Bath bring home the Silverware

Having played almost every European match this season with the rain in their faces, the inclement weather gave Bath Rugby no cause for concern today at Kingsholm. As the prospect of silverware far outweighed worries about the downpour, the ten-year silverware drought was finally put to an end as Bath Rugby won the European Challenge Cup with 24 - 16 final score.

As the crowds roared, Olly Barkley kicked off the match and as Sam Tuitupou caught the ball, Michael Lipman instantly put in a strong tackle to stop him making any distance and marking Bath's intention to put up a strong, aggressive fight. With just three minutes on the clock, Bath's pace put enough pressure on Worcester to cause an infringement at the ruck and Barkley stepped up to take the penalty, but failed to slot the ball between the posts.

Five frantic minutes later Alex Crockett made a break from midfield, staying on his feet for long enough to drive close to Worcester's 22. The distance was not enjoyed for long though as Worcester cleared to the Bath 22 to relieve the mounting pressure.

After fifteen minutes, Barkley was finally able to atone for his earlier missed penalty after a Worcester offence, again at the ruck, allowed Barkley the opportunity to break the deadlock from the halfway line. The centre engaged his left foot to send the ball directly between the posts, giving Bath a deserved three point lead.

Shane Drahm, impatient with the points deficit after spending the best part of the opening quarter camped inside his own half, kicked the ball into touch inside Bath's 22 metre line. As Bath offended a few feet away from the try line, the fly half was able to equalise for Worcester as the Warrior successfully booted the ball between the sticks.

With eight minutes remaining of the first half, Bath were finally able to make their superior possession and territory pay, to create a score divide, as Matt Banahan broke down the wing with characteristic explosive power, refusing to allow the defenders at his ankles to take him down. As he finally succumbed to the tackle, Lee Mears continued the run and as he was halted, the hooker's offload found Butch James who passed back inside to Jonny Faamatuainu to burst over the line for the opening try of the match. The conversion by Barkley gave Bath a seven-point lead, as the score rose to 10 -3 to Bath.

Boosted by the try, Bath pressed for a further five-pointer before the interval and were rewarded when Nick Abendanon finished off a well crafted move in the corner. Barkley started the move just inside the Worcester half, making distance before passing to Joe Maddock who was thundering along in support. The New Zealander, showing great skill, offloaded inside to Abendanon who dived over the line, much to the delight of the travelling Bath fans. Although Barkley's conversion attempt drifted wide, the west country side climbed up to a 15-3 lead with four minutes left on the clock.

The lead appeared a healthy one considering the appalling conditions, but Worcester had the final say of an entertaining first half as Drahm slotted over a penalty kick on the whistle.

Coming back on for the second half, Worcester wasted no time in drawing the score gap a little closer. A kick from Barkley was charged down and after Abendanon was penalised, Drahm was given a further opportunity to kick three points. The number 10 slotted the ball between the posts and at 44 minutes took the score to 15-9.

A strong drive by Bath forced Warriors back to the halfway line and as Barkley offloaded to Abendanon, the full back placed a grubber kick to Worcester's 22 metre line. The distance did not give Bath the try, but as Worcester managed to push back the boys in blue, the immense Bath pressure forced the Warriors to offend and Barkley kicked another penalty at 54 minutes, to take the score to 18-9.

Worcester's pack attempted to lambaste their way through the Bath defence, but following an excellent scrum, the Bath pack forged their way towards the 22 metre line and close enough for Barkley to put his boot into action for a drop goal. The three points catapulted Bath into a commanding 21-9 lead.

With ten minutes left on the clock, a number of fresh legs took to the pitch to hammer home the win for Bath. Peter Short, Shaun Berne, Pieter Dixon along with Zak Feaunati and Nick Walshe, making an emotional final appearance in the black, white and blue, all entered the fray for the remaining, enthralling minutes.

The cacophony of noise generated by the stamping and chanting Bath fans was enough to shake the stands, and also the extra impetus Bath needed to keep repelling Worcester offences and James, taking on the kicking duties after the departure of Barkley from the field, took a slow step up to the ball to kick the final penalty of the match.

As the clock counted down the final minute and with Bath having already sealed the victory, Worcester valiantly continued to push and were rewarded with the final try of the match right at the death as Thinus Delport touched down. Drahm converted, but it was not enough to prevent Bath from recording a jubilant and historic victory and taking home the first piece of silverware in a decade and a final score of 24 - 16.

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