Bath too good for Worcester
February 9, 2013
A fluent attacking performance from Bath earned them a welcome bonus-point victory win in the battle between eighth and ninth in the Aviva Premiership.
It was not quite enough to overtake Exeter - the two West Country sides are now level on points - but it was Bath's fifth win in succession in all competitions, suggesting they are building momentum for an assault on several fronts in the last two months of the season.
First-half tries from Peter Stringer and hooker Rob Webber gave Bath a slightly shaky 13-9 lead but they ran Worcester off their feet in the second half with further tries by wings Tom Biggs and Horacio Agulla (two).
Worcester's only points were three first-half penalties from Danny Gray.
The stats will show that Worcester kept the ball for long periods of the game and were combative at the breakdown, where Gloucester-bound Matt Kvesic impressed, but they lacked firepower behind the scrum.
Worcester's preparations had been disrupted just 10 minutes before kick-off when Andy Goode trudged off after being violently sick during the warm-up. Gray stepped up at fly-half.
In the very first minute, David Lemi had to be alert to sweep up as Biggs threatened with a kick and chase but the opening score was not long in coming.
After the Bath forwards turned the screw, Nick Abendanon was just held on the line, as was Biggs, but Stringer burrowed through to touch down. Stephen Donald's conversion was wide.
Worcester monopolised possession for much of the first quarter and Josh Drauniniu was a handful coming off his wing. David Lemi thought he had scored on 12 minutes but the inside pass from Jon Clarke was forward and the visitors had to be content with a penalty from Gray.
Bath were dangerous on the break though, and especially down the flanks. Charlie Beech made a strong run to the corner as the home side stepped up the pressure again, forcing Worcester to concede one penalty too many. As Dean Schofield went to the sin-bin, Rob Webber scored from a line-out catch and drive with 22 minutes played.
With Donald's radar awry, however, Gray's second penalty from wide out soon cut Bath's lead to 10-6. And the home side continued to give away needless penalties, allowing the stand-in fly-half to make it 10-9 after 35 minutes.
Donald made amends straight away with a long and high restart which caught Errie Claassens exposed and the New Zealander was finally on target with a close-range penalty to send his side in at the break with a 13-9 advantage.
Bath failed to take the hint from referee Wayne Barnes about persistent infringing and Dave Attwood was shown the yellow card on 45 minutes. Worcester spurned three points, going for the catch and drive, but hooker Aleki Lutui was held up over the line.
After a third reset scrum, Worcester finally got the ball away but Bath's defence held firm and even forced a penalty at the breakdown, Stringer earning an extra 10 metres when obstructed trying to take a quick tap.
That was enough to give Bath a line-out just outside the Worcester 22 and they struck with deadly effect as long, accurate passes by Donald and Eastmond gave Biggs a half-yard outside Claassens to sprint 30 metres for the try. Donald was just short with the conversion but Bath had survived a sticky patch to lead 18-9 with 55 minutes gone.
And they pulled even further away on 62 minutes with the bonus-point try. The forwards marched deep into the Worcester 22 before Stringer released the backs going right and Eastmond floated a delightful pass into the hands of Agulla, who finished expertly. Tom Heathcote, on for Donald, banged over the conversion.
Worcester replacement Craig Gillies, a former Bath player, was the third lock to see yellow on 70 minutes, quickly followed by wing Lemi for a deliberate knock-on as Bath threatened again.
Agulla wrapped things up with a flourish on 77 minutes picking the ball out of the air one-handed from Heathcote's delicate chip, leaving the young Scotland fly-half to knock over the conversion.
Bath coach Gary Gold was wary of getting carried away after the win. Next week Bath welcome London Irish to the Recreation ground and a win could take his side into the top six.
"We've not achieved anything yet," he said. "They're going to be a tough challenge as well. They had a similar result against Worcester a few weeks ago and seem to be doing well now. It's going to become a real dogfight for us to try to edge up the table.
"We've just got continue doing what we're doing. Whatever else is happening in the table, we can't do anything about that. We'll just stick to the task and carry on."
Bath's strong running was too much for Worcester © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton
Kiwi coaches can be found far and wide across the globe, and Murray Mexted believes the All Blacks benefit every bit as much as their rivals
Clermont, Toulon, player burnout, Sam Burgess and a farewell to Adams Park - Monday Maul looks back at the weekend's action