Bath tame the Dragons

18th Jan 2009, 15:38

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Crockett: Match-winning performance

Crockett: Match-winning performance

Bath set up a tantalising date with Toulouse by securing a hard-fought 15-12 victory over the Dragons in Newport on Sunday.

Bath set up a tantalising date with Toulouse by securing a hard-fought 15-12 victory over the Dragons in Newport on Sunday.

Rodney Parade has oft been a graveyard for contenders and Bath did their level best to avoid interment by exploding into the game, with Joe Maddock punctuating a polished opening spell with a well-worked try.

But the Dragons managed to tone down the high tempo of their guests by deftly - if possibly illegally - slowing down the ball at the break-down.

Then, with Bath struggling for ideas and down to 13 men after a double sin-binnings, the Dragons began to breathe fire.

They took the lead early in the second half and an upset loomed.

But Bath showed their Heineken Cup pedigree by stealing home with a try by Stuart Hooper after a wonderful break from the impressive Alex Crockett.

Bath admitted before the match they had taken the Dragons too lightly in their first meeting at The Rec last October, and vowed not to do so again.

Their intent showed early on when pressure inside the home 22 saw England front row duo Lee Mears and Matt Stevens combine before Stevens sent Maddock over from 10 metres for his try in the fifth minute of the game.

Bath's only further score in the opening period came from a 42-metre penalty by Butch James after Kiwi number eight Grant Webb was offside at a ruck.

The Dragons played tactically well to keep Bath out for 10 minutes when Luke Charteris was sin-binned for holding onto the ball at a ruck.

And the pendulum swung towards the Welsh region on the stroke of half-time when Hooper was also given 10 minutes in the sin-bin for persistent infringements in the loose.

Almost straight after the break, Bath were down to 13 men when number eight Dan Browne was sin-binned for a late and high tackle on home scrum-half Wayne Evans.

The Dragons took immediate advantage to make the score 8-7 as fly-half James Arlidge chipped over the defence 20 metres out for wing Richard Fussell to collect the ball and dive over for a converted try.

Seconds later the Dragons nearly scored again but centre Ashley Smith's ball to Rhodri Gomer-Davies was ruled forward.

Bath got back to a full compliment of players but still could not break the home defence.

And, on the hour, they suffered a big blow when a deft kick into the corner saw flanker James Scaysbrook commit a terrible mistake.

He threw the ball over his own line and Evans pounced to put his team in front for the first time.

It did not last, though, as a drive though the middle by Crockett set Browne on his way to put Hooper in for a converted try which proved decisive.

The scorers:

For Bath:
Tries: Maddock, Hooper
Con: James
Pen: James

For the Dragons:
Tries: Fussell, Evans
Con: Arlidge

Yellow card(s): Charteris (Dragons) - killing the ball, 28; Hooper (Bath) - trip, 39; Browne (Bath) - dangerous tackle, 43.

The teams:

Dragons: 15 Jason Tovey, 14 Gareth Wyatt, 13 Rhodri Gomer-Davies, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Richard Fussell, 10 James Arlidge, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Grant Webb, 7 Colin Charvis, 6 Hoani MacDonald, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Adam Jones, 3 Rhys Thomas, 2 Steve Jones, 1 Adam Black.
Replacements: 16 Tom Willis, 17 Gethin Robinson, 18 Lewis Evans, 19 Jamie Ringer, 20 Rob Lewis, 21 Gareth Maule, 22 Phil Dollman.

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Joe Maddock, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel Browne, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Andy Beattie, 5 Stuart Hooper, 4 Justin Harrison, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Lee Mears, 1 David Flatman.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Duncan Bell, 18 Jonny Faamatuainu, 19 Chris Goodman, 20 Scott Bemand, 21 Shontayne Hape, 22 Jack Cuthbert.

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Touch judges: Dudley Phillips (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
Television match official: Olan Trevor (Ireland)