Bath lay down impressive marker
September 5, 2010
Bath's Simon Taylor and Leeds' Hendre Fourie compete for a high ball at Headingley
© Getty Images
Bath opened their account in this season's Aviva Premiership with a 32-16 bonus point win against Leeds Carnegie in their clash at Headingley.
Steve Meehan's men rarely hit the heights expected of them this season but they took their chances in clinical fashion and were certainly too good for their hosts. Fullback Nick Abendanon touched down in the first half before Sam Vesty, Matt Carraro and captain Luke Watson added further scores after the break to secure the bonus point.
Leeds, who claimed a late consolation try through debutant Steve Thompson, handed starting roles to five new signings in Lachlan Mackay, Semi Tadulala, Miguel Alonso and former Bath duo Michael Stephenson Daniel Browne. Yet Thompson, their most high-profile summer recruit, began on the bench with Andy Titterrell given the chance to shine in the number two shirt.
The visitors were hit by the late withdrawal of Olly Barkley due to injury, but Meehan was still able to hand out debuts to a quartet of summer signings. Heading that list was England skipper Lewis Moody, Vesty and Simon Taylor and Leeds old boy Tom Biggs.
Yet the early pressure came from Leeds when a fine sequence of passing saw the ball pass through several pairs of hands before Browne narrowly failed to keep the ball in the field of play. Leeds refused to allow Bath to settle when they had the ball in hand and home captain Marco Wentzel threw himself at Vesty to charge down the fly-half's attempted kick.
Leeds were initially more effective at the breakdown and could have led in the 14th minute when Moody was penalised but Ceiron Thomas's attempt at goal sailed narrowly wide. The hosts were more effective at the line-out, twice stealing the visitors' ball in the opening quarter, but Bath forged ahead in the 19th minute with a penalty from Vesty. Two minutes later, after the visitors collapsed a scrum, Thomas kicked Leeds level with a penalty of his own.
Moments later Vesty missed a penalty from 30 metres, yet Bath began to build up a head of steam. Hooker Lee Mears clumsily dropped the ball when well placed but, after another penalty from Thomas put Leeds 6-3 ahead, Bath produced a well-worked score shortly before half-time. Shontayne Hape's progress was halted but Matt Banahan, a prominent figure at outside-centre, quickly recycled the ball and found scrum-half Michael Claasens.
Claasens found Vesty advancing at pace to his right and his neat pass sent Abendanon crashing over in the right corner. Vesty added the extras but a long-range dropped-goal from Thomas on the stroke of half-time cut Bath's lead to a solitary point.
However, seven minutes after the restart Claasens found Vesty at the back of a scrum and he waltzed through for a try which he also converted. Thomas then missed a penalty before Leeds replaced Titterrell with Thompson as they sought to claw their way back into the game.
Yet another penalty from Vesty gave Bath further breathing space before Carraro collected another astute offload from Claasens to saunter clear unopposed for Bath's third touchdown. Vesty added the extras and although Bath lost Claasens to the sinbin in the closing stages for persistent infringement, the visitors grabbed a fourth try late on when Watson stole in on the blindside for a try which Vesty failed to convert.
There was still time for Thompson to burrow his way over in the dying embers and Leigh Hinton added the extras in the last play of the game.
Firdose Moonda talks to Rob Louw about the difficulties of being a South African touring New Zealand at the height of Apartheid
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games