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Bath bounce back to beat Scarlets

Having reaped the benefits of the run out against Gloucester last weekend for the Lee Mears and Andy Hazell testimonial match, Bath Rugby were looking to improve upon their efforts of the last match and put them into practice against Llanelli Scarlets today. With the Scarlets fielding two entirely different teams both halves, Bath Rugby were able to make the most of their cohesion and return to The Rec with a 15-17 victory.

Content with the win and looking forward to the return match next Friday night at The Rec, Head Coach Steve Meehan was confident about the progress of the team and in particular that new signing Matt Carraro and young player Ben Williams had aided Tom Cheeseman in demonstrating that there is enough strength-in-depth in that position to continue to challenge both Shontayne Hape and Olly Barkley for the centre positions. With Peter Short also set to make a comeback next week, the development of the team is going in the right direction for Meehan.

"Our set-piece was a big improvement on what we saw against Gloucester," admitted Meehan. "And when we kept competitive in the attack we used the ball wisely."

Bath Rugby made a strong start to the match, with Michael Claassens, Ryan Davis and Tom Cheeseman getting inside their hosts 22 before two minutes had passed on the clock. Cheeseman was tackled by the Scarlets winger Sean Lamont, but he got straight to his feet and made a strong attempt to win the first five points.

However, a good counterattack from the Scarlets saw them push Bath back towards their own territory, but with Bath defending well, the Scarlets offended, by holding onto the ball in the ruck and Davis booted the ball back down the pitch. Frustratingly for Bath, they were not able to enjoy the relief for long as, after 13 minutes, Daniel Evans made a break down the wing, popping the ball back inside to Jonathan Davies who ran over the line and planted the ball by the posts. A successful conversion from full back Daniel Evans put the Scarlets in the lead with 7-0.

With 20 minutes on the clock, Bath upped the tempo in an attempt to steal some points of their own. After Michael Stephenson had made a grubber kick down the wing to the 22 metre line for a line out, the ball was thrown in and passed out for Cuthbert and Banahan. The Jersey-born winger, having made good ground, was tackled feet away from crossing the line and whilst Jonny Faamatuainu also made a break for the try also, a Scarlet clearance kick shot the ball back to the 22 metre line and Bath were unable to equalise.

A further 10 minutes of stalemate followed with equal territory gained for each team. Cuthbert made a promising manoeuvre kicking and chasing the ball over 40 metres, but the Scarlet defence held him back and instead of allowing Bath to win five points they gained some extra points of their own after some swift interplay between Davies, Gareth Maule and Lou Reed cleared the way for winger Lee Williams to sprint over the line at the top right hand corner. As the hosts full back kicked the ball wide of the post for the conversion, the Scarlets extended their lead to 12 -0 after 32 minutes.

Evans failed to make the same mistake the next time though as he was handed the ball three minutes into injury to take a penalty kick and as he slotted the ball between the sticks he took the Llanelli Scarlets 15 points up as the referee's whistle blew for half-time.

Fielding an entirely different team to the first half Scarlets, Bath were able to take advantage of the 40 minutes they had already played together and make a greater impact upon the game. Nick Abendanon, having come on at half-time with fresh legs made a strong kick and chase and a later show and go to ensure that Bath began this side of the interval with predominant possession.

After 48 minutes the pressure on the new-look Scarlets allowed Bath lock Danny Grewcock to make use of the ground made up as he was fed the ball by Matt Carraro, just before he was tackled, and he went over the line for five. A missed conversion kept Bath nine points behind their opponents, but they looked set to push for further honours.

As Bath continued to threaten the opposition through their quick ball and attacking play got them back inside the Scarlets territory but failed to hand the team the much-needed points. Instead, the next points came in the form of a penalty try after a repeated off-side offence handed The Rec contingent five-points so that they were able to narrow the score divide.

Refusing to leave Parc-y-Scarlets without the win, Bath Rugby made a determined effort to grab the victory and last seasons's Guinness Premiership top try scorer Joe Maddock sealed the result for them. The winger was able to cross for five, having received the ball from Cheeseman just before the line, after a series of attacks made by Abendanon, Stuart Hooper and Faamatuainu. The win may therefore have been a little too reminiscent of the last-second victories of last season, but it was also an affirmation of Bath's relentless determination to succeed.

Scarlets:

First Half:

15. Daniel Evans, 14. Lee Williams, 13. Gareth Maule, 12. Jonathan Davies, 11. Sean Lamont, 10. Daniel Newton, 9. Martin Roberts, 1. Phil John, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Rhys Thomas, 4. Lou Reed, 5. Dominic Day, 6. Simon Easterby, 7. Richie Pugh, 8. David Lyons (c)

16. Jamie Corsi, 17. Aaron Shingler, 18. Rob McCusker, 19. Josh Turnbull

Second Half:

55. Dale Ford, 26. Darren Daniel, 39. Rob Higgit (c), 25. Scott Williams, 22. Andrew Fenby, 21. Cerith Rees, 20. Gareth Davies, 54. Deacon Manu, 44. Emry Phillips, 40. Matthew Evans, 24. Vernon Cooper, 23. Damien Welch, 48. Dafydd Jones, 28. Jonathan Edwards, 37. Ben Morgan

16. Jamie Corsi, 17. Aaron Shingler, 18. Rob McCusker, 19. Josh Turnbull

Bath Rugby:

15. Jack Cuthbert, 14. Michael Stephenson, 13. Matt Carraro, 12. Tom Cheeseman, 11. Matt Banahan, 10. Ryan Davis, 9. Michael Claassens (c), 1. David Barnes, 2. Pieter Dixon, 3. Davey Wilson, 4. Stuart Hooper, 5. Danny Grewcock, 6. Jonny Faamatuainu, 7. Josh Ovens, 8. Ben Skirving

16. Lee Mears, 17. David Flatman, 18. Duncan Bell, 19. Scott Hobson, 20. Andy Beattie, 21. Julian Salvi, 22. Scott Bemand, 23. Nicky Little, 24. Ben Williams, 25. Joe Maddock, 26. Nick Abendanon

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