Saracens cut loose in autumn sunshine

Two tries in three minutes by Tom Cheeseman gave Bath hope of a comeback against the Ospreys at the Recreation Ground on Saturday, but in the end they succumbed to defeat, 24-31.

As Steve Meehan said afterwards, the match was disappointing not only because it puts Bath out of contention in the EDF Energy Cup, but also because his team did not make the most of the chances they had.

Twice the Ospreys were reduced to 14 men, once before half-time, Jason Spice the culprit, for killing the ball; and not long after Spice's return to the field, Ian Evans replaced him in the cooler for foul play at the lineout. But each time the most Bath made of their man advantage was a penalty by Nick Walshe, the scrum-half bearing the responsibility of both place-kicker and captain on the day.

Walshe had given Bath an early lead with a penalty in the fifth minute, given for offside, but a number of other opportunities to score went begging and then Jonathan Vaughton took the visitors ahead with a try on the far left after the Ospreys had worked they way through a number of phases near the Bath line.

The Ospreys then gathered the ball at the restart, but excellent work by Dave Ward turned it over, eventually allowing Walshe another penalty attempt, which he kicked, to edge Bath ahead again.

The lead was short-lived, as a testing kick by Spice was taken by James Hook, and the up-and-coming Welsh centre handed off Nick Abendanon to score, this time on the right-hand side of the field. The trusty boot of Connor, who was later named EDF Energy man of the match, struck twice within a few minutes, once with a drop goal, once with a penalty, to stretch the Ospreys' lead, before the yellow cards and accompanying penalties allowed Bath to regain some ground.

Indeed, these two kicks by Walshe brought the home team to within a score of the Welshmen, and on at least two occasions, Bath looked destined for tries but with Evans still off the field, it was in fact Stefan Terblanche, the Ospreys' South African full-back, who crossed the whitewash, capitalising on turnover ball from a ruck and breaking upfield.

12-25 looked like a winning score, but the quick-thinking Walshe caught the Ospreys' defence off-guard with a tapped free kick, and a superb angle by Cheeseman saw the young Welshman reach over the line under the posts for his first try. His second was born deep in the Bath half, beginning with a break by Jonny Faamatuainu, who, like Lee Mears, had quite an impact when he came on as a replacement.

However, the conversion of the second try eluded Walshe, it being from near the touchline, and with a 25-24, the Ospreys dealt clinically with Bath's hopes, with drops goals by first Terblanche and then Hook.

Meehan's was disappointed on several counts: "It's almost a repeat of last week's performance," he said. "It's as if we didn't learn anything from Bristol. All competitions are important. The fact that we are out of this one is one thing, but it's the performance that annoys me. We had plenty of chances to win that match and we should have. We should have been able to do more damage to Ospreys than we did."

But on a positive note, he was pleased that some of Bath's younger players - including Tom Cheeseman, recently returned from injury - have had a chance in the last few weeks: "I thought Tom Cheeseman played very well, considering he's only been back a short time, and he picked up a couple of nice tries as a result. Ian Davey's another one, and Chris Goodman again showed that he's a player with a big future. And over the course of last weekend and again this weekend we've used our three other hookers apart from Mears, to give them some opportunity to see where they are."

5: Penalty Walshe, 3-0
17: Try Vaughton, 3-5
20: Pen Walshe, 6-5
22: Try Hook, Conversion Connor, 6-12
29: Drop goal Connor, 6-15
31: Pen Connor, 6-18
36: Pen Walshe, 9-18
47: Pen Walshe, 12-18
53: Try Terblanche, Con Connor, 12-25
58: Try Cheeseman, Con Walshe, 19-25
61: Try Cheeseman, 24-25
75: Drop goal Terblanche, 24-28
80: Drop goal Hook, 24-31

BATH: 15. N Abendanon 14. I Davey 13. T Cheeseman 12. J Maddock 11. D Bory (Stephenson, 41) 10. M Perry (Mangeolles, 73) 9. N Walshe (captain) 1. D Flatman (Barnes, 52) 2. D Ward (Mears, 41) 3. D Bell 4. D Smith (Short, 50) 5. D Grewcock 6. A Beattie 7. J Scaysbrook 8. C Goodman (Faamatuainu, 53)

Replacements: 16. L Mears 17. D Barnes 18. P Short 19. J Faamatuainu 20. M Mangeolles 21. M Stephenson 22. P Travagli

OSPREYS: 15. S Terblanche 14. R Mustoe 13. T Selley (Parker, 64) 12. J Hook 11. J Vaughton 10. S Connor 9. J Spice 1. P James (captain) 2. B Williams (Bennett, 61) 3. A Millward (Griffiths, 63) 4. L Bateman (Powell, 74) 5. I Evans 6. L Beech (A W Jones, 48) 7. S Tandy 8. J Thomas

Replacements: 16. H Bennett 17. C Griffiths 18. M Powell 19. A W Jones 20. M Roberts 21. S Parker 22. L Byrne

Referee: D Pearson
Attendance: 10, 600

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