Planet Rugby

Bath run too hot for Worcester

14th February 2009 17:17

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Bath maintained their Guinness premiership challenge on Saturday with a red-hot 34-17 bonus point win at Worcester, featuring an Andrew Higgins hat-trick.

Higgins, who was first signed by Worcester as a schoolboy, ran in a long-range interception effort in the first half and crossed twice more from shorter distances after the break to keep Bath on course for the Premiership play-offs.

Bath's win was achieved without 10 first-team regulars, including key backs Nick Abendanon, Alex Crockett and Matt Banahan who were all struck down with a sickness virus that swept their squad in midweek and forced them to field a re-jigged back division.

Higgins' third try in injury-time gave Bath the bonus point and left Worcester, without a win in their last five games, facing a scrap with Bristol to avoid relegation.

Worcester were second best for most of the match but scored their two tries in a three-minute period in an entertaining first half.

The first 10 points of the game were also scored in a three-minute burst as former South Africa fly-half Butch James nudged Bath in front with a 10th-minute penalty, then Higgins latched onto a poor pass from Joey Carlisle and stepped out of Marcel Garvey's poor tackle for his opening try.

James added the conversion but Worcester stunned Bath with two converted tries between the 25th and 28th minutes.

Bath turned over possession in an attack on the Worcester 22 and Kai Horstmann recycled possession. Centre Loki Crichton launched the counter-attack before he slipped the ball outside to Rico Gear.

The former All Blacks winger made ground down the right, drew Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu and then slipped the ball inside to former Australia full-back Chris Latham who cantered over.

Carlisle converted and then atoned for his earlier error by popping a superb pass to Horstmann who made ground through the middle.

Prop Matt Mullan was hauled down short of the line but Worcester kept the ball alive and flanker Tom Wood, making his first start in four months, sent Crichton over for a stunning try which Carlisle improved.

Despite their selection problems, Bath remained committed to high-tempo handling game but they were frequently penalised for going off their feet in rucks which let Worcester back into the game.

Bath reappeared in determined mood at the start of the second half and they reclaimed the lead within four minutes of the restart.

A multi-phase attack stretched Worcester's defence and created an overlap for Higgins to run in his second try, this time from barely a metre out.

Bath increased their lead when Shontayne Hape made ground through the middle and drew Latham before he gave Joe Maddock the scoring pass.

Though Willie Walker, signed on loan from Gloucester for the rest of the season, landed a penalty with his first kick for Worcester, he was off-target with a kickable second that would have put pressure on Bath.

Instead Higgins scored again in injury-time and James put over the conversion to maintain his 100 per cent kicking record.

The scorers:

For Worcester:

Tries: Latham, Crichton

Cons: Carlisle 2

Pen: Walker

For Bath:

Tries: Higgins 3, Maddock

Cons: James 4

Pens: James 2

The Teams:

Worcester: 15 Chris Latham, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Dale Rasmussen, 12 Loki Crichton, 11 Marcel Garvey, 10 Joe Carlisle, 9 Ryan Powell, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Pat Sanderson (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Will Bowley, 4 Greg Rawlinson , 3 Tevita Taumoepeau, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Matt Mullan.

Replacements: 16 Darren Morris, 17 Chris Fortey, 18 Craig Gillies, 19 Netani Talei, 20 Matt Powell, 21 Willie Walker, 22 Alex Grove.

Bath: 15 Joe Maddock, 14 Michael Stephenson, 13 Shontayne Hape, 12 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 11 Andrew Higgins, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Claassens (c), 8 Daniel Browne, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Andy Beattie, 5 Stuart Hooper, 4 Justin Harrison, 3 Duncan Bell, 2 Pieter Dixon, 1 David Flatman.

Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Jonny Faamatuainu, 19 Chris Goodman, 20 Scott Bemand, 21 Shaun Berne, 22 Tom Cheeseman.

Referee: Dean Richards

Touch judges: Roger Baileff, Alan Biggs

Assessor: Brian Leigh

Television match official: Brian Abrahams

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