Planet Rugby

Borthwick signs off in style

25th May 2008 13:46

Share:

Abendanon

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
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 5
Northampton vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 6
Saracens vs Wasps14:00
Sale vs Bath14:00
Leicester vs Newcastle15:00
London Irish vs Harlequins16:30
Sunday , September 7
London Welsh vs Exeter14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 6
New Zealand vs Argentina08:35
Australia vs South Africa11:05
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 5
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Munster vs Edinburgh19:35
Saturday , September 6
Scarlets vs Ulster14:40
Connacht vs Newport Gwent D'gons17:00
Glasgow vs Leinster17:15
Sunday , September 7
Zebre vs Cardiff Blues17:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 5
Montpellier vs Castres20:45
Saturday , September 6
Brive vs Toulouse14:45
Clermont Auvergne vs Racing Metro Paris17:00
Lyon vs Oyonnax18:30
Stade Francais vs Bayonne18:30
Grenoble vs La Rochelle18:30
Toulon vs Bordeaux-Begles20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 5
Western Province vs Eastern Province Kings19:10
Saturday , September 6
Cheetahs vs Pumas15:00
Sharks vs Griquas17:05
Blue Bulls vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki 41 - 3 Bay Of PlentyTaranaki vs Bay Of Plenty Report
Auckland 16 - 16 TasmanAuckland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle 37 - 25 ToulouseLa Rochelle vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 37 - 23 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 33 - 6 Stade Francais
Castres 30 - 6 BayonneCastres vs Bayonne Report
Racing Metro Paris 17 - 10 ToulonRacing Metro Paris vs Toulon Report
Lyon 24 - 6 Brive
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 25 - 36 CheetahsGriquas vs Cheetahs Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 41 LionsEastern Province Kings vs Lions Report
Blue Bulls 18 - 23 Western ProvinceBlue Bulls vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Counties Manukau 21 - 27 Hawkes BayCounties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay Report
Southland 22 - 33 Otago
North Harbour 16 - 22 WaikatoNorth Harbour vs Waikato Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne 20 - 21 MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 32 - 22 SharksPumas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Wellington 21 - 27 ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Report
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury 48 - 3 NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Report
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00