In relentless rain, Bath enjoyed a run-out against Newbury at Monks Lane, winning 65-0 and keeping a clean bill of health before the last week of preparation for the European Challenge Cup Final against ASM Clermont Auvergne on 19th May.
Although it was apparently a one-sided affair, Head Coach Steve Meehan was very happy with the game. "I think the conditions were good," he said. "We have been playing in dry weather for the last few weeks so for this to happen is a good wake-up call: perhaps it will be like this at the Stoop."
Early on, a few forced passes, though the result of confidence in the backs, forced the players to change their game a little. "If it is like this in the final, we will know to tighten up," Meehan said. "As the game progressed, we saw some good handling skills."
Bath won a penalty five minutes into the match, which they elected to kick to touch for a five-metre lineout. Zak Feaunati won the ball but Bath were penalised for holding on and Newbury cleared. However, Bath stole the Blues' lineout, attacked again and won another penalty. This time they opted for a scrum, and Feaunati, taking the ball from Nick Walshe, fed Andy Beattie for the flanker to score. Olly Barkley converted.
Their next try came six minutes later, when Chev Walker broke through the Blues' defensive line and sped towards the Newbury line down the left of the field. The ball having swung to the right, the move faltered when the ball went to ground, but Feaunati deftly reignited play by flicking the ball to Joe Maddock, and shortly after Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu handed off a weak tackle and jogged over.
It was not entirely one-way traffic. Bath's own George Hughes, playing for the opposition, was particularly lively and inventive, given the chance, and on one occasion, hacked the ball through well into Bath's 22, and was only just beaten in the footrace to it by Maddock.
The entertainment was enhanced - sometimes rather comically - by the slipperiness of the ball, and Barkley surprised almost everyone on the pitch when he broke through from his own half, but Walker was alert and on hand to receive the scoring pass.
Walshe had exploited a number of holes around the fringes of the ruck, but the final try of the half came on the stroke of half-time, when Lee Mears imitated the scrum-half, scampering through a hole to dot the ball down under the posts. Barkley converted this as all the previous tries, to make the half-time score 28-0 to the visitors.
After the break, it took just seven minutes for Bath to add to their tally. Given a penalty, Barkley, whose place-kicking boots deserted him later in the half, kicked the ball to touch with precision, Grewcock soared to claim the five-metre lineout, and captain Steve Borthwick was pushed over for the try.
Tom Cheeseman, a half-time replacement for David Bory, then made up for sitting out the first forty minutes by scoring a hat-trick. His first try came courtesy of the forwards, who shunted Newbury off their own scrummage five metres from their line. His second was the result of a slick backs move, the ball working its way to the Welshmen on the left wing after a break by Walker. And finally, he received a beautiful back-handed pass inside from Fuimaono-Sapolu.
Three more tries followed, each in roughly the same spot on the left-hand side of the field. Walker's set up the first try, this one for Andy Williams, who backed his pace despite the close attentions of the covering tackler. Fuimaono-Sapolu made his second alone, with an excellent show and go; and Walker likewise secured a brace, brushing off some rather feeble tackling.
Steve Meehan said that there was huge value in playing under real game conditions, rather than those of the training paddock, and said: "We should take the opportunity to thank Newbury."
10: Try Beattie, Conversion Barkley, 0-7
16: Try Fuimaono-Sapolu, Con Barkley, 0-14
22: Try Walker, Con Barkley, 0-21
38: Try Mears, Con Barkley, 0-28
47: Try Borthwick, Con Barkley, 0-35
52: Try Cheeseman, 0-40
59: Try Cheeseman, 0-45
64: Try Cheeseman, 0-50
73: Try Williams, 0-55
75: Try Fuimaono-Sapolu, 0-60
78: Try Walker, 0-65
BATH: 15. M Stephenson 14. J Maddock 13. C Walker 12. E Fuimaono-Sapolu 11. D Bory (Cheeseman, 41) 10. O Barkley 9. N Walshe (Williams, 41) 1. D Barnes (Jarvis, 57) 2. L Mears (Dixon, 48) 3. M Stevens (Ovens, 57) 4. S Borthwick 5. D Grewcock (Fidler, 63) 6. A Beattie (Short, 48) 7. J Scaysbrook 8. I Feaunati (Goodman, 57)
Replacements: P Dixon, A Jarvis, L Ovens, P Short, C Goodman, A Williams, R Fidler, T Cheeseman
NEWBURY: 15. N Defty (Cozens, 73) 14. M Banahan 13. G Hughes 12. G Turner 11. L Gibson 10. T Walsh 9. M Simpson-Daniel (Smage, 48) 1. M Irish (Bruce, 64) 2. A Dalgleish 3. W Thompson (Robinson, 64) 4. J Chance (Griffiths, 73) 5. T Radbourne (Doherty, 58) 6. C Morgan (Ashcroft-Leigh, 48) 7. C Rainbow (Ward, 29) 8. G Hayter
Replacements: R Bruce, A Griffiths, S Robinson, J Bentall, L Ashcroft-Leigh, L Cozens, L Audis, D Ward, D Smage, C Ashwin, J Doherty, C Bedford, B Ryan
Referee: D Richards