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11 August 2012, 7:04pm

Bath Rugby off to winning start

Kyle Eastmond scored his first try for Bath Rugby as they secured their first victory of pre-season with a 40-31 win over Aviva Premiership newcomers London Welsh.

Both sides looked slightly slow from the kick-off, testing each other with a series of long range kicks and moving the ball the width of the pitch.

Bath drew first blood with a penalty from Tom Heathcote after the young fly-half was blocked from chasing his own chip through. Welsh levelled the score soon after, but two more penalties from the boot of Heathcote gave the home side a 9-3 lead after the first quarter.

It was Welsh though who scored the first try, after 32 minutes of play. The visitors secured the lineout ball five metres from the Bath line and hooker Dan George forced his way over. Gordon Ross added the conversion, giving the Exiles a one point lead.

Bath soon found their stride though, and they started to control the game more. 18 year old Academy fly-half, Ollie Devoto, on for Tom Heathcote, found Kyle Eastmond with a superb pass and the rugby league convert sprinted through the centre of the field and beat two defenders to score between the posts. Devoto then added the extras, regaining the lead for Bath. 16-10.

With a minute to go before half time Bath were once again crossing the white wash, this time through scrum-half Michael Claassens. Devoto put in a neat cross-field kick to find Eastmond who plucked the ball from the air and looked to be away. Nick Scott, formerly of the Bath Academy, had other plans though and put in a great covering tackle on the winger. The ball was quickly recycled, and after a couple of phases found Claassens, who sniped over from short range, taking the score to 21-10 as the players went in at half-time.

Bath came out for the second half determined to extend their grip on the game and set about working through another phase of attack into the Welsh 22m. The pressure led to a penalty for the home side, which Devoto dispatched to touch. Ryan Caldwell took the lineout well, and David Wilson picked up the miss pass to power over the line from seven metres out, brushing off the Welsh defence on his way. Devoto was successful with the conversion, extending the lead to 28-10.

Another solid kick to touch minutes later led to Bath's fourth try. The resulting lineout was secured, and a strong driving maul powered towards the try line. A bundle of bodies crashed over the line, and as the referee awarded the score, hooker Will Tanner emerged with the ball. 33-10.

The Exiles were working hard to get themselves back in the game, and after turning the ball over in their own half, they worked their way the length of the field for Jonah Holmes to score. Gavin Henson, who came on at fly-half at half-time, scored the conversion. 33-17.

Bath hit back, working hard to win the ball and keep Welsh penned in their own half. The lineout, going well for most of the afternoon, provided another try in the 54th minute, this time for Carl Fearns, who smashed through several tackles on his way to the try line. Devoto's conversion was good. 40-17.

Welsh weren't giving up easily and scored twice in the later stages of the game, former Rec man Paulica Ion and Ashley Smith the scorers, with Henson adding the extras. Ion crashed over from short range after Welsh had gone through multiple phases, with Smith's coming late on in the game as the wing snuck over in the corner after a quick tap penalty.

Whilst they know there is still plenty to work on for Gary Gold's men, this was an encouraging start for the squad who will face Ospreys next Saturday at the Liberty Stadium, before returning to the Rec for their final pre-season game against Cardiff Blues on Friday 24th August.

Final Score 40-31.

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