Barkley kicks Bath to victory

After a hard fought see-saw of a match, where the points between Bath and Bristol continued to tip either way for each side, a late try by Andrew Higgins saw Bath win a historic first victory over Bristol at Ashton Gate and clinch the double this season, with a final score of 19 - 9 to Bath.

Immediately from kick-off , Bath made a determined start, kicking the ball into the top right-hand corner for Matt Banahan to make way inside Bristol's 22. After a scrum, the ball found Olly Barkley who tapped it to the right wing, where Bristol's Brian O'Riordan ran it into touch. A line out followed, which was won by Andy Beattie leading Bath inside the danger zone after only four minutes.

After a Bath offence, Bristol, defending well, worked the ball back the other side of the halfway line and after a charge by Beattie, an early chance arrived for Bath to put some points on the scoreboard. A kick by Barkley went just wide of the posts and no score was made for the visitors, but a minute later, Joe Maddock burst midfield to take Bath straight into Bristol's 22. Under the pressure, Bristol offended again, giving Olly Barkley that chance to succeed this time in winning the first points of the match after nine minutes.

Under a minute later, a knock on by Daniel Browne offered the home side the chance to equalise as Ed Barnes kicked the ball through the uprights. The flip-flopping of the scores continued as a collapsed scrum at 12 minutes, meant that Barkley was able to put his left-foot into action again, kicking Bath into a 6-3 lead.

Ed Barnes took the score to 6-all when five minutes after Bath had taken the lead, a Bath hand came round the side of a ruck, trying to play the ball on the floor, but a strong kick by Shaun Berne took the ball to within 5 metres of the score line, but with Bath failing to convert territory into much-needed points, after 26 minutes, the score remained equal to both sides.

The travelling Bath fans enjoyed a moment of delight as Barkley chipped through the Bristol defence, which was picked up by Banahan, who skipped through a few tackles. The winger fell just left of the try line, and as Bath went into a ruck in an attempt to ground the ball, it was sent back 10 yards from the line for a scrummage. Beattie, putting in an excellent performance, which Head Coach, Steve Meehan said was his "most outstanding performance" to date, retrieved the ball from the back of the scrum and offloaded to Banahan, who, suffering from butter fingers, was sent sprawling over into touch.

The excitement heightened as Bath went back for the scrum, with Banahan eagerly waiting on the blindside channel. But, this time, Claassens cleared to the right for Barkley, for passed to Berne and then to Michael Stephenson who took the ball over the line. A questionable decision by the touch judge disallowed the try, as it was adjudged that a forward pass prevented Bath from winning the five-points. With 30 seconds left on the clock, an offence from a frustrated visiting team allowed Ed Barnes to give Bristol a three-point lead.

HT: 9 - 6

Three minutes into the second half and Bath were penalised for holding onto the ball. After David Hill cleared to a few metres from Bath's 22, captain Steve Borthwick won the line out, swiftly offloading to Short who attempted to blast a hole through Bristol's defence. After a call by Lee Mears, Barkley kicked the ball up the right wing, where David Lemi attempted to run it straight back, but Bristol didn't enjoy the distance for long, as Barkley stepped up to take the first penalty of the second half. The ball soars high between the sticks to equalise nine minutes after the restart.

Determined to rack up some more all-important points for his team, Banahan put in an uncompromising tackle against Joe El Abd, flooring him in his tracks. As a scrum followed, Berne kicked the ball up the right wing and put in an excellent chase. Although the ball was caught by defending O'Riordan, the inside centre stopped the Bristolian from executing a clearance kick and took the ball inside Bristol's 22.

Responding to the pressure, Lemi ran the ball back inside Bath's territory, but after a tug on his shirt prevented him making any further headway, Crockett was sin-binned and Lemi attempted to secure five points. Shaun Berne and Michael Claassens were quick to defend, tackling the scrum half into touch, dangerously close from the white line.

With the intensity growing, Bath fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief after Bristol's Joe El Abd crossed the line with 23 minutes left on the clock, but, experiencing the same deflation as Bath in the first half of the match, Bristol were not awarded the try and the score remained nine points a piece.

At 64 mins, Barkley kicked the visitors into a 6-point lead with his fourth and final penalty of the match, after a Bristol player came in at the side of the ruck.

Not satisfied with the score line and with 10 minutes left on the clock, quick ball from Bath and good interplay between Barkley, Berne and Stephenson shot the ball up to the 22 metre line. However, a Bath infringement sent them back to the halfway line for a line out, where replacement Andrew Higgins saw a hole in the defence and wasted no time in sprinting through it. He was taken down midfield, but as Barkley rapidly retrieved the ball, a pass made to Maddock, who then fed back to Higgins gave the wing the chance to soar down the line for five points. The roars of Bath fans echoed as the visitors enjoyed their first win ever at Ashton Gate and double win against Bristol this season. Final score 9-19.

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