Bath embarrass with riches

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The Independent Online

Bristol 5 Bath 43

Alan Davies will have his work cut out to get things shipshape at a once proud club when he takes over as the Bristol coach in May. Bath were embarrassingly classier, once the home side had burned themselves out in the first half, in every department.

But the former Wales and Nottingham coach was sanguine about the task confronting him after seeing Bath, inspired by their captain Phil de Glanville, Jerry Guscott and Mike Catt, annihilate their neighbours in a seven-try rampage which ended in a record margin of defeat for Bristol in the league. "We will have to strengthen the squad," Davies said, "and there's a hell of a lot of work to do in getting the basics right."

The squad may well be weakened before it can be strengthened. Bristol's England lock, Garath Archer, picked up a second yellow card in the league, to add to the one he was shown during England A's match against their French counterparts, and faces a possible ban, and there are persistent rumours that he is to join Northampton for a serious sum.

What a contrast with Bath, who had stuck 50-odd points on Bristol in the previous league meeting this season. They have strength in depth and in most positions. Catt again proved that full-back is not the only place he shines. He gave a scintillating performance at stand-off, admittedly with little to hinder him as he strutted his stuff, Bristol resistance seemed to be confined to the efforts of the England A flanker Martin Corry. One electric break by Catt off first one foot then the other followed by a surge of pace that left everyone except the marvellous Guscott floundering in his wake, ended with the hardest, most perfectly timed pass to the England centre who loped over for his second try.

Catt had decided a while back that full-back was to be his position for club and country, but an injury to Richard Butland continues to thwart his ambition and he now says: "I don't mind where I play now that we are out of the international season. If we carry on playing like we are at the moment I'd be very happy to stay at fly-half, I just don't mind where I play for this club."

Catt's form at fly-half leaves the Bath manager, John Hall, and the club's coach, Brian Ashton, with the ideal selection dilemma, where to play him and who to leave out. "Catt is an outstanding full-back," Hall said, "but against Wasps in the centre he looked like dynamite."

Bath's rich store of talent doesn't stop at fly-half either. Their first choice wingers, Jon Sleightholme and Adedayo Adebayo, were in Hong Kong so the Ireland international Simon Geoghegan (two tries) and Audley Lumsden (one) were given a run-out. But while the backs stole the glory, the honours of the day belonged to the forwards. Bath's eight out-scrummaged and out-manoeuvred Bristol's sorry shower in every phase. Europe beckons and Bath are on their way.

Bristol: Try Thomas. Bath: Tries Geoghegan 2, De Glanville, Guscott 2, Lumsden, Hilton; Conversions Callard 4.

Bristol: P Hull (capt); B Breeze, D Tiueti, K Maggs, J Keyter; A Thomas, K Bracken; A Sharp, A Lathrope, K Fullman, P Adams, G Archer, M Corry, I Dixon, C Barrow.

Bath: J Callard; A Lumsden, P de Glanville (capt; A Webber, 53-62, A Webber, 79), J Guscott, S Geoghegan; M Catt, A Nicol; D Hilton, G Dawe, J Mallett, M Haag, N Redman, A Robinson, S Ojomoh, B Clarke.

Referee: S Lander (Irby).

n Rob Andrew's season ended early when he dislocated a shoulder during Newcastle's 36-13 win at Waterloo on Saturday.