Bath cling on to vital victory

In quite the most extraordinary finale to this Heineken Cup Pool 4 game, Bath Rugby stretched supporters' nerves to breaking point before finally securing the win their first half display deserved.

After Nicky Little's 72nd minute penalty extended the home lead to seven points, Edinburgh summoned one last effort and it took a try saving tackle from Peter Short to deny scrum-half Greig Laidlaw.

There was an even more dramatic twist, however, as Edinburgh were awarded a penalty and pinned Bath back on their line in front of the clubhouse. As the clock ticked past 80 minutes a Bath turnover seemed to have dashed Scottish hopes but skipper Michael Claassens inexplicably threw the ball dead, conceding another penalty.

Thankfully, the defenders manned the barricades once more and it was Edinburgh who then gave away a penalty, allowing Nick Abendanon to finally end the game by booting the ball into touch.

Man of the match Luke Watson saw the funny side afterwards: "I think someone in the crowd was calling for the ball!" he joked. "It's a very small dead ball area and I was under the ruck so I don't really know what happened but I heard the ball thud into the sign board and I thought 'Oh no'."

Head coach Steve Meehan added: "It's the result of wanting to win. It was as simple as that. He wanted to get the ball off the park and in the heat of the moment he just made the pass although it has been suggested to me that he wanted to see the boys do a little more work!"

All joking apart, however, Meehan could point to a performance which built on the improved showing at Northampton eight days previously and one which keeps alive Bath's faint hopes of qualifying from Pool 4.

"It gives us a chance of a sniff", he said "it's great to be travelling to Edinburgh at the end of this week with an opportunity. Conditions being fine, you'd expect another entertaining game."

"We made a terrific start. There was great intent from the guys and we want to see more of that. It's terrific to see the effort transferred from the training field to the pitch. But it's very important that it is maintained."

Preparations had been disrupted not only by the loss of Jack Cuthbert with a hamstring strain when he should have been deputising for the suspended Matt Banahan but also by the very late withdrawal of Lee Mears, struck down by a virus.

There was considerable consolation though in the performances of their stand-ins, Tom Cheeseman and Pieter Dixon.

Hooker Dixon made an instant impression, scoring after just three minutes as Bath began with purpose and panache.

Taking the ball through umpteen phases, Bath created a smidgin of space for Nick Abendanon who found Michael Stephenson in support. Picking the ball off his bootlaces, the winger cut in from the right wing and almost made the line himself but Claassens transferred the ball smartly to Nicky Little who passed inside to Dixon and the touchdown was confirmed by the TV match official.

Little could not convert but made the score 8-nil on a couple of minutes later with a penalty from 30 metres.

Edinburgh skipper Chris Patterson chipped away at the lead with penalties on 13 and 21 minutes as Glasgow began to pick up the pace and referee Alain Rolland spotted infringements at the scrum and breakdown.

Little might have added a second penalty from long range on 25 minutes but Bath did not have to wait long for the next score and it was every bit as classy as the first one.

It began when Edinburgh rather optimistically tried to run the ball out of their own 22 and were forced into touch. Bath kept possession for five phases before Shontayne Hape's slipped pass found centre partner Matt Carraro running a punishing angle through the visitors defensive line. This time it was the busy Cheeseman, appearing on the opposite side of the field, who provided the scoring pass to his fellow wing Stephenson.

When fly-half Phil Godman spoke out of turn in the 34th minute, referee Rolland had no hesitation in showing the Edinburgh player the yellow card but Bath failed to take advantage and actually conceded the only points in that ten minute period either side of half-time, a 38th minute penalty by Patterson. It could have been worse but Abendanon hared back to catch Nick de Luca after the visiting centre's intercept on his own 22.

In fact the third quarter belonged very much to Edinburgh but they failed to trim further Bath's 13-9 interval lead and the match degenerated into a prolonged spell of 'kick tennis'.

A typically smart steal by Julian Salvi should have produced a try and one rolling kick by Abendanon forced a line-out to Bath inside the Edinburgh 22 only for the attack to peter out. Little saw a penalty kick strike the bar from 48 metres before he managed to extend the lead to 16-9 with an effort from nearly as far out.

The scene was then set for another dramatic finale and for a change it ended in smiles on the Rec.

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