Bath drink deep of revivalist elixir

Bath36Wasps16 PILKINGTON CUP FINAL: Holders' display backs their claim to be England's No 1 side despite the absence of their injured captain
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Certain Bath players have had a thing or two to say about their own committee over the years but at least it never got to the stage where a captain was reduced to the ranks. This ninth winning of the cup in 12 seasons was a triumphant reaffirmation that great sides and not great committees are the reason this is a great club.

It is this Bath team's triumph not just to have made up for losing their league title by winning the Pilkington silverware but also to have confirmed the truism that rugby is - and, for its own well-being, should remain - a players', not an administrators' nor even a spectators', game.

And having discovered the elixir of regeneration, Bath have any number of outstanding players, good enough when at last gathered together to give Wasps a rare drubbing and good enough, too, to overcome the late loss of the injured John Hall and Mike Catt as if they had not really been that important anyway.

"When we have a full side playing on song, we are the No 1 side in English rugby," Brian Ashton, the coach, said. However arguable Leicester's league champions may find that contention, Bath provided compelling evidence in their own support at Twickenham. Leicester took Courage because they coped much better with the incessant disruption caused during April by World Cup preparations.

The semi-final defeat of Harlequins excepted, it was a month which left doubts about Bath's fabled capacity to dig into their deepest reserves in greatest adversity, but those of us who articulated those doubts were shamed by their response once May was upon us. The widespread notion that Bath had become more vulnerable than at any time during their years of hegemony was shown to be utterly fanciful.

Even so, they had to endure extended periods of familiar adversity while they were seeking to swat the Wasps. As an example, the first half was spent mostly in defence - except for the three occasions they made it into the Wasps 22 and scored a try each time through Martin Haag, Haag again and Ben Clarke.

It was not until injury time at the interval that Ian Dunston added a try to Rob Andrew's two early penalties. But on this of all days the kicking of the England stand-off was inaccurate in all its aspects and the game was almost up, Bath having conjured further tries by Tony Swift and Jonathan Callard, when Damian Hopley scored Wasps' second try.

That they came to grief attempting the liberated rugby that has adorned the English season was to their great credit but the debilitating heat, 81F even in the shade, assisted Bath in their more circumspect game and Wasps neither moved the ball fast enough along the line nor were fast enough over the ground to breach the holders' defences even when holding a distinct territorial advantage.

They had cause for specific complaint when a clean touchdown by Dean Ryan was disallowed by the unsighted John Pearson - and immediately followed by Swift's spectacular farewell try at the other end - as well as a succession of Bath offsides in the build-up to the Clarke try. Ryan and Matt Greenwood were dauntless figures, Lawrence Dallaglio a villain when he became the first cup finalist to be shown the yellow card.

But if you wanted a real hero, he was not even playing. When the time came to receive the Pilkington Cup from Prince Edward the non-playing captain, John Hall, was thrust forward in his civvies by his last-minute deputy, Phil de Glanville, to take the trophy and the acclaim.

Swift and Hall have now retired and though Swift had just scored a record 27th cup try for which he successively bamboozled Greenstock, Ufton and Bates, he preferred honour to be bestowed elsewhere: "The greatest career in Bath Rugby Club has finished - and that wasn't me. It was John Hall." The Hall of fame.

Bath: Tries Haag 2, Clarke, Swift, Callard; Conversions Callard 4; Penalty Callard. Wasps: Tries Dunston, D Hopley; Penalties Andrew 2.

Bath: J Callard; A Swift, P de Glanville (capt), J Guscott, A Adebayo; R Butland, I Sanders; K Yates, G Adams, V Ubogu (J Mallett, 73), M Haag, N Redman, S Ojomoh, B Clarke, A Robinson.

Wasps: J Ufton; P Hopley, D Hopley, G Childs, N Greenstock; R Andrew, S Bates; D Molloy, K Dunn, I Dunston, M Greenwood, N Hadley, L Dallaglio, D Ryan (capt), M White.

Referee: J Pearson (Yarm).

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