The European Challenge Cup rematch against Overmach Parma tonight, was probably all too reminiscent of the first leg at The Rec for Parma, with Bath Rugby walking away with a massive 31 -13 win over the home side. Although the stadium was far from full, the travelling Bath fans made up for lack in numbers with continuous cries of "allez bath" resounding loudly through the Sergio Lanfranchi as Bath walked away with a bonus point.
Head Coach, Steve Meehan, was hoping for a "sharper and more precise" meeting to the previous match, but with a lack of scores within the first half, it reflected greatly the first game, with the score at 10 -3 to Bath by the half-time whistle. The first of the points being won by Bath's Olly Barkley, after a Parma offence gave the Bath centre the chance to slot his only penalty of the match after just five minutes. Four minutes later, Parma equalised, as fly half, Barry Irving stepped up to take the penalty for the home side.
Bath didn't waste time in ensuring that Parma could not manage anymore points in the first half, as Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, playing at outside centre, found Maddock on the burst, who hurled to Chris Goodman, waiting on the wing to make good progress inside Parma's 22. Parma's defence was not to be taken lightly, and with the heat on inside their own territory, they cleared the ball with haste. The Samoan, suitably placed midfield, broke back down the centre, chipping for Michael Stephenson to chase. Although it was once again cleared by Parma, Barkley picked it up, passing to Maddock who offloaded to Dixon. With the wet weather all too familiar for Bath, Dixon spilt the greasy ball.
Having failed to rack up any more points on the board and with 19 minutes already played, Bath found the ball dangerously inside their 22. Parma, given the opportunity to go into the lead with a penalty kick from the 22 metre line, failed to award the much-needed points, as the kick sprawled wide. Four minutes later, Bath took the chance to increase their lead, catching the ball and driving across to the midfield, moving powerfully towards the white line. Just as it looked as though Parma were going to clear as the pack lunged for the line, the ball was unleashed to Banahan who, undefended, trotted over the line for an easy try. After Barkley's conversion, Bath sat tight with a seven-point lead.
With ten minutes left on the clock, Bath played the ball excitingly close to the touchline, leading the fans to believe that a second try was on the cards. With some clever build up play between Barkley, Lipman and Dixon, the interplay resulted in a clear chance for the Hooker, but Parma were determined to keep up full-strength defence, and prevented the English side from doubling their points. After a series of continuous ruck and mauls inches away from the white line, Bath were unable to forge anymore points and the half-time whistle blew at Bath 10, Parma 3.
The second half play saw none of the errors of the first and with a tiring Italian side returning to the park, the visiting team wasted no time in firmly stamping their mark and ensuring that they left with a more than convincing victory. As Bath stormed into the second half, they quickly responded to a failed Parma penalty kick, as Butch James exploded down the wing for the second try of the match. As Barkley easily dissected the uprights to the cheers of the crowd, Bath enjoyed the 17-3 lead after 46 minutes.
Four minutes later, spurred on by the change of pace and energy in the second half, Borthwick won the line out on the 10 metre line, offloading to Peter Short who surged inside the 22. With Fuimaono and Goodman in support, the ball floated to Banahan for his second try of the match - running over the touchline in the top left-hand corner and planting the ball behind the posts. Barkley nailed the touchline conversion, stretching the point-gap to 24 -3.
Parma attempted to get back on the attack, gaining another three points after 53 minutes, after a penalty kick by Irving. Although this looked like it might being to bridge the wide-gap between the scores, it was not enough to unnerve Bath and even after Neethling, who had replaced Chillon at 54 minutes, managed to break through the blue, black and white defence, and score a try, it was a short-lived advantage.
For the remaining 10 minutes, Bath remained comfortably inside Parma's 22. Sending on a number of substitutions, Goodman moved to blindside and Daniel Browne replaced Beattie, adding a fresh set of legs and driving force to the pack. With the new injection of energy inside the pack, the forwards kept Bath on the front foot and a strong drive gave Lipman the opportunity to peel away from the maul and soar across the line for a bonus point try. With Barkley having been replaced by Berne, Butch James found the target and took Bath to 31 - 13 after the conversion. Six minutes into injury time and with just one man down after injury, fans applauded Bath's victory as the rain began to pour.