Bath show Exiles no mercy
March 30, 2013
Bath ran in five tries against London Welsh%]
Beleaguered London Welsh will not be going down from the Aviva Premiership without a fight as they showed last week at Gloucester - and again in a 40-25 loss against Bath at the Recreation Ground today.
Still smarting after losing their appeal this week against a five-point deduction and £15,000 fine over the Tyson Keats affair, the league's bottom club stayed in the game until the closing stages despite eventually conceding five tries to one.
Scrum-half Alex Davies summed up their never-say-die spirit by keeping them in touch with six penalties and a conversion of Seb Jewell's try but Bath's firepower behind the scrum ensured they always had the edge and retain hopes of a top-six place.
Fijian Semesa Rokoduguni was the matchwinner, his blistering pace earning him a try just before the break and also creating the bonus point score for Horacio Agulla. Other Bath tries went to Matt Banahan, Carl Fearns and replacement scrum-half Michael Claassens.
Although winless for four months, the Exiles had come within a point of beating Gloucester at Kingsholm last week. But 24 hours before kick-off they were forced to make two changes to their starting line-up, drafting in Tom Bristow at prop and Greg Bateman at hooker.
All Black Stephen Donald returned after injury for Bath, who also handed the number 15 shirt to England Under-20s full-back Ollie Devoto and brought Mat Gilbert into the back row, switching Fearns to number eight.
It took Bath just 80 seconds to light up the scoreboard, as Banahan barged over in the left corner after the Welsh were pinned in their own 22 from the kick-off. Donald missed the conversion but there was no let-up in the onslaught, even when Bath were awarded a kickable penalty in the ninth minute. Donald opted to kick for the corner and Fearns, relishing his ball-carrying role, dived through a clutch of bodies to claim the try from a well-rehearsed line-out move.
Having hit the post with the conversion and spurned a second kick at goal, Donald eventually cashed in on the Exiles' persistent indiscipline to with a straightforward penalty to take Bath 13-nil ahead, but the home side, having lost Banahan to a nasty-looking leg knee injury on 14 minutes, lost all shape and focus and were punished with three Davies penalties inside eight minutes.
As Bath retreated before Tim Wigglesworth's whistle, the scrum-half was even prepared to try another kick from six metres inside his own half - but that was just too optimistic. Bath recovered their composure in time for Donald's sweet, flat pass to send Rokoduguni on a straight run to the posts.
The fly-half's conversion sent Bath in at the break 20-9 ahead but a needless penalty - and a 10-metre sanction for Dominic Day throwing the ball away - let Davies kick his fourth penalty as soon as the match restarted.
When he added a fifth on 38 minutes, thanks to strong mauling from his pack, Bath's lead was back to five points. By this time, Gordon Ross was prompting effectively from fly-half and the Exiles looked dangerous every time they had the ball while Bath looked increasingly nervous, especially when Davies landed a sixth penalty on 56 minutes.
Donald brought some order to proceedings with a penalty and Bath hit their opponents with a real sucker-punch to claim the bonus point. Rokoduguni did brilliantly to claim the restart and was immediately into his stride, beating two defenders and drawing another before sending Agulla over for the touchdown, with Tom Heathcote adding the conversion.
Back came the Exiles, creating a try for full-back Jewell on the blindside of a five-metre scrum. Davies' conversion brought his tally to 20 points.
However, Heathcote restored Bath's two-score advantage with a 75th-minute penalty to ease home supporters' nerves and Claassens try, also converted by Heathcote, increased the margin of victory.
For Bath the win was an improvement on their lacklustre loss away to Sale Sharks last time out, but defence coach Mike Ford admitted that they could do more.
"We started really well, very positive - two tries - and got 13 points up," he said. "Then, for whatever reason we let them back into the game and they picked us off with three points here and there.
"I thought when Rokoduguni scored just before half time that was a fairer reflection of the game but they started the second half well. In the last 20 we got control of the game."
London Welsh head coach Lyn Jones insisted that his team will keep plugging away in a bid to escape relegation despite there only being three matches remaining. They will be keen viewers on Sunday when 10th placed London Irish host Sale, who are 11th.
"We've had five away games on the trot and just two bonus points to show for it. We've got three fixtures left and we've just got to keep plugging away," Jones said. "There's lots of spirit, lots of heart - there's lots that's good in our game. We're just waiting for a little luck to perhaps shine down on us. We've just got to take things down to the wire on May 4."
Seb Jewell scored the Exiles only try as they lost away to Bath © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
From Burgess to Boudjellal, Haskell to Honey Badgers and retirees to Retallick, here's the Quotes of 2014
It was another bumper year of rugby action in 2014; join us as we take a look back at some of the season's top statistics
Salary caps, Saints, sinners and scrums - Monday Maul looks back at the key talking points from an eventful weekend