Five-star Bath Rugby maintain fine form with Worcester win
MATCH REPORT: BATH RUGBY 32 WORCESTER WARRIORS 9
Bath Rugby picked up their first Aviva Premiership win since late November when they ran in five tries against Worcester Warriors.
After four successive victories in cup matches, Gary Gold’s side were able to translate that form into league points with their first bonus-point win in the competition this season.
Just had been the case at Gloucester in the LV= Cup a week previously, Bath’s win was built on a dominant second-half display, with the hosts scoring 19 unanswered points.
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Head coach Gold was pleased his side were able to up their game after a tense first 40 minutes.
“We made heavy weather for ourselves in the first half, and it was a little bit disappointing we weren’t able to create a few more opportunities,” said Gold.
“Fair play to them, they put us under a lot of pressure in the first half and got due reward as it was quite a close contest at half-time.
“It was good that we were able to come out in the second half and tweak one or two things and build the pressure that eventually leads to tries.
“We know we haven’t achieved anything yet, it’s just things are starting to work in our favour now.
“I hope it gives the guys confidence in terms of how they can play. We wanted to create a winning habit and we back ourselves that we can go toe-to-toe with anybody on the day.
“Slowly but surely, it’s starting to get there.”
Bath picked up where they left off at Kingsholm and grabbed their first try inside five minutes when on-loan scrum-half Peter Stringer continued his love affair at the home of his new club with a third try in just his second game at The Rec.
After an impressive early attack, Tom Biggs was stopped just short of the tryline but former Ireland international Stringer was on hand to complete the job.
Stephen Donald’s conversion attempt sailed wide and Warriors quickly made him pay when they reduced the arrears with a penalty.
The visitors thought their reward was going to be much greater when David Lemi charged over the whitewash but the score was ruled out for crossing. Referee Wayne Barnes brought play back to an earlier Bath infringement, though, and Danny Gray gratefully split the posts.
Bath were quickly back in the ascendancy, though, and had their second touchdown when Worcester were reduced to 14 men.
Dean Schofield was the recipient of a yellow card after the visitors were repeatedly penalised on their own line and when Donald kicked for the corner, hooker Rob Webber grabbed his first try in Bath colours following an unstoppable driving maul from the lineout.
Again Donald’s kick went awry and the home side were unable to capitalise further on their numerical advantage as a Gray penalty either side of Schofield’s return cut the deficit to a single point.
Donald was finally able to find his range three minutes before the break when he split the posts from short range to push Gold’s side further ahead.
The sin-binning of Dave Attwood swung momentum the visitors’ way and only magnificent Bath defence kept them at bay after a prolonged period camped on the tryline.
When the home side were finally able to release the pressure with a clearing penalty, they hit Warriors with a sucker punch with their third try from the subsequent lineout.
The ball travelled the width of the pitch, with Kyle Eastmond providing the killer final pass for Biggs to charge into the corner from 20 metres out. Donald’s conversion attempt dropped short.
Eastmond was pivotal again when Horacio Agulla grabbed the first of his two tries, with the former St Helens ace taking three Worcester players out of the game before sending Agulla over the whitewash.
Replacement Tom Heathcote was successful with his first attempt at goal and the visitors’ hopes ended when they were forced to finish the game with 13 men, with Craig Gillies and Lemi shown yellow cards.
There was still time for one final flourish from Bath as Agulla grabbed his second try following a clever chip from Heathcote, who brought the scoring to a close himself with a successful conversion.
The victory moves Bath to within four points of a crucial top-six spot, and Gold will be hopeful of strengthening his side’s position further during the visit of London Irish next Saturday.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge as well,” said Gold.
“They seem to turning a corner as well now, so it’s going to become a real dogfight between now and the end of the season.
“It’s important for us to just carry on what we are doing and try to edge up the table.”
BATH RUGBY: Abendanon, Agulla, Banahan (Rokoduguni 66), Eastmond, Biggs, Donald (Heathcote 55), Stringer (Cook 66), Beech (Catt 55), Webber (Batty 64), Perenise (Palma-Newport 68), Day (Spencer 64), Attwood, Louw, Fearns, Skirving (Gilbert 66).
Tries: Stringer, Webber, Biggs, Agulla 2 Conversions: Heathcote 2 Penalty: Donald
WORCESTER WARRIORS: Claassens (Matavesi 60), Drauniniu, Grove, Clarke, Lemi, Gray (Carlisle 66), Arr (Hodgson 60), Mullan (Jones 66), Lutui (Shervington 60), Andress (O’Donnell 66), Percival, Schofield (Gillies 65), Best (Abbott 60), Batty, Kvesic.
Penalties: Gray 3
Referee: Wayne Barnes