A tight match at Sixways was always on the cards, but the nail-bitingly tense battle that ensued between Bath Rugby and the Worcester Warriors today was enough to have the most hardened fans on the edge of their seats. With a hat-trick from Tom Cheeseman and an equal number of tries from Worcester, it was not until the final nine minutes that Bath were able to secure the win and walk away victorious with a 20-23 result.
With Steve Meehan predicting early in the week that Worcester were going to put up a strong fight, he was not far from the truth. The opening three minutes took Worcester up to Bath's 22, with some strong driving coming from the home side camp. However, they did not enjoy the possession for long as a pass from Olly Barkley in the centre to Joe Maddock on the right wing took Bath into Worcester's 22.
Under pressure and maintaining defence, Bath were forced to ship the ball out to the left wing, where a chip and chase from Butch James allowed him to gain good distance and to within feet of the try line. Failing to cross, Lee Mears attempted to put a second try under his belt this season, but Worcester kept him from grounding the ball and it was not until Tom Cheeseman was able to break free that Bath enjoyed a five-point lead after just eight minutes. Barkley failed to make the conversion.
Worcester responded with a passage of attacking play with Worcester's Miles Benjamin bursting down the left wing, making use of Shane Drahm and Sam Tuitupou before Tom Cheeseman lambasted the inside centre to the ground. With a Bath offence following moments afterwards, Worcester's charge was not in vain, as Shane Drahm won three points for the hosts with a successful penalty kick just feet away from the halfway line.
Five minutes later, Worcester went into the lead as a rapid break from Marcel Garvey from the top left hand corner of Worcester's territory, allowed him to escape the Bath defence and charge into the midfield where a quick ball to Benjamin gave the winger the opportunity to break away from the chasing Barkley and Matt Banahan and cross over the line for a try. Although it was a failed conversion, the try gave the Warriors the lead by three points after 19 minutes.
Six minutes later and Bath were back in the fray, as Michael Lipman made a dash from the halfway line to deep inside the homeside's 22. Riding the tackle, the flanker slipped the ball to James who made a long pass to Cheeseman to score his second try of the match in the top left-hand corner. Without a successful conversion from Barkley, the visitors were unable to enjoy more than a two-point lead and with Worcester failing a penalty kick of their own just minutes later, the score remained at 8-10 to Bath with 12 minutes left of the half.
The intensity heightened as Danny Grewcock made his formidable presence known inside the Warrior's 22, slipping the ball to Michael Claassens before going down into a ruck. James cleared to Cheeseman, who passed to Mears. The Hooker did not make anymore headway towards the try line, but as Worcester were penalised for coming in at the side of the ruck, Barkley was able to take advantage of the offence and slot the ball directly between the uprights for a further three points before the half-time whistle.
Determined to notch up some further points for Bath after the break, a penalty kick from Barkley took the west-country side to an eight-point lead after just four minutes. Immediately after, Worcester responded as Benjamin, bursting down the left wing, made it over the line before Bath could stop him, closing the score gap to a mere three-point divide.
With club captain Steve Borthwick spurring on his team and the rain starting to pour, a series of knock -on's by Worcester gave Bath the chance to get back on the front foot as they went down for a scrum on the 22 metre line. Matt Stevens, retaining the same excellent form as Tuesday night against Leicester, prevented Drahm from clearing the ball out of their territory and Banahan attempted to slip down the wing to cross the line. Good Worcester defence halted his charge, keeping the score at 13 - 16 to Bath after 20 minutes.
Under pressure, the visitors were forced back inside their own territory as a strong attack from the Warriors sent them dangerously inside the 22. Drahm, taking the ball rapidly after a knock-on from Bath, shot through the defence to touch the ball down over the line behind the posts. Successfully converting his own try, the fly half sent Worcester into the lead with 20 -16 to the hosts.
With ten minutes left on the clock, and tension running high, Cheeseman, once again made his presence felt, as he burst over the line for a hat-trick after excellent interplay between Stephenson and Higgins gave him the space to soar over in the top right hand corner. After Barkley slotted his first successful conversion of the match, the visitors slipped into the lead with a score of 20 -23 to Bath.
Three minutes to go and with Bath enjoying possession inside Worcester's territory, the score remained nail-bitingly tight. Rico Gear, demonstrating good pace, broke away from the Bath defence to shoot straight into the 22. Refusing to give the Warriors any respite, Bath kept up their defence as the Warriors were given a scrum after a Bath indiscretion. Banahan and Claassens' umbrella defence blocked the way of Tuitupou, prohibiting him from getting any closer to the try line and wearing the Warriors' down. The final frenetic minutes were played out mere inches away from the Bath line, but the committed defence from the visitors refused to allow the Warriors to steal the lead and the final whistle blew on a crucial victory for Bath. Final score 20 - 23.