Bath forwards go back to basics

Bath 46 West Hartlepool 10
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The Independent Online
After the ignominy of conceding 40 or more points in their last two matches, Bath decided to call a halt to reckless adventure and grind West Hartle- pool out of the game. West, fresh from their first victory in 23 attempts, did well to withstand these battering-ram tactics for much of the first half, but after the loss of their huge and influential lock Chris Murphy after 20 minutes, the heart seemed to go out of their game.

With Bath placing so much emphasis on the physical there were bound to be moments of indiscipline and the first 40 minutes were punctuated by unwelcome bouts of fisticuffs which saw three West players booked: prop Wayne de Jong was deemed guilty of instigating a mass touchline brawl in the 12th minute; Mark Ring took verbal exception to a refereeing decision; and Andrew Peacock, the hooker, was spotted performing skulduggery in a ruck. De Jong was eventually sent off for an off-the-ball incident with Phil de Glanville.

Both of Bath's first-half tries were for connoisseurs of the rolling maul. In the first, a tapped penalty was held within the forwards and the flanker, Andy Robinson, peeled off to sneak it over the line. The second came from five minutes of intense Bath pressure at the end of the first half, which West did well to withstand for so long. But there was one maul too many and with the midfield sucked in, Jon Sleightholme easily rounded the last man.

Even so, West were not totally dispirited at half-time with Ring at fly- half showing imagination in his probing kicking and the No 8, Richard Earnshaw, proving more than a match for Bath's rampant back row. But after 10 defiant minutes their resistance wilted once again as Bath's front five took an even tighter control. The gaps began to open in midfield and Mike Catt and Sleightholme, who romped in after a 50-yard break from the fly-half, exploited them without mercy. Then Sleight-holme was again on hand to set up the hooker Chris Adams.

De Glanville finished West off with a last minute try after an interception and a 70-yard dash. But West did score one late consolation try and were perhaps unlucky not to have had two. Both came from interceptions from West's lively centre Steve John; the first was called offside but the second saw him run the length of the pitch to score.

Bath: J Callard; J Sleightholme, P de Glanville (capt), H Paul, A Adebayo; M Catt, A Nicol; D Hilton, G Adams, J Mallett, M Haag, B Cusack, A Robinson, E Peters, N Thomas.

West Hartlepool: M Silva; K Oliphant, S John, C John, G Truelove; M Ring (capt), M Roderick; W de Jong, A Peacock, V Hartland, D Mitchell, C Murphy (G Wappett, 23), A Brown, R Earnshaw, J Ions.

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).