This game was a tail of two halves. Bath Rugby blitzed a shell shocked Bristol in the first forty minutes playing perhaps their best rugby since Brian Ashton re-joined the club. Bristol then put up an effective rearguard in the second-half, putting Bath under pressure and refusing to be on the end of a hiding.
Bath hit first through two Olly Barkley penalties in the opening minutes of the game. Then after an extended break in proceedings due to Bristol's Nathan Budgett having to be stretchered off the field after colliding with a teammate, Bristol hit back with a penalty through Jason Strange and then came so close to scoring the opening try of the match when winger David Lemi touched down in the corner. However the pass to him was judged to have been forward.
Then came Bath Rugby's fantasy time. After number Zak Feaunati had set the attack up from a catch and drive at a line-out, an exquisitely judged cross-field kick from Barkley caught right winger Lee Robinson out of position and Andy Beattie capitalized by catching the ball and scoring across the whitewash.
Barkley then hit a penalty, given away by a sinbinned Roy Winters for interfering at the ruck. Strange hit a penalty of his own shortly afterwards before Barkley once again restored the eight point advantage with another well taken penalty.
Bristol went down to thirteen when Darren Crompton was given a yellow card for deliberately slowing the ball down and they suddenly found themselves under immense pressure.
After a sustained build up, Joe Maddock followed through on a short pass to score near the posts. Barkley then proceeded to thump the penalty so hard through the uprights that the ball rattled the advertising hoardings behind the posts shocking the corporate revelers in the Hamptons Stand. The sheer effort that Olly put into the kick reflected the solid and effective game he was having at fly-half.
Then came one of the best tries Bath have conjured up the Rec for many years. A move started deep in their own twenty-two led to Olly Barkley chipping ahead for Maddock to chase. Maddock then fed Salesi Finau who eventually passed inside for Zak Feaunati to trundle over the try line at pace and touch down. Barkley kicked the penalty and Bath went into half-time 31-6 up.
Bristol then came out for the second half clearly inspired by their Head Coach Richard Hill and they were suddenly taking the game to Bath.
Bristol quickly found a way back into the match when a poor pass by Nick Walshe was intercepted and hacked ahead by Sam Cox. David Lemi then picked the ball up and ran all the way to score underneath the posts. Strange hit a successful conversion.
However Bristol were unable to break down a solid Bath defense thereafter and aside from the turn around in the Bristolians performance, the remainder of the half was highlighted by another Strange penalty and Danny Grewcock being sin binned for stamping.
Bath survived a late Bristol surge to seal their place in the Guinness Premiership next season. Next stop San Sebastian and an enticing Heineken Cup semi-final encounter with Biarritz.
Bath Rugby: Maddock, Higgins, Crockett, Finau (Stephenson 48), Bory, Barkley, Walshe (Williams 56); Barnes (Bell 58), Mears (Dixon 71), Filise (Barnes 71), Borthwicj, Grewcock, Beattie, Lipman, Feaunati (Delve 52).
Tries: Beattie, Maddock, Feaunati
Con: Barkley (2), Pen: Barkley (4)