Bath Rugby climbed up to fourth in the Gallagher Premiership with a clutching 22-21 win over Worcester Warriors at Sixways Stadium on Saturday.
In testing conditions on a wet and windy afternoon in Worcester as Bath the Blue, Black and White came away with a crucial win on the road.
It took just 90 seconds for Stuart Hooper’s men to make their mark. Beno Obano got the fast start after running a strong line which broke through the Worcester defence. After quickly recycling the ball, Zach Mercer, who was returning from a successful knee injury rehabilitation, lay in wait to open the scoring. Rhys Priestland drilled his kick through the centre of the sticks. [0-7]
Just three minutes later Worcester got themselves on the board. The hosts were awarded a penalty for failing to release and Duncan Weir’s effort at the posts was successful to get Worcester on the board. [3-7]
In a feisty opening quarter, it was Bath who responded seven minutes in as the visitors applied immense pressure. Captain Francois Louw instructed Priestland to go for goal and secure a further three for his side from the tee. The Welsh fly-half nailed his effort to extend the score. [3-10]
Worcester levelled the scored shortly after as the hosts crashed over from a close-range effort. Cornell Du Preez went over after his team successfully went through successive phases and managed to convert their pressure into points. [10-10]
At 22 minutes into the match, Worcester took the lead for the first time as Weir nailed his penalty effort through the post. [13-10]
The two sides battled the elements as they both worked hard to gain possession.
As the half came to a close, Bath won what they hoped to be a crucial a scrum 10-metres out. The visitors had secured the position near the Worcester try line a few phases before with a superb kick counter.
The forwards were patient, kept the ball tight and used their power to pick and go. It looked as though Obano had made it over but referee Christopher Ridley consulted the TMO and it was a no try due to insufficient grounding. [13-10]
As the teams went in for half-time, Worcester led by three points. The conditions were making it a mid-field battle for possession and both sides had seen the errors creep in. Bath didn’t manage to win enough of the moments in order to convert all of their pressure into points but it was all to play for and Bath’s scrummaging foothold was clear to see which gave promise for the next 40.
Half-time - Worcester Warriors 13 – 10 Bath Rugby
The second-half started with both sides showing their intent, but it was Bath’s turn to kick into the strong winds. In a similar way to the first-half, the visitors delivered a fast start, creating enough momentum in order to make some crucial meters.
Just two minutes into the second-period Ruaridh McConnochie broke the line and the resulting play saw the Blue, Black and White set themselves up nicely in the Warriors 22. It looked as though Will Chudley was going to crash over but he was hit just short with a dangerous tackle, which referee Christophe Ridley consulted the TMO with and awarded a yellow card to Graham Kitchener.
Bath took immediate advantage as the visitors pushed forward and patiently recycled the ball time after time. The visitors were just metres away from the try line but Worcester smothered them with numbers. Bath were held up on numerous occasions but ultimately Worcester could not sustain the pressure. Skipper, Francois Louw found the spoils as his team maintained their systems with patience and composure. The Bath pack’s positioning work was strong as they went over right under the sticks. Priestland took the conversion with haste and Bath took the lead with 34 minutes left to play of the game. [13-17]
Following that dominant display the next 16 minutes of play was impressive for both sides with the attack and defence being neutralised. However, Bath were camped on the Worcester try line and relentlessly pushed forward. Worcester held the visitors up time after time, but Bath’s systems and structures were eventually too much for them. The intense pressure saw Josh McNally crash over from close range to get his first try in a Bath shirt. Priestland missed the conversion as the wind took hold of the ball and it sailed just wide of the uprights. [13-22]
Worcester responded quickly from the restart to win a penalty. Wier’s kick was successful taking the scored back to within seven with 66 minutes on the clock. [16-22]
The wind was whipping around the stadium and it was clear to see Bath physically battling with it, more so than Worcester had to in their respective half. The ball was swirling around and Worcester seized an opportunity when a Bath kick went off track. Nick David scooped it up to score on his Premiership debut for Worcester. The ball was shipped wide and the winger sprinted clear to dot down in the corner. Weir missed what turned out to be one of the most crucial kicks of the game. [21-22]
At 71 minutes Bath came close to scoring a breakaway try. Cook kicked the ball clear and Faletau raced to collect, the international No. 8 offloaded to Willison, but the final pass was claimed by the conditions and frustratingly knocked forward.
The clock went into the red, and the Bath pack maintained their composure and power, but Ridley called a penalty against the visitors at the breakdown as Worcester were awarded one last chance to salvage the result. From the following kick at 55 metres out, Chris Pennell couldn't convert as his effort went agonisingly wide of the sticks.
Bath won enough of the key moments during the game and were able to win the battle during the second period both tactically and with rigorous effort. The Blue, Black and White were able to grind out the result and secure four crucial points which sees them rise to fourth in the Gallagher Premiership.
FULL-TIME - WORCESTER WARRIORS 21 – 22 BATH RUGBY
15 February 2020
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Half Time score: 13-10
- Tries: Du Preez (12), David (67)
- Conversions: Weir (13)
- Penalties: Weir (7, 21, 61)
- Tries: Mercer (1), Louw (44), McNally (56)
- Conversions: Priestland (2, 45)
- Penalties: Priestland (9)