Planet Rugby

Bath take honours in Rec epic

07th December 2008 14:47


Stephenson scores for Bath at the Rec

Hero: In the end Stephenson was a hero for Bath

Bath maintained their Heineken Cup challenge on Sunday, claiming a bonus point in their thrilling 35-31 victory over Glasgow at The Rec.

Having seen rivals Toulouse secure a five-point haul of their own on Saturday the West Country side knew nothing less would suffice.

The result was a game full of action as Bath played with an adventure that boarded on wild abandon at times. Glasgow did not leave empty handed, Hefin O'Hare's late try securing them a try bonus-point.

The game was full of enterprising rugby from both sides, but you would have to say it was Bath who looked the more dangerous. Nick Abendanon again showed why he is so highly rated, causing Glasgow all sorts of problems in defence. Glasgow had their aces too, most notably the Evans brothers, with Thom's hat-trick not quite enough to see them home.

Both defence coaches will be left a touch disappointed, but as far as entertaining rugby went this game was a real cracker. The lead swapped hands with ease as both sides displayed the ability to punish mistakes. It was Glasgow who opened the scoring but in the end it was Bath's attacking class that told.

A high ball, into the glaring sun, from Bernardo Stortoni caused panic in the Bath ranks early on, allowing Glasgow to snaffle the ball. Sensing space out wide the ball was shipped to the electric Max Evans, who chipped, gathered and cut towards the posts, only to be hauled down yards short. Up popped brother, Thom, to cut through and finish what his brother had started. The Rec was stunned, Glasgow were jubilant.

Stirred by the score against them bath came to life, Butch James orchestrating his backs to fine effect. Twice they cut clean through, the first time Eliota Fuimaono's run wasted by a lack of support, and Abendanon's foray forward snuffed out by a turnover.

The sight of James lining up a penalty would have had many Bath fans worried, such has been his lack of consistency with the boot this season, but the Springbok fly-half held his nerve to get his side onto the scoreboard.

Bath came again, not satisfied with three points, as James sent Matt Banahan skittling defenders out of his path. But as the ball came free James was guilty of crossing and Glasgow survived another powerful raid, but it was not long before the pressure was building again.

Glasgow had a rare chance to extend their lead by three points, as well as stem the tide of attacks against them, but Gregor missed a fairly regulation effort. That was followed by a dramatic counter-attack started by Ruaridh Jackson's chip and chase, but James was back to save the day a metre short.

A pulsating game continued to provide plenty of entertainment, this time Bath were the ones denied a try by a last ditch effort. James had created space for Banahan before kicking ahead for the big man to chase. Just as he was stooping to gather the ball, two metres out, Max Evan's despairing boot getting the ball off the park.

From the resulting scrum Bath finally breached the Glasgow line, albeit in rather bizarre circumstances. The scrum was surging forward when the ball popped out of the side and over the line, a pile of bodies went in for it and somehow Andrew Beattie got a paw on it - the TMO confirmed it and Bath took the lead.

It didn't last long. Glasgow hit back two minutes later following a powerful run from John Barclay, taking play deep into Bath's twenty-two. Jackson saw numbers out to the left and Thom Evans timed his run to perfection, leaving James with no chance. Gregor converted, only to see James pull three back within seconds of the re-start.

The game continued to entertain after the break, and Bath soon had the lead back - in fact it only took them four minutes to score. James' clever offload to Banahan did the initial damage, before Claassens fizzed it out to Abendanon, who in turn found a flying Michael Stephenson to go over in the corner.

Stephenson turned from hero to villain moments later as he made a hash of covering a grubber kick deep into the twenty-two. As he lost control Thom Evans pounced to complete his hat-trick with the softest of tries. Although given the class of Glasgow's build-up play it was no less than a sweeping attack deserved.

Stephenson soon had his heroes shirt back on as he finished James' break, cutting back on a clever angel to exploit the space James had created. That was the score that gave Bath the belief they could indeed get a bonus-point, and the fourth try came straight from the kick-off.

Wide it went as James saw more space and Banahan went on a bustling run, smashing two defenders out of his path before finding Shaun Berne on his shoulder to secure a precious bonus-point. It seemed as if Bath were all but home at that stage, but somehow they made a meal of the final stages.

Tries from O'Hare and then Jackson left Bath, and their fans, facing a nervy final five minutes, although having hit the self-destruct button they managed to salvage a sinking ship, but only just. With Bath hot on the attack, time up and players strewn all over the place, pressing for a decisive try Jackson snapped up an intercept and set off.

As he passed the half-way line Bath's hopes seemed doomed, but Abendanon got back to cover the kick ahead and the game was over. And what a game it was. Forget what rules this was played under, this was rugby as it should be. Free from politics and needless distractions, as both sides served up a reminder as to what rugby is really about. Hats off to all those involved.

The scorers:

For Bath:

Tries: Beattie, Stephenson 2, Berne

Cons: James 3

Pens: James 3

For Glasgow:

Tries: T Evans 3, O'Hare, Jackson

Cons: Gregor 3

The teams:

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Michael Stephenson, 13 Tom Cheeseman, 12 Eliota Fuimaono, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel Browne, 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Andrew Beattie, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Stuart Hooper, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Pieter Dixon, 1 David Flatman.

Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Peter Short, 19 Jonny Faamatuainu, 20 Scott Bemand, 21 Shaun Berne, 22 Andy Higgins.

Glasgow: 15 Bernardo Stortoni, 14 Lome Fa'atau, 13 Max Evans, 12 Andrew Henderson, 11 Thom Evans, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Colin Gregor, 8 John Beattie, 7 John Barclay, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alastair Kellock, 4 Tim Barker, 3 Ed Kalman, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Kevin Tkachuk.

Replacements: 16 Eric Milligan, 17 Moray Low, 18 Dan Turner, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 Sam Pinder, 21 Hefin O'Hare, 22 Jose Maria Nez Piossek.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)

Touch judges: Leo Colgan (Ireland), Darragh McCormack (Ireland)

Television match official: Bertie Smith (Ireland)

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