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Bath Rugby hold on for dramatic victory in Dublin

As it happened Bath did just that, winning to record their first victory on Irish soil since the competition began to get the 2005-06 Heineken Cup off to the best possible start. However, they were made to sweat by a Leinster side that threw everything at John Connolly's side in a frantic assault on the Bath try line in the dying moments of the contest.
As a spectacle this opening Heineken Cup match wasn't a classic; there were just two tries and neither side found top gear, but as a battle it was an epic. The match was Heineken Cup rugby at its gritty, most intense best - a match full of big hits, defencive heroics and sheer drama. There were also inspiring individual performances. Danny Grewcock was once again in imperious form in a bludgeoning Bath pack, whilst Frikkie Welsh (a player who is certainly not shy in coming forward in defence), made a string of massive try-saving hits as Leinster mounted a late rally.

The win - the fifth in a row for Bath - will be a huge psychological fillip heading into Saturday's Bourgoin match at the Rec. Even at this early stage of the competition it could well be the match that decides the outcome of pool five.

"Bourgoin will be a very tough proposition," said head coach John Connolly after the match. "They are doing well in the French Championship and have a very strong pack. Their result against Glasgow may not have been by the biggest margin, but we are expecting a tough contest. We are just glad that we won today and are off the mark."

After twenty minutes of the match victory must have seemed a long way away for Connolly and the rest of his coaching team as he watched his side make a number of elementary errors that allowed Leinster to take the game to Bath. Starved of possession early on, Bath suddenly found themselves thirteen points adrift as Felipe Contepomi dropped a goal, before combining with Lions centre Shane Horgan to loop round the Bath cover with effortless ease to score a try from Leinster's top draw. His conversion left Bath with an awful lot to do.

However, Bath, who showed so much character in defeating Gloucester with fourteen men, refused to buckle and came back into the game strongly through the power of their forwards. Olly Barkley converted that excellent pressure by landing three penalties and incredibly Bath found themselves just four point adrift at the interval and back in the game.

The first twenty minutes of the second half were all Bath as the visitors began to play some cracking rugby in all areas of the field. On a wide pitch, Bath's phase play tested the home side's defencive capability to the limit and after Lee Mears was brought down just inches short of the line Leinster, in their panic, killed the ball. Referee Nigel Whitehouse reached for his pocket and produced a yellow card for hooker David Blaney.

With Leinster's minds elsewhere after a frantic passage of play, Olly Barkley showed great vision in taking a quick tap and executing a cross field kick aimed for Tom Cheeseman in the corner. As the young Welshman rose to claim the ball, he appeared to be impeded, but all thoughts of a possible penalty try were extinguished when Andy Beattie claimed the bobbling ball for a try in the corner. Barkley's inebriated conversion attempt was good and Bath had the lead for the first time in the match.

Contepomi kept Leinster in touch with a long range penalty, and the home side began to claw their way back into the game despite living off scraps of possession. Suddenly Leinster's backs began to fire again and Bath's defence was tested to the limit on several occasions, but tackle after tackle was made by men in blue and white jerseys and Leinster could not find a way through.

Leinster's frustrations were compounded when Olly Barkley kicked another penalty before Chris Malone followed up last week's fifty five metre drop goal cracker with a rather modest forty-seven metre effort.

The final ten minutes were frantic with Leinster battering the Bath line time and time again, but a mixture of heroics in defence and Leinster mistakes meant that the away side held on for a fine victory.

15 Lee Best, 14 David Bory (Salesi Finau), 13 Tom Cheeseman, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Frikkie Welsh, 10 Chris Malone, 9 Martyn Wood, 1 Matt Stevens, 2 Lee Mears (Pieter Dixon), 3 Duncan Bell, 4 Steve Borthwick (capt), 5 Danny Grewcock, 6 Andy Beattie, 7 James Scaysbrook, 8 Zak Feaunati (Gareth Delve).

16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Chris Loader, 18 Gareth Delve, 19 James Hudson, 20 Nick Walshe, 21 Ryan Davis, 22 Salesi Finau.

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