstretched arm of the touch judge spelt more trouble for the visitors. Wood was again the culprit and having already received one yellow card was sent off.
With Latham still in the sin-bin, Bath quickly added a third try on the hour as Claassens spun through a clutch of defenders on the line to force his way over. The move had begun with excellent approach work by Abendanon, Flatman and Wilson and also Matt Banahan who handled twice before his skipper cashed in.
Latham's return did nothing to stem the tide as Banahan ploughed through his attempted tackle to score the bonus point try. Davis, in fine form from the tee, added his second conversion from wide out in three minutes.
A rash of replacements made for an unstructured last 15 minutes to the extent that Bath had all the possession but found it difficult to subdue a spirited rearguard action by the Worcester 14.
Eventually, however, Latham was adjudged to have taken the ball into touch and the pick-and-drive earned Bath a fifth try for Jonny Fa'amatuainu. This time Davis could not convert but he could be content with another assured performance.
By Kate Oram
Other results for this match are not available.
Lineups for this match are not available.