Orrell are washed away

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Orrell 13 Bath 56

Eighty minutes of rugby played and already some obvious conclusions can be drawn. For Bath, the road will be familiar and well-trodden, with various pots of gold clearly signposted. And Orrell? Let's just say they might need to call on the services of a few sherpas as they struggle uphill.

The atmosphere at Edge Hall Road was curiously flat for the dawning of a brave new world - "English rugby has to stop squabbling and get its act together unless we want the supporters to vote with their feet," muttered Andy Robinson, the Bath flanker - and for exactly an hour the game was equally low-key. The champions notched up 30 points without looking remotely tuned in, and although Mike Catt prodded and probed effectively enough at fly-half drama was in short supply.

Yet in the last 20 minutes there was an explosion of activity as Bath finally raised a gallop and Orrell's quick and crafty back division made light of their starvation rations to squeeze every last ounce of use from whatever possession they could lay their hands on.

Seven tries came in the last quarter, most from distance, and the long- delayed fireworks brought a smile to the face of the Bath coach Brian Ashton. "You may just have seen the best two backlines in the country out there," he enthused.

To be sure, Orrell looked well capable of asking awkward questions in the wide open spaces. They were beautifully marshalled by Frano Botica and David Lyon, whose rugby league know-how opened up the Bath defence often enough to allow a complete unknown, Rob Hitchmough, to catch the eye at full-back. "Get him in the England squad now," Ashton said. "Serious? Of course I'm serious. He's a diamond."

Hitchmough was playing junior rugby last season and would probably have been held back had Orrell not lost so many front-line players to market forces over the summer. The deep end holds no fears for him, though, and the way he left Jon Callard for dead in a blistering late run to the posts merely underlined his potential.

For all that, his will be a wasted talent without the ball. With Richard Webster in powerful shape on his return to Union and Dave Hilton shunting an inexperienced Orrell front row every which way, Bath were always in control. Callard kicked three important penalties in the opening 12 minutes of the second half to guarantee victory, and when the deluge arrived the Orrell forwards were simply washed away.

Orrell: Tries Tuigamala, Heslop; Penalty Botica.

Bath: Tries Nicol, Webster, Geoghegan, Horne, Catt, Haag; Conversions Callard (4); Penalties Callard (5); Drop Goal Catt.

Orrell: R Hitchmough; J Naylor, D Lyon, L Tuigamala, N Heslop; F Botica, S Cook; M Worsley, A Moffat, S Turner, C Cusani, P O'Neill, A Bennett, A MacFarlane, J Huxley. Replacement: R Hanson for Worsley 16.

Bath: J Callard; S Geoghegan, J Guscott, M Perry, A Adebayo; M Catt, A Nicol; D Hilton, G Adams, V Ubogu, M Haag, N Redman, R Webster, E Peters, A Robinson. Replacement: M Horne for Geoghegan 65.

Referee: S Piercy (Yorkshire)