University of Bath extended their winning run to five games as they secured their best ever BUCS Super Rugby league finish with a hard-fought victory over Loughborough at a wet and windy University of Bath Sports Training Village last night.
All the points came in the first half as the Blue & Gold came from behind to win 19-5 courtesy of tries from James Catlin, Chris Barry and Will Partington.
They currently sit second in the table behind Exeter, who beat Cardiff this afternoon to win the league title, and while their final placing will not be determined until Hartpury play their outstanding fixture next week, Team Bath are guaranteed a top-three finish and a home quarter-final in the BUCS Rugby Championships knockout competition.
The opening 20 minutes were evenly matched but it was Loughborough who broke the deadlock. A long clearance from their 22 looked to have gone dead at the other end but a Bath player was adjudged to have got a touch on the way, meaning the hosts found themselves defending a scrum 10m from their line.
They were unable to prevent centre James Spencer finding his way through for the opening try but Tom Fitch hit the post with his conversion attempt. [0-5]
The hosts levelled within five minutes as a break by Barry put Loughborough on the back foot and the ball was switched from right to left before number eight Catlin barged his way over. Burrage was off target with his conversion attempt. [5-5]
The game swung firmly in the home side’s favour just before the break when Loughborough lost two loosehead props to the sin bin in the space of a minute. First Jerrod Leat saw yellow for repeated infringement, then replacement Jamie Harding was sent to the bench for collapsing the scrum.
The home side took full advantage, with Barry being driven over for their second try before, from the restart, full-back Partington found a gap in the depleted Loughborough defence and accelerated past the last man before diving over in the corner for a fine solo effort.
Burrage converted both tries, using the wind to curl his second kick in from the touchline, to put the University of Bath in control at half-time. [19-5]
Half-time – University of Bath 19-5 Loughborough University
The second period proved to be an attritional battle, with both teams working their way into promising positions without being able to produce a finish as two organised defences stood firm.
Full-time – University of Bath 19-5 Loughborough University
Attention now turns to the knockout stage of the season, with the final taking place at Twickenham in April. Team Bath, who have reached the semi-finals in the past two seasons, have a bye through to the last eight and will be at home on Wednesday, March 20 against opponents yet to be determined (Kick-off 18:30) and admission is free.
Mark Lilley told Team Bath after the game, “There were tough conditions out there but I thought our intent to play was outstanding and we showed some really good attacking moments, so I was quite pleased with the performance all things considered.