Bath saved by slow throw

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A SUSTAINED effort by Second Division club Wakefield came within two minutes of inflicting a first defeat on Bath in the Pilkington Cup since Waterloo won in November 1992.

Wakefield protected a one-point lead almost to the end, having held a club so rich in talent that it could afford to leave out internationals, but then they foolishly delayed a throw-in from touch. The free kick awarded against them allowed Bath, who had almost given up hope of saving the match, to add a second and decisive try to a score otherwise made up of penalties.

Wakefield, playing down the slope on a surprisingly dry, firm pitch, overran Bath at the outset, harried them offside, and with only 30 seconds gone were awarded an easy penalty, kicked by captain Mike Jackson.

Even though Jon Callard's failure to score from his first penalty kick was followed by two quick successes, putting Bath ahead, Jackson levelled the scores again in the 21st minute. Wakefield were winning a surprising amount of loose and line-out ball, and were not afraid to run at Bath. The next turn of events was ominous for them, however. Bath managed to drum up a prolonged and intricate passing movement and Jeremy Guscott swept over for a try. The conversion failed, but Jackson kicked a third penalty and Bath were just two points ahead when the interval arrived.

The score stuck there for a while. Adebayo made a strong canter down the left wing but Scully pulled off a miraculous touchline tackle to put him out of play. And when Richard Petyt narrowly missed with a drop at goal, Bath were reminded how vulnerable their lead was.

Moments later one of the touch judges drew the referee's attention to a Bath infringement as Wakefield were surging forward, and Jackson, with his fourth penalty, put Wakefield ahead again by a single point with 17 minutes to go.

For the next quarter of an hour, with desperate tackling, Wakefield stifled every move that Bath made, and it seemed they had snatched the game by a whisker when Wakefield took a line-out near their own 22. It was there they made the crucial mistake. Terry Garnett, their hooker, was twice warned by the referee for delaying the throw-in. A third hesitation and Bath were awarded a free kick. They chose to run it. Callard made the initial breach, then Richard Butland took the ball over the line beneath a mound of bodies. It was too much to bear, and for the first time in 80 minutes the crowd were silent.

Wakefield: M Jackson (capt); P White, P Maynard, A Metcalfe, R Thompson; R Petyt, D Scully; G Baldwin, T Garnett, R Latham, S Croft, P Stewart, C Rushworth, J Griffiths, N Green.

Bath: J Callard; J Sleightholme, J Guscott, P de Glanville (capt), A Adebayo; R Butland, I Sanders; D Hilton, G Dawe, J Mallett, M Haag, N Redman, A Robinson, E Peters, B Clarke.

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).