Bath Rugby signed off the opening batch of four Guinness Premiership matches with a hard-fought 17-11 win over Worcester Warriors at the Rec on Saturday.
Coach Steve Meehan admitted afterwards that they had made it hard for themselves with an error-strewn first half, in which both sides struggled to hold onto the ball and conceded multiple free kicks at the scrum as the packs got to grips with other.
The Warriors, renowned for the strength of their forwards, deserve credit for stopping Bath from playing a free game as often as they would have liked, but for the dynamic attacks that Bath did manage to put together, they would certainly have hoped for more than one try, that scored by Nick Walshe at the start of the second half.
Bath had in fact started the game at pace, and their positive intent was rewarded with two early penalties, the second of which Olly Barkley kicked over the uprights for a three-pointer in the fourth minute but Shane Drahm levelled the scores when Bath were penalised for hands in the ruck.
Another chance for Bath to take the lead eluded them, when Barkley's 45-metre attempt at goal slid under the posts. And it seemed that the visitors might go ahead, when they got a penalty in the Bath half. But Drahm kicked for touch, and the ensuing attack failed. Instead, Joe Maddock stole the ball and raced upfield. This time, when the Warriors killed the ball at the ruck, Rowden not only awarded a penalty but reached for his pocket, sending Chris Horsman to the sin-bin. Barkley, from in front of the posts, made no mistake this time.
The outside centre's radar was still slightly awry, though, and the chance to claim lineout ball after a penalty in the Worcester half when he kicked it over the dead ball line. But nor could Worcester make the most of their possession, and they too turned over the ball during the attack from a penalty, thanks to excellent Bath defence.
The penalty allowed Barkley to drill the ball into the Warriors' half. Fiddler took the lineout ball, and Lee Mears, who had been working hard all over the park throughout the half, broke towards the line. Fidler appeared in support, but the ball was turned over and the chance to score went begging.
As it was, the sides went into the break on even terms, when Drahm punished Bath for another infringement.
Bath emerged from the dressing room determined to play a more flowing game, and this time crossed the whitewash when Walshe inched over on the far left-hand corner after the Warriors' defence had been stretched both ways.
But it proved hard to shut Worcester out, and Michael Stephenson was forced to carry the ball over after Marcel Garvey had broken down the left wing, and chipped towards the line. But the attack was repulsed and the ball turned over - an offence committed equally by both sides throughout the game.
Shaun Berne, playing at fly-half after Barkley had gone off with a slight groin injury, eased the home side's self-inflicted pressure by kicking a drop goal, and the sin-binning of Pat Sanderson gave the Australian the chance to put Bath further ahead, which he took.
Fresh legs kept Bath looking hungry in attack - Meehan praised Rob Hawkins particularly in this regards - but the Warriors, still winless in the campaign, grabbed a losing bonus point with a late try by the newly signed Aleki Lutui in front of the travelling fans.
Although pleased with the win, Meehan agreed it was far from perfect: "Monday morning's review is going to be interesting. The objective today was to win. We certainly didn't entertain anyone with our performance but on occasions we were almost there.
"We created opportunities, particularly in the second half - I thought our second-half performance was much better than our first half - and Worcester put plenty of pressure on us as well. Their pack were very good and made life difficult for us."
4: Penalty Barkley, 3-0
13: Pen Drahm, 3-3
29: Pen Barkley, 6-3
40+6: Pen Drahm, 6-6
48: Try Walshe, 11-6
65: Drop goal Berne, 14-6
69: Pen Berne, 17-6
80+10: Try Lutui, 17-11
BATH: 15. N Abendanon 14. M Stephenson 13. J Maddock (Cheeseman, 76) 12. O Barkley (Davis, 41) 11. D Bory 10. S Berne 9. N Walshe 1. D Flatman (Bell, 80+9) 2. L Mears (Hawkins, 70) 3. D Bell (Barnes, 59) 4. R Fidler (Scaysbrook, 40-41) 5. D Grewcock 6. P Short (Faamatuainu, 70) 7. C Goodman (Scaysbrook, 59) 8. I Feaunati (captain).
Replacements: 16. R Hawkins 17. D Barnes 18. J Scaysbrook 19. J Faamatuainu 20. A Williams 21. R Davis 22. T Cheeseman.
WORCESTER WARRIORS: 15. L Best (Delport, 76) 14. A Havili 13. D Rasmussen 12. T Lombard 11. M Garvey 10. S Drahm (Whatling, 41) 9. R Powell (Powell, 80+1)1. D Morris (Taumoepeau, 58) 2. C Fortey (Lutui, 41) 3. C Horsman (sin-bin: 29-40; Morris, 70) 4. C Gillies 5. T Collier (Blaze, 49) 6. P Sanderson (captain; sin-bin, 68-80+4) 7. T Harding (Taumoepeau, 34) 8. D Hickey (Horstmann, 63).
Replacements: 16.T Taumoepeau 17. A Lutui 18. R Blaze 19. K Horstmann 20. M Powell 21. S Whatling 22. T Delport.
Referee: A Rowden
Attendance: 10, 140