Planet Rugby

Borthwick signs off in style

25th May 2008 13:46



Slain Warriors: Bath full-back Nick Abendanon gets across the line for his try

Bath's long hunt for silverware is at an end! The slumbering giants of English rugby collected the European Challenge Cup on the back of a high-octane 24-16 victory over Worcester at Kingsholm on Sunday.

Europe has grown accustomed to all-English cup finals, but last week's show in Moscow seemed like a whispered exchange in the library when compared to the loose-lipped offering served up in Gloucester.

Bath scored two tries in the first half through Jonny Fa'amatuainu and Nick Abendanon to leave Worcester waving if not quite drowning.

But Olly Barkley signed off his West Country career by pushing the Warriors below the waves by adding 11 points via the boot, and Butch James added a late penalty of his own.

Worcester never gave up the fight, but could only muster three penalties from Shane Drahm and a late converted try for Thinus Delport.

Bath should now expect a case of champagne from London. Had they lost, Worcester would have pinched England's sixth Heineken Cup spot from under the noses of Harlequins.

Should the booze not arrive in time for tonight's party, Bath's stars should be able to turn to their fans who will be eager to get the rounds in: their beloved club is back in silverware after a decade of hurt.

Indeed, Barkley and Steve Borthwick will not be lacking for beer for a long time to come. The 'treachery' perpetrated by the departing sons of Bath has been forgiven following their titanic double-act on Sunday, and Borthwick's copious tears at the final whistle revealed what this ancient club means to him. Saracens' gain is most definitely Bath's loss.

We had a roof to protect us from the sun during Saturday's Heineken Cup Final and we saw a game of mother-hen rugby with Munster incubating victory by sitting on the ball for long stretches of the match.

With rain falling from the wide skies of Gloucester, much the same was expected from Sunday's grand finale. But it soon became obvious that neither side had witnessed events at the Millennium Stadium.

Despite the greasy conditions, Bath and Worcester seemed intent on playing running rugby - and the handling held up brilliantly.

As the raids poured forth, so did the tackles. This was a match of the utmost intensity, and it didn't let up for one moment. If anything, it rose as the game progressed, with both sides stoking the fires of their own making.

Admittedly, the Warriors were done no favours by some hesitant officiating, with Bath escaping three potential sin-binnings with no more than a smack on the wrist.

In fact, Worcester captain Pat Sanderson came closest to seeing yellow thanks to his persistent yelps of injustice.

Things reached a comical nadir after Shane Drahm was held back by Lee Mears in the wake of a dangerous charge-down, and the touch-judge was unable to pick out the unique physique of the England hooker from an impromptu identity parade.

But law-bending aside, Bath discovered a ruthless streak just when they needed it, scoring two tries in five minutes before the break, although there was also an element of good fortune about the first.

Matt Banahan got the move going in his own inimitable style, brushing off four tacklers before delivering the ball via the back door to Mears. The hooker found James in support and the South African delivered a sublime inside-pass that set Fa'amatuainu on his way. It was a beautiful try, although sullied slightly by a hint of a forward pass from Mears to James.

Barkley's conversion dropped over the bar via a kind rebound off the upright, but when he hit the other post with a penalty attempt shortly afterwards, it allowed Bath an attacking platform from which they prospered.

Slick midfield passing sent wing Joe Maddock past the on-rushing Delport, and his deft inside-pass was collected by Abendanon who claimed a well-taken try in the right corner.

Barkley missed the touchline conversion, but Worcester stuck to their task through a Drahm penalty that narrowed the gap to 15-6 at half-time.

Drahm completed his penalty hat-trick shortly after the restart - courtesy of the pull-back from 'Mr X' - to keep Worcester firmly in contention.

But Barkley nailed a superb 50-metre kick approaching the end of a ferocious third quarter, allowing his team some breathing space at nine points clear.

Worcester boss Mike Ruddock summoned three replacements in his battered pack - flanker Netani Talei and props Matt Mullan and Chris Horsman - in quick succession in an attempt to give his side momentum.

With the officiating lacking authority, it was hardly a surprise that tempers began to fray on both sides, and Horsman was lucky to avoid seeing yellow at a scrum. Could it have been that hosts Gloucester had packed up their sin-bin for the summer?

Bath went up a gear during the stamina-sapping closing stages, with Barkley booting a drop-goal that thwarted any realistic threat of a Worcester fightback.

James then delivered the clincher three minutes from time, slotting a penalty after Barkley had gone off, before Delport's consolation effort in the corner.

Man of the match: Shane Drahm was unlucky to end on the losing side, but this award must go to one of the boys in blue. To a man they were brave and brilliant, but two men stood out - and not only for sentimental reasons. Olly Barkley marshalled his back-line superbly, summoning up running when it seemed there was none to be had. But our man of the match is the man of the moment: Steve Borthwick, England's new captain and the enigma-decoding machine of flesh and seeping blood. How Bath will miss his cerebral steel.

Moment of the match: Plenty of flash points, but we'll opt for the sight of Steve Borthwick breaking down in tears in front of the appreciative Shed resplendent with blue flags. The Gloucester faithful are sure to have the cleaners in quick sharp. The indignity of it all!

Villian of the match: Singling out the myopic touch-judge would be against the spirit of the game, so we'll pick Chris Horsman who marred a brilliant piece of Worcester scrummaging by dropping a knee and an elbow on a prone David Flatman. Steve Borthwick took grave offence to the incident, and so do we - waggling a stern finger from well behind the big England lock.

The scorers:

For Bath:

Tries: Fa'amatuainu, Abendanon

Con: Barkley

Pens: Barkley 2, James

Drop: Barkley

For Worcester Warriors:

Try: Delport

Con: Carlisle

Pens: Drahm 3

The teams:

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Joe Maddock, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel Browne, 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Jonny Fa'amatuainu, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Steve Borthwick, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Lee Mears, 1 David Flatman.

Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Duncan Bell, 18 Peter Short, 19 Zak Feaunati, 20 Nick Walshe, 21 Shaun Berne, 22 Tom Cheeseman.

Worcester Warriors: 15 Thinus Delport, 14 Marcel Garvey, 13 Dale Rasmussen, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Shane Drahm, 9 Matt Powell, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Pat Sanderson (c), 6 Drew Hickey, 5 Craig Gillies, 4 Greg Rawlinson, 3 Tevita Taumoepeau, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Tony Windo.

Replacements: 16 Chris Horsman, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Will Bowley, 19 Netani Talei, 20 Ryan Powell, 21 Joe Carlisle, 22 Rico Gear.

Referee: Christophe Berdos (France)

Touch judges: Jerom Garces, Patrick Bellet (France)

TMO: Daniel Dartigeas (France)

By Andy Jackson

Forthcoming Fixtures
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 18
Harlequins vs LeicesterHarlequins vs Leicester Preview
Saturday , April 19
Exeter vs Sale15:00
Bath vs Worcester15:00
Wasps vs Gloucester15:15
Sunday , April 20
Northampton vs London Irish14:00
Newcastle vs Saracens15:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , April 18
Leinster vs Benetton TrevisoLeinster vs Benetton Treviso Preview
Glasgow vs UlsterGlasgow vs Ulster Preview
Saturday , April 19
Zebre vs Edinburgh14:30
Connacht vs Munster18:15
Sunday , April 20
Cardiff Blues vs Scarlets14:00
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Ospreys16:45
More RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , April 18
Castres vs MontpellierCastres vs Montpellier Preview
Saturday , April 19
Oyonnax vs Toulouse14:55
Perpignan vs Toulon17:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:30
Biarritz vs Brive18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Clermont AuvergneRacing Metro Paris vs Clermont Auvergne Preview
Stade Francais vs Bordeaux-Begles20:35
More Top 14 fixtures
Super Rugby
Friday , April 18
Hurricanes vs BluesHurricanes vs Blues Preview
Melbourne Rebels vs Western Force19:40
Saturday , April 19
Chiefs vs Crusaders19:35
Waratahs vs Bulls19:00
Sharks vs Cheetahs15:00
Stormers vs Lions17:05
More Super Rugby fixtures
Recent Results
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , April 13
Saracens 28 - 24 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
London Irish 40 - 12 NewcastleLondon Irish vs Newcastle Report
Saturday , April 12
Worcester 33 - 38 ExeterWorcester vs Exeter Report
Leicester 27 - 15 WaspsLeicester vs Wasps Report
Gloucester 17 - 18 BathGloucester vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Benetton Treviso 45 - 27 Newport Gwent D'gonsBenetton Treviso vs Newport Gwent D
Scarlets 27 - 20 ZebreScarlets vs Zebre Report
Munster 5 - 22 GlasgowMunster vs Glasgow Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 20 - 22 ToulonBordeaux-Begles vs Toulon Report
Toulouse 16 - 9 BriveToulouse vs Brive Report
Grenoble 30 - 36 Montpellier
Perpignan 22 - 12 Oyonnax
Bayonne 24 - 19 Stade Francais
Racing Metro Paris 37 - 7 Biarritz
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Chiefs 22 - 16 Melbourne RebelsChiefs vs Melbourne Rebels Report
Western Force 28 - 16 WaratahsWestern Force vs Waratahs Report
Lions 12 - 25 SharksLions vs Sharks Report
Cheetahs 31 - 52 CrusadersCheetahs vs Crusaders Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 11
Sale Sharks 12 - 27 HarlequinsSale Sharks vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Ulster 58 - 12 ConnachtUlster vs Connacht Report
Edinburgh 22 - 29 Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Report
Ospreys 25 - 19 LeinsterOspreys vs Leinster Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Clermont Auvergne 23 - 11 CastresClermont Auvergne vs Castres Report
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Highlanders 27 - 20 BullsHighlanders vs Bulls Report
Reds 20 - 23 BrumbiesReds vs Brumbies Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership Table
3Leicester Tigers1963