Bath come through frustrating game

The "friendly" moniker given this match was not entirely appropriate, for it was an edgy encounter, but Bath managed to win 12-3.
Newport took the game to them, and on several occasions the ball and territory were conceded to penalties through a loss of temper.

Lee Mears opened Bath's account in the fifth minute, running onto a beautiful floated miss-pass by Shaun Berne, after Duncan Bell's break from a lineout move had broken the Dragons' defensive line.

Six minutes later, a lineout in the same place nearly yielded a second, but Higgins was held up over the line after Malone and Abendanon had made the inroads.

During the middle portion of the half, Bath were let off the hook a number of times when Newport knocked on, victims of a ball made greasy by the drizzle that had begun just before kick-off. Still, Bath were forced to repel a number of attacking moves, as Aled Thomas and Chris Warlow's kicks and Nathan Brew's strong running from centre asked questions of their defence.

After half an hour, Ceri Sweeney opened the scoring for the home team with a penalty, given for holding on, that bounced in off the posts.

As half-time approached, Bath looked in trouble when a ball was hacked through to their 22. But a courageous Abendanon coolly gathered it and ran the gauntlet of the pursuing Welsh, starting a move that ended in the Dragons' 22 with a penalty for Bath. But the chance to add to the scoreboard was spurned in favour of a scrum, and they went into the break without adding to the score.

Bath made seven changes at half time and almost straightaway had all hands to the pump defending their line. The Dragons' pick-and-drive policy could not breach it, but not long after Gareth Delve found himself in the sin-bin when fraying tempers overflowed.

With the odds against them, Berne snaffled a try, scooping up a loose pass by Warlow intended for Nathan Brew and out-pacing the full-back to score. Olly Barkley added the conversion.

Life got no easier for Bath, when James Scaysbrook was also shown a yellow card after Alex Walker, the scrum-half, took a tapped penalty near the Bath line and was tackled before Scaysbrook had retreated. But again, Bath might have had the next score when Bory hacked the ball upfield. In the end, they made do with a win by 12 points to 3.

Steve Meehan, the Acting Head Coach, still came away happy with what the challenge showed: "It was a good hit-out for us. It was vastly different from everything we have experienced so far so it was interesting to see how the team reacted to different stresses.

"I was pleased with the defensive attitude and thought that they improved again. I think the set-piece was pleasing, the scrum was very strong and was well and truly on top.

He also agreed it was a fractious affair: "There's no doubt that the players were frustrated and when they are frustrated they react.

"I think we've made steady progress with each match in the areas that we needed to but coaches are rarely satisfied - though pleased with the result."

5: Try Mears, 0-5
32: Penalty Sweeney 3-5
59: Try Berne, Conversion Barkley, 3-12

BATH: 15. N Abendanon (Bory, 41) 14. A Higgins 13. E Fuimaono-Sapolu (Davis, 41) 12. S Berne 11. M Stephenson (15) 10. C Malone (Barkley, 41) 9. A Williams (Walshe, 41) 1. D Barnes (Flatman, 41) 2. L Mears (Hawkins, 70) 3. D Bell (Barnes, 74; Bell, 80+4)) 4. S Borthwick (captain; Fidler, 78)) 5. D Grewcock 6. P Short (Feaunati, 66) 7. C Goodman (Scaysbrook, 41; sin-bin, 68-78) 8. Z Feaunati (Delve, 41; sin-bin 52-63).

Replacements: 16. R Hawkins 17. D Flatman 18. G Delve 19. R Fidler 20. N Walshe 21. R Davis 22. O Barkley (10) 23. J Scaysbrook 24. D Bory (11).

NEWPORT: 15. A Thomas (Maule, 69) 14. G Wyatt 13. N Brew 12. C Sweeney 11. A Brew 10. C Warlow (captain; Hercus, 64) 9. A Walker (Baber, 75) 1. A Black (Maddocks, 63) 2. B Daly (Wilkes, 38) 3. R Thomas (Harrison, 63) 4. B Griffiths 5. A Hall 6. J Bearman (Charvis, 53; sin-bin 71-83) 7. J Ringer (Bearman, 73) 8. N Fitisemanu (Evans, 41).

Replacements: R Wilkes, L Harrison, D Maddocks, I Gough, W Thomas, C Charvis, L Evans, M Jess, M Hercus, G Maule, G Baber.

Referee: J Jones.
Attendance: 4,116

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