Bath Rugby went top of Pool Four in the European Rugby Challenge Cup this evening with a scintillating five-try, 38-3 win over Cardiff Blues.
The early possession was dominated by the home side, with the returning Taulupe Faletau showing his intent on his return to the starting line-up. It was in fact the Welsh international who carved open the first opportunity of the half after 14 minutes, combining with centre Jonathan Joseph before bouncing off two Cardiff defenders to put the home side within touching distance of the line.
Despite the territorial advantage, it was Cardiff who got the first points of the evening, with Steven Shingler slotting a penalty from in front of the posts to give the visitors an early lead. 0-3.
An excellent chip from George Ford found the weaving, darting Ben Tapuai, who sprinted into the opposition 22, but could not quite find the hands of the supporting Kahn Fotuali’i. However, the ingenuity was a sign of things to come as a sweeping move from left to right found Joseph, who cleverly delayed his pass to send Ross Batty storming through the gap to put Bath back in front on the scoreboard after 27 minutes. 7-3.
There was a huge defensive improvement from last weekend for the Bath side, epitomised by Ben Tapuai putting in a monumental tackle to force the error from Shingler after the fly-half looked to be in for a certain try in the corner.
Approaching the tail end of the half, Ford slotted a crisp penalty through the posts to extend the home side’s lead to seven going into the interval.
Half-time: Bath Rugby 10-3 Cardiff Blues
It was an eventful start to the second half with Cardiff hooker Kirby Myhill sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle on Dave Atwood. A minute later, some excellent passing across the line saw Ford send a looping pass to Jack Wilson, who crossed in the corner for the second try of the evening. While waiting for Ford to take the conversion (which he sent cleanly through the posts), Cardiff were reduced to 13 men after consultation with the TMO, with second row George Earle red carded for making contact with the eyes of Tom Ellis at a maul in the build-up to the try. 17-3.
The onslaught continued with Faletau once again the architect. The number eight burst through the Cardiff defence before the influential Fotuali’i sent a monstrous pass to the left wing, finding Aled Brew who stormed over for his first try in Bath colours. Ford added the extras to take the score to 24-3 after 53 minutes.
The Rec crowd were willing their team on to the bonus point try, and what came will live long in the memory of Batty and the home faithful. The hooker intercepted the ball, juggled it before gaining full control and then used every ounce of speed to run from well over the halfway line to cross. 31-3.
With two minutes left on the clock, Wilson still had the legs to chase down a kick into the Cardiff 22 and force the turnover to send replacement Elliott Stooke over for Bath’s fifth try of the evening. Replacement Adam Hastings converted the try to give the Rec faithful an early Christmas present and put the team in control of the group going into the final two rounds.
Final score: Bath Rugby 38-3 Cardiff Blues