After a victory against Gloucester last Sunday, Bath Rugby's Christmas wish to continue with their winning streak was granted as the travelling team started the New Year with the much needed 'w' over bottom of the table team - Leeds.200
With the pressure on both teams to climb up the ladder, it was Leeds who managed to get the first points of the match. Although Bath, led out by Lee Mears who made his 200th appearance today, got close to notching up the opening five after a strong run by Matt Banahan, it was an offence in Bath's own 22 that led to a successful penalty kick by Tom Ford that took the hosts into the lead with three points after nine minutes.
Five minutes later and Joe Ford was back putting his boot in action after Bath were penalised at a scrum. The fly half slotted the ball directly between the posts and the home team slipped into a six-point lead. However, the visitors didn't waste time in reducing the score divide and some good interplay between Shontayne Hape, Nicky Little and Michael Claassens enabled Luke Watson to chip and chase towards Leeds territory. Forcing an offence, Bath were able to win three points of their own by the boot of Little after 19 minutes.
A seesaw of points followed, as Ford kicked a penalty and then Little, all in the space of five minutes. But, it was Bath that broke the pattern after Watson, Hape and Hooper shot up the left wing and into Leeds's 22, whereby Watson popped the ball back inside for Matt Carraro and Shontayne to make up some further distance. Staying focussed, Bath's number 8, aided by the support of Joe Maddock and Nicky Little, took the ball to the opposite corner where Michael Stephenson finished the move for the try. Little's conversion fell wide of the posts, but a penalty kick moments afterwards took Bath into the lead with 14 points.
With the clock counting down the remaining minutes of the first half, Leeds tried to grapple back into the lead and Ford narrowed the deficit with a well executed penalty kick at 38 minutes having unsuccessfully attempted a drop goal with the referee playing advantage. Despite further attempts by Ford and his team-mate Andy Gomarsal at drop goals, the players went into the interval with Bath leading 12 to 14.
Bath rejoined the fray with aggression, demonstrating their dominance for the opening minutes. It was not until a penalty was awarded to Leeds after a questionable penalisation of a Bath player that Ford was able to boot his team into a one-point lead just as the snow began to fall.
Bath responded with a series of attacks that pressured their opponents. A line out on the Leeds 22 metre line looked close to handing Bath another try after a strong drive and some quick thinking from Michael Claassens, Lee Mears and Carraro. However, by 64 minutes, Bath were able only to clinch three further points with a penalty kick taken from the 40 metre line.
The southern side continued to impose pressure on the Carnegie team with some exciting displays from the back line and one which saw Maddock sprint straight into the centre of the 22 before the Leeds defence put paid to his try-scoring attempt.
However, Bath remained the dominant party and the replacements added extra energy to the state of play with Ben Skirving, Peter Short and David Barnes making their presence felt deep in Leeds' territory. It was not enough to score more than their one try, but that didn't matter. As the final whistle blew, Bath had beaten the bottom of the table and could continue to look upwards with confidence and with the relegation wolf far from the door.