Donald is made to pay as old boy Nicks it for Welsh
"Bath snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, didn't they?" were the first words of London Welsh head coach Lyn Jones after the final whistle. "I can't believe it."
The disbelief was contagious, not least for Gary Gold. It had been a stodgy, unattractive game and quite how Bath managed to turn a 79th-minute 9-6 lead into a 16-9 loss is something the head coach also struggled to comprehend.
With one wildly speculative Stephen Donald pass in injury time, Bath turned an afternoon of restrained, kicking-based rugby on its head – with nightmarish consequences.
But what was a nightmare for Donald and co was a dream for former Bath winger Nick Scott. The fleet-footed youngster, who joined Welsh after being cast into the cold by Sir Ian McGeechan last season, latched onto Donald's looping pass and rounded off a 70m run with an exuberant dive.
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"I can only put it down to a rush of blood to try and throw such a ridiculous pass," said Gold after watching his side go dramatically off-piste in the dying seconds.
"We'd worked so hard to get there. I'm just astonished – that wasn't the plan, it wasn't what we'd agreed on, but I suppose that's sport.
"We came here with a lot of respect for Welsh. They flirt with the offside line quite a lot and have a good, strong rush defence. The one thing you don't do against a rush defence is throw long miss passes.
"The plan, whether we were two minutes into the game or in the 81st minute, was never to play like that. I'm at pains to make the point that it wasn't just that last play.
"We weren't thinking that 9-9 wasn't good enough and therefore we'd try the hallelujah pass. It's not about that and it's certainly not about Steve – he kicked three outstanding kicks that got us into that position. It's a group effort."
Donald's three penalties to Gavin Henson's two had given the visitors a 9-6 lead with 90 seconds to go. That Welsh managed to score ten points during that time was a result of Bath's ill-discipline and a lack of composure.
First, the visitors pulled down an Exiles jumper in a lineout, gifting replacement Gordon Ross a bread-and-butter penalty.
Then came what Gold termed the 'hallelujah' moment that went wrong.
But Bath should have had the match stitched up long before injury time. They came within inches of the Welsh tryline three times in the first half and, with the final play of the opening period, Dave Attwood smashed his way over.
However, referee Andrew Small – operating without the assistance of a Television Match Official – ruled that the ball had been held up.
Another chance came when Guy Mercer seized on a loose ball in midfield but, with men on his outside shoulder and the chance of engineering an overlap, the flanker instead fly-hacked on.
It wasn't the only squandering of possession that Gold was left to rue.
"We were irresponsible today and we need to be jealous of possession," said the South African. "We showed last week against Exeter that when we hold onto the ball we are an effective team."
Effective one week, ineffective the next. The New Beginning at Bath Rugby remains a work in progress.