Higgins hat-trick secures bonus point win

Bath overcame the sickness bug that swept their camp in midweek to collect five valuable Guinness Premiership points with a resilient performance at Sixways this afternoon.

A hat-trick of tries from former Worcester winger Andrew Higgins and a flawless kicking display from Butch James helped depleted Bath to their first away Guinness Premiership win in four months.

Despite the selection difficulties caused by the withdrawal of Nick Abendanon, Matt Banahan and Alex Crockett through illness, Bath produced a committed and cohesive performance in their first outing since the Heineken Cup draw with Toulouse three weeks ago which pleased head coach Steve Meehan.

"What I am really pleased about is our three weeks in preparation for this game," Meehan said.

"It is our best performance after a break in the last three seasons," Meehan said. "I was very pleased with the way we went about playing the game. We played with a lot of width and tried to put as much pace on the game as we could.

"We weren't perfect, but we played the full 80 minutes and scored the fourth try and I'm sure the guys will enjoy that win.

"Bonus points are very important in this competition. That finishes a very good week of training and we have achieved everything and more that we set out to."

Meehan also praised the contributions made by Higgins, who played his first senior rugby for Worcester ten years ago, former Bradford Bulls rugby league centre Shontayne Hape, wing Michael Stephenson and flanker James Scaysbrook.

"I thought Shontayne Hape's performance is the best we have seen of him in the Premiership, Michael Stephenson who hasn't had much game time this season came in and played very well, Andrew Higgins has come back from a knee injury that has kept him out and he grabbed three.

"In addition James Scaysbrook steps in for Michael Lipman and throws himself about.

"So they have all done quite nicely. All those guys who had an opportunity to start took their chance today."

Higgins topped and tailed Bath's win, running in his opening try from Worcester's 22 in the first half and his other two from closer range after the break, the third in stoppage time to clinch the extra point.

After James had nudged Bath in front with his opening penalty, Higgins latched on to a poor pass from Worcester's rookie fly-half Joe Carlisle. Though he was chased down by his opposite winger Marcel Garvey, Higgins had the strength to step out of a flimsy challenge from the former Gloucester man and was able to canter over for a spectacular long range score.

Worcester, without a league win since early November, briefly threatened an upset when Loki Crichton and Rico Gear combined well to set up former Australia full-back Chris Latham for the first of two tries in three minutes.

Carlisle partly atoned for his earlier mistake by popping a neat short pass to Kai Horstmann who galloped through the middle.

Matt Mullan was hauled down short of the line, but Worcester arrived in support and flanker Tom Wood put Crichton over for the try which Carlisle improved.

Though Bath played most of the rugby in the first half they had been heavily penalised for going off their feet in the rucks and they turned around four points adrift.

"There were a couple of interesting decisions," Meehan said. "We got done in attack. Staying on your feet was an area that referees were very hot on at the start of the season with the new ELVs.

"We got into November and December and they weren't policing that in the same manner. But we had a director of rugby and referees meeting at The Stoop on Thursday and they said they would be drawing everybody's attention back to that.

"But we are OK with that. It suits us. We are going to get penalised because we play with the ball perhaps a bit more often than others. But if the referees look after that area of the game, it's good for Bath."

But referee Dean Richards found fewer reasons to penalise Bath after the break and an early try from Higgins, who rounded off a sustained attack that pulled Worcester's defence out of alignment, restored the lead.

James slotted the conversion and Hape then slipped through a poor tackle from Crichton, cleverly drew Latham and delivered a perfectly-timed scoring pass to Joe Maddock who went over under the posts.

James' conversion gave Bath a ten points cushion which was reduced when fly-half Willie Walker, recruited on loan from Gloucester for the rest of the season, found the target with his first kick for Worcester, a penalty after 59 minutes.

James responded in kind but Walker then fluffed an eminently kickable penalty nine minutes from time which might have given Worcester a losing bonus point and caused Bath some late anxiety.

Instead Bath demonstrated their confidence by spurning the opportunity to kick for goal when they were awarded a penalty in injury-time.

They kicked for the corner, won the line-out and another multi-phase move again stretched Worcester's defence to breaking point and Higgins found sufficient space to power over in the corner for his hat-trick try.

That left James with his most difficult kick of the afternoon but the Springboks fly-half coolly levered over the conversion from the right hand touchline to give him 14 points for the afternoon and six goal kicks out of six.

Bath's performance also won praise from Mike Ruddock, Worcester's director of rugby, and a former Wales head coach.

"Bath are a great rugby side, they are a dangerous side, they looked very sharp, they play some good back rugby and they are very difficult to defend against," he said.

Worcester: C Latham (A Grove 72); R Gear, D Rasmussen, L Crichton, M Garvey; J Carlisle (W Walker 55), R Powell (M Powell 55); M Mullan, A Lutuin (C Fortey 69), T Taumoepeau (D Morris 72), G Rawlins on (C Gillies 74), W Bowley, T Wood (N Talei 55), P Sanderson (captain).

Scorers: T Latham, Crichton, C: Carlisle 2. P: Walker

Bath: J Maddock; A Higgins S Hape (T Cheeseman 79), E Fuimaono-Sapolu (S Berne 77), M Stephenson; B James, M Claasens (captain) (S Bemand 70); D Flatman, P Dixon (R Hawkins 74), D Bell (A Jarvis 70), J Harrison, S Hooper, A Beattie, J Scaysbrook (C Goodman 74), D Browne (J Faamatuainu 57).

Scorers: T: Higgins 3 Maddock .C: James 4. P: James 2

Referee: Mr D Richards (Berkshire)

Attendance: 10,096

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