Bath's resolve wins the day

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The Independent Online
Wakefield 12 Bath 16

Terry Garnett is not the first to learn the harsh truth that if you attempt some naked gamesmanship against Bath, you run the risk of painful retribution. Despite two previous warnings from the referee, Ashley Rowden, for delaying the line-out throw, Wakefield's hooker Garnett tried it on a third time.

With Wakefield ahead 12-11, and time running out for the holders in an absorbing fifth-round Pilkington Cup tie at College Grove, Rowden rightly awarded Bath a free-kick for Garnett's slow-down tactics. Bath's reprisal was swift, brutal and utterly final. Only 35 seconds of normal time remained on the clock when Richard Butland crashed over near the left corner.

Those who do not know Bath might well suppose they just rode out their luck. It is nearer the truth to record that Bath's typically unambiguous determination to ride their resolution to the very last step earned them victory. Consequently it is they rather than Wakefield who will travel to the Memorial Ground to face Bristol in a quarter-final on Saturday week. Wakefield could hardly believe their luck, or the justice of it all. Neither could Garnett.

No one epitomised Wakefield's resolve not to be overawed by the nine- time cup winners with greater relish or effectiveness than the one-time flanker Garnett. Ultimately his tremendous contribution, and those of his colleagues, was to no avail.

Although Bath were, for long periods, well below their collective best, they had two clear sightings of Wakefield's line and capitalised on both of them. Apart from Butland's climactic strike, Jeremy Guscott finished off the only other irresistibly convincing Bath build-up to edge his team 11-6 ahead, after Jonathan Callard and Mike Jackson had kicked two penalties apiece.

Like Bath, Wakefield had two try chances. But unlike their rivals, the home side could make nothing of either. In the first, Richard Petyt hesitated fatally, allowing winger Richard Thompson no space to work in. When Thompson raced clear after his own kick ahead, Callard defused the danger brilliantly.

Jackson banged over two more penalties, though as the Wakefield coach, Jim Kilfoyle, ruefully acknowledged, they were not enough to see his charges through: "We did a very good job in containing them right up until the last minute," said Kilfoyle, "but their extra pace eventually told."

The summary of the Bath coach, Brian Ashton, was even more succinct: "We don't lose many important matches in the last minute." Not that this will console Garnett, or Wakefield.

Wakefield: Penalties Jackson 4. Bath: Tries Guscott, Butland. Penalties Callard 2.

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 (Thatcham, Berkshire).