Bath snatched victory from Connacht with an injury-time try by David Bory, converted by Chris Malone, to make it two from two in their European Challenge Cup campaign.
The 21-19 win did not make for comfortable viewing for the home fans, and Steve Meehan, the Acting Head Coach, admitted afterwards: "There is a good argument for Connacht winning that." The Irish had the better of possession in the first half, took the lead after five minutes, and controlled their own ball well. In contrast, Bath seemed to take a long time to get into the match, and although they had done so by half-time, they struggled to get out of their own territory for much of the second half.
Ironically, it was the sin-binning of David Flatman with ten minutes left on the clock that finally sparked his team. At this point, Connacht led by ten points, but Paul Warwick, the fly-half, whose boot had been a reliable source of both points and position throughout, over-cooked his penalty kick towards touch, and as it drifted over the dead-ball line, the chance to increase the lead evaporated. Instead, after a series of pick-and-drive phases, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu steamed towards the tryline, and the ball was subsequently recycled and passed to Cheeseman for the Welshman to score.
Malone missed the conversion, so it was 14-19, but indiscipline by the visitors allowed Bath another opportunity. With Bath now restored to 15 men, the rolling maul from a lineout took the ball towards the line. It was held up, but two scrums later they worked a short-side move through the backs to David Bory, who dived over. The score at 19-all, Malone had still to convert, but he did, from the right-hand-side.
Connacht had taken an early lead in the first half, when Nick Walshe strayed off side at a scrum on the Bath 22 and Paul Warwick kicked the penalty from just right of centre. He missed with another attempt from the halfway line soon after.
Bath had a golden opportunity to overtake them ten minutes later. A penalty kicked to touch gave them a lineout deep in the Connacht 22. The Irishmen were penalised again, and with John Fogarty, the captain, sent to the sin-bin, Bath used their rolling maul to excellent effect from another lineout ball. They were just inches away from the line, but with play static, the referee blew for a scrum. Here Bath were penalised, and Connacht had the chance to clear their lines.
However, the next time Bath were in striking distance, they took the opportunity to go for goal and Malone's attempt was successful.
The half continued with little action that could have been said to light up a drizzly autumn afternoon. But Connacht seemed to have the better of the play, and were rewarded for that when Daniel Riordan took an inside ball after a scrum and, though he juggled with the ball, scythed through the defence to score under the posts, making the conversion easy for Warwick.
Bath responded almost immediately from the restart, when Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu made good ground after a lineout, and Connacht were penalised. Malone's penalty attempt went through the uprights. As the half wore into injury time, he had another chance when replacement scrum-half Chris Keane was shown the yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Andy Beattie, so Bath went into the break just a point behind.
They emerged from the dressing room in better form, but after seven minutes conceded a penalty on the attack for crossing, and Connacht once more took the reins. Warwick kicked two more penalties, one for hands in the ruck, one for holding on, and then the Australian nailed a drop goal, to leave Bath needing two scores to win.
Two scores came, with Cheeseman and Bory's tries, and with more added time to play, the Irish desperately fought to recover the lead. But the ball went forward, Bath got the scrum, and the referee blew the final whistle after Malone hoofed the ball into the crowd.
Meehan was certainly impressed with the way the visitors prevented his charges from getting going: "They have been very proud of their record in this competition over the last few years, and rightly so," he said. "We didn't handle them as well as we should have done, until the last 15 minutes.
And with preparation and training all going well, he said that there is a mental problem to be addressed: "We have got to identify what makes us tick and make sure that we are ticking for 80 minutes."
5: Penalty Warwick, 0-3
24: Pen Malone, 3-3
34: Try Riordan, Conversion Warwick, 3-10
38: Pen Malone, 6-10
40+2: Pen Malone, 9-10
47: Pen Warwick, 9-13
55: Pen Warwick, 9-16
64: Drop goal Warwick, 9-19
73: Try Cheeseman, 14-19
80+2: Try Bory, Con Malone, 21-19
BATH: 15. M Perry 14. T Cheeseman 13. S Berne 12. E Fuimaono-Sapolu 11. D Bory 10. C Malone 9. N Walshe 1. D Barnes 2. R Hawkins (Mears, 56) 3. D Flatman (sin-bin: 68-80; Feaunati, 80) 4. P Short (Grewcock, 41) 5. Rob Fidler 6. A Beattie (captain) 7. J Scaysbrook 8. I Feaunati (Ovens, 69).
Replacements: 16. L Mears 17. L Ovens 18. C Goodman 19. D Grewcock 20. M Stephenson 21. J Maddock 22. A Williams
CONNACHT: 15. D Riordan 14. K Matthews (McPhillips, 41) 13. J Hearty 12. G Williams 11. D Yapp 10. P Warwick 9. T Tierney (Keane, 27; sin-bin: 40+2-50) 1. R Hogan 2. J Fogarty (captain; sin-bin: 13-24) 3. B Sturgess 4. D Gannon 5. A Farley 6. J Muldoon 7. R Ofisa 8. C Rigney (Flavin, 15-24).
Replacements: 16. A Flavin 17. B Wilkinson 18. M Swift 19. B O'Connor 20. C Keane 21. C McPhillips 22. T Robinson.
Referee: D Rosich (France).