Bath Rugby concluded pre-season with a tough but beneficial contest against United Rugby Championship side Cardiff Rugby.
A 36-man Bath squad with almost 50 per cent homegrown players headed to the Welsh capital for a final hit out before the start of the Gallagher Premiership season and they faced a side who managed to fit in a friendly against Harlequins the previous weekend.
A smattering of visiting fans could be heard all around Arms Park and were in good spirits ahead of kick-off on their first trip in just over 18 months and it was Cardiff’s first home crowd in a long while too and the hosts delighted their faithful by holding the majority of possession in the opening exchanges.
They found a strong Bath defence in their way and the visitors showcased their transitions with a couple of turnovers at the ruck.
Cardiff’s persistence eventually paid off. Punch after punch came in close quarters Number 8 James Ratti squeezed under the sticks, a try converted by a familiar face in Rhys Priestland.
The response from Stuart Hooper’s men was positive. A rare early dart up the middle led to Danny Cipriani punting to the corner and from the line-out the forwards drove inside and England prop Beno Obano powered over.
Soon after, new recruit Jaco Coetzee had his first chance to carry from the base of the scrum to create space for a clean Cipriani exit and Sam Underhill’s jaunt up-field allowed the outside backs to handle the ball in a first glimpse of Bath’s new style of attack.
The Blue, Black and White’s offloading game started to come to life thereafter, aiding a collection of metres to the home 22. Credit to Cardiff whose defence held firm forcing Cipriani to change tact and attempt a kick in behind but to no avail.
Just before half-time, the Welsh region opted to take a distant shot at goal with their efforts to breach the Bath defence thwarted. Up stepped Priestland who made no mistake with his penalty to send Dai Young’s side into the break ahead by three.
A completely altered Bath XV took to the field for the second period and immediately made in-roads towards the Cardiff line. Following a series of pick and gos which softened the home troops, trialist Richard de Carpentier brushed the whitewash just inside the right-hand post.
Cardiff’s XV remained near enough the same and as Bath’s new combinations continued to adjust, they capitalised. Priestland added three points from the tee for the second time before Lloyd Williams and Owen Lane crossed for scores in the opposite corners.
The double proved to be the killer blow on a night where minutes in players was the focus for Bath ahead of next week’s trip to Sale Sharks.