18 second-half points from the boot of Olly Barkley secured Bath Rugby’s first win of the season after a second-half resurgence and dramatic last minute penalty saw them to a 23-24 victory over Worcester Warriors at Sixways.
It was a disjointed start to the game for Bath as Andy Goode scored four unanswered penalties inside the first quarter, the fourth coming after Matt Banahan was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on as the Warriors mounted their first meaningful attack of the half.
The visitors were seeing very little ball and whilst the defence held firm to stop Worcester crossing the try line, they were unable to mount any significant attack.
Matters were not helped when captain Stuart Hooper, along with Warriors captain Dean Schofield, joined Banahan in the sin-bin following an off the ball scuffle.
Bath’s first points came on the 25 minute mark. Michael Claassens gathered the high ball, and the ball was quickly shipped wide via Francois Louw to Dan Hipkiss. The centre held steady and tried to release Tom Biggs, but for the winger to be tackled into touch by Josh Drauniniu. However, play was taken back for an earlier Worcester offence and Barkley sent the first of his eight penalties through the posts. 12-3.
Barkley and Goode traded another penalty a piece before half-time, and it looked as if the Warriors’s fly-half had scored the first try of the afternoon on the stroke of half-time but for referee Luke Pearce to disallow the score for a forward pass. Half-time score – 15-6.
Whereas in the first half it was Worcester dominating both the score board and the possession the momentum shifted in the second half, with Bath retaining possession, building phase after phase of pressure which enabled Barkley to chip away at Worcester’s lead.
10 minutes into the second half and Bath had forced three more penalties from the home side, Barkley converting them all and tying the scores.
Bath looked to build on their increasing dominance with wave after wave of attack, but were unable to break-through the Worcester defence.
A neat chip from Barkley for Kyle Eastmond to run onto nearly paid off as the winger surged forwards to collect it, and whilst Worcester fullback Chris Pennell initially gathered the ball he couldn’t hold on. There was no chasing support for Bath, and play was brought back for an earlier penalty. Barkley made no mistake in taking the lead for Bath. 15-18, 66 minutes.
The see-saw nature of the game continued however and Worcester hit back from the restart. They inched closer towards the Bath line, the forwards picking and going, stretching the Bath defence until lock James Percival was able to find a gap from close range. Goode saw his conversion come back at him off the post, so there remained just two points between the two sides. 20-18.
And so Barkley and Goode traded further penalties to keep all at Sixways on the edge of their seats.
Goode missed one attempt, which looked to have sealed the win for Bath, only for the home side to be awarded another penalty in an identical position. The fly-half made no mistake at the second time of asking with just two minutes remaining. 23-21.
Bath weren’t giving up though, and from the restart the pushed hard at the Warriors. They made vital yards into home territory, before forcing the penalty. With time dead on the clock, Barkley stepped up and, with nerves of steel, sent the ball clean through the posts to seal the win.