Early try the hammer blow as Bath Rugby lose at Headingley

The defeat leaves the West Country side just two points ahead of the Tykes at the foot of the Guinness Premiership table and a return to European competition - where Bath have been in prolific form this season - will hopefully be the tonic needed to ignite a season that has reaped just three victories in the league.
Brian Ashton may only have been at the Recreation Ground for five minutes, but the former England and Ireland coach, along with coaches Mike Foley and Richard Graham already have a big challenge ahead if they are to rescue Bath's Guinness Premiership campaign and look to challenge for a Heineken Cup place next term.

"Everyone is well aware of the situation in the Guinness Premiership," said Ashton. "However, it is only January 8th and there is still a long way to go. We have to focus on going forward."

Of course time is still on Bath's side as there are ten rounds remaining in a Guinness Premiership campaign that has seen teams taking points off each other throughout. There were also plenty of positives for Ashton to take forward into the match against Bourgoin. The pack scrummaged well, there was also more incisive play and Gareth Delve finished a cracking move with a fine try.

It was, though, a combination of poor decision making, technical inaccuracies and a hammer blow right at the beginning of the match that were to cost Bath dear. The visitors started so positively, moving the ball well and making excellent ground inside the Leeds half. However, a dropped pass in midfield led to Leeds scoring with their first touch of the ball.

That spilt ball was scooped up by centre Rob Vickerman, who made excellent ground before offloading superbly to Chris Bell in support. The winger coasted in at the corner and Gordon Ross' touchline conversion completed the perfect start.

Headingley is never an easy place to play catch up rugby and Leeds are gritty competitors at the best of times. Bath, who found it difficult to get decent possession for the remainder of the half, simply could not get back into the game as two Olly Barkley penalties were cancelled out by the boot of Gordon Ross, whilst the home side could have added a second try had Justin Marshall's final pass to Reno Gerber not been adjudged to have been forward by referee Sean Davey.

Bath did have their chances late in the second half, but the crispness in attack was missing and time ran out before the visitors could make a decent attack count.

It was a different Bath side that took to the field for the second half and indeed for the third quarter it was all Bath as they pressed for a score which came in the shape of Gareth Delve's lunge for the line after David Bory had put the Welshman into space. Barkley added a quick fire penalty and suddenly Bath were back in the game.

Just two points adrift and in the ascendancy, Bath should have taken control of the game, but the match ebbed back towards the home side and as the match entered the final quarter it was all Leeds once more. Gordon Ross slotted over two penalties and a drop goal to give the home side a healthy eleven point lead in the dying moments leaving Bath wondering how such an advantage had been created.

"Leeds thoroughly deserved their win over the balance of eighty minutes," said Ashton. "The opening try meant that we were playing catch up from an early stage. We played really well in the first part of the second half, but unfortunately some technical errors and got us back on the back foot.

There are some talented players at Bath - there is no doubt about that. We just need to reflect why at 14-16 and back in the game, we found ourselves eleven points adrift at the final whistle."

Leeds: 15 De Marigney, 14 Snyman, 13 Vickerman, 12 Jones, 11 Bell, 10 Ross, 9 Marshall, 1 Lensing, 2 Rawlinson, 3 Gerber, 4 Hooper (c), 5 Palmer, 6 MNorgan, 7 Parks, 8 Crane

16 Shelley, 17 Bulloch, 18 Dunbar, 19 Thomas, 20 Care, 21 Reid, 22 Biggs

Bath: 15 Perry, 14 Maddock, 13 Crockett, 12 Barkley (3p), 11 Bory, 10 Malone, 9 Williams, 1 Stevens, 2 Mears (Dixon), 3 Bell (Flatman), 4 Borthwick (c), 5 Grewcock, 6 Beattie (Short), 7 Lipman, 8 Delve 1t (Feaunati)

16 Dixon, 17 Flatman, 18 Feaunati, 19 Short, 20 Walshe, 21 Higgins, 22 Finau

Ref: Sean Davey.

Att: 4546

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