Bath finish off in style

The Guinness Premiership table does not flatter either Bath or Worcester, but as if released from the care of the preceding eight months, both teams celebrated the end of the season with champagne rugby at the Recreation Ground, and sent the capacity crowd home with memories to last them for the summer.

In all honesty, "champagne rugby" is perhaps a generous description as far as it describes the quality of the game, for it was not without error from both sides, and there was more than a hint of end-of-term-ism in the levels of concentration

But the entertainment derived as much from the players' mistakes as from anything else, and all this combined with the exhilerating pace and moments of brilliance to ensure that the match fizzed and sparkled almost continuously. Bath's four tries clinched a bonus-point victory that lifted them to ninth in the table, a more respectable position than the eleventh place in which they started the day.

Worcester opened the scoring with only two minutes gone, when Thomas Lombard - even as Bath's defence seemed to have bundled him into the left-hand flag, touched down and was awarded the try.

The visitors looked dangerous in the backs but an attacking move including a penetrating run from Michael Stephenson soon yielded Bath a score, when Worcester were penalised just outside their 22, and Chris Malone kicked from in front of the posts.

Then from his own half, Williams took a tapped penalty, and via some neat footwork and handiwork from Taufa'ao Filise, Andy Beattie and Olly Barkley, Duncan Bell charged through a gap towards the tryline. He was hauled down short, and Malone likewise could not quite make it, but it was thrilling and encouraging rugby and an example of the superb interplay between forwards and backs throughout the game.

But the Warriors backs looked ominous on the counter-attack, and took the ball into the Bath 22, where Brown had a chance of a penalty, but luckily for Bath he had yet to find his range.

There was plenty of fiery rugby from both sides - the referee called both captains together on the half hour to put an end to any hint of off-the-ball incidents - but Bath then demonstrated the perfectly executed driving maul to score from a penalty lineout, through Filise.

Bath had done well to keep Worcester out to this point, but crucially let them in just before half-time, from turnover ball, when Dale Rasmussen was put clear via Uche Oduoza and an inside ball to Thinus Delport. The half-time score was 10-8 to the visitors.

Although it might just as easily have been Worcester, Bath were the first to score in the second half. Barkley was held up after an attack that began in Bath's own half, but from the resulting scrum, Feaunati picked up from No. 8 and scored. Moments later, James Hudson scythed through the visitors' defence allowing Joe Maddock to score under the posts, and Malone converted.

Worcester were under all sorts of pressure. Barkley released Hudson down the right wing, the second row scorched 50 metres down the right wing, and passed to Stephenson, but alas, the pass was forward. They were pressing the line again when miscommunication allowed Worcester to break up field and Lombard to score his second.

It was now the visitors' turn to score two in quick succession, as Tom Harding then made the most of some missed tackles to recover the lead.

But more was to come when the ball was hacked up field by Andy Beattie, and although Oduoza beat him to it, the winger hacked it dead, setting up a Bath scrum. Walshe picked up and threw a miss-pass to Stephenson, who was not denied this time.

An enforced breather ensued when Worcester's Simon Whatling, who had only just entered the fray and formerly of Bath's Academy, needed prolonged attention. But as soon as play resumed, the game returned to its scintillating pace. Worcester it was who were on the offensive in the closing minutes, but Bath's tired bodies kept up the defensive battle and managed to hold on for a three-point victory, 25-22.

Bath's Head Coach Brian Ashton said afterwards: "There was some fantastic rugby, some entertaining rugby, and some crazy rugby. It's a great shame that sides leave it till the last day to play in such a manner. You don't see games like that very often in the Premiership."

But it bodes well for Bath next season that they can play in that manner.

2: Lombard try, 0-5
11: Malone pen, 3-5
29: Filise try, 8-5
39: Rasmussen try, 8-10
48: Feaunati try, 13-10
51: Maddock try, Malone con, 20-10
60: Lombard try, Brown con, 20-17
62: Harding try, 20-22
66: Stephenson try, 25-22

BATH: 15. Joe Maddock 14. Michael Stephenson 13. Andy Higgins 12. Olly Barkley 11. David Bory 10. Chris Malone (Davis, 64) 9. Andy Williams (Walshe, 60) 1. Taufa'ao Filise (Bell, 75) 2. Lee Mears 3. Duncan Bell (Barnes, 60) 4. James Hudson 5. Peter Short 6. Zak Feaunati (capt; Fidler, 69) 7. Chris Goodman (Faamatuainu, 60) 8. Andy Beattie

Replacements: 16.Rob Hawkins 17. David Barnes 18. Jon Faamatuainu 19. Rob Fidler 20. Nick Walshe 21. Ryan Davis 22. Ian Davey

WORCESTER: 15. Thinus Delport 14. Uche Oduoza 13. Dale Rasmussen 12. Thomas Lombard (Whatling, 65; Hallam) 11. Gary Trueman (Hylton, 60) 10. James Brown 9. Nick Runciman 1. Mike MacDonald 2. Chris Fortey (Van Niekerk, 52) 3. Lee Fortey (Black, 79) 4. Phil Murphy 5. Craig Gillies (O'Donoghue, 49) 6. Pat Sanderson (capt) 7. Tom Harding 8. Kai Horstmann (Hickey, 60)

Replacements: 16. Andre Van Niekerk 17. Callum Black 18. Ed O'Donoghue 19. Drew Hickey 20. Chris Hallam 21. Simon Whatling 22. Jonny Hylton

Referee: David Rose

Attendance: 10,600

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