Robinson roars back into contention for England

Bath 52 Bristol 19
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The Independent Online
Andy Robinson's huge influence in Bath's record-breaking annihilation of a robust Bristol side looks to have earned him a call-up to England training at Marlow tomorrow - or so the England manager, Jack Rowell, hinted after a scintillating and far from one-sided match.

Hyperbole was the order of the day. Bath's team manager, John Hall, called it "the best club match I have ever seen". Rowell said: "Breathtaking. Sensational. That is what English rugby needs. That is the future of English rugby." And Hall again: "That was the best Bath performance ever."

Bristol tried, but on their rare attacks their midfield generally found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place - Robinson and Jeremy Guscott's defence. According to Rowell, the former Bath coach of course, Guscott is back to the level he was before he suffered his groin injury. But it was the 31-year-old Robinson who really walked tall in Rowell's eyes.

In the past Rowell has said he wants a big open-side flanker and so Robinson (5ft 9in) and Neil Back (5ft 10in) looked to be out of it. Recently though, the manager has relented, saying the No 7 jersey lay among three men, Robinson, Back and Harlequins' Rory Jenkins. Robinson seems now to have nosed ahead. "It has always been my dream to play for England again," said Robinson, who won the last of his seven caps against Wales in 1989 before being discarded following the disappointing tour of Argentina in 1990.

On Saturday, he was everywhere and he was enjoying himself. If he was not involved getting a Bath attack going, or maintaining an offensive just when it looked like flagging, then he was knocking back Bristol forays around the fringes and through the middle. In the move which led to Mike Catt's try Robinson and Graham Dawe, who also earned praise from Rowell, linked brilliantly with the backs.

That try was the middle one of three in as many minutes as Bath cut loose towards the end to run up their second half-century in the league in their last three games and a record win for them in 207 meetings between the two West Country sides. Guscott had shown his team-mates the way over the line with a glorious hat-trick of tries before anyone else got a touchdown.

And all the while the tries, seven in all, were punctuated by the boot of Jon Callard, who landed three penalties and kicked four conversions. His pacy entries into the line showed that he can be a potent addition to the strikeforce, and since Catt was in sublime form at stand-off, revealing all-round skill and nous in providing a constant threat to the opposition, England could do worse than pick these two in their club positions to face South Africa next month.

Bath: Tries Guscott 3, Ojomoh, Clarke, Catt, Geoghegan; Conversions Callard 4; Penalties Callard 3. Bristol: Try Archer; Conversion Tainton; Penalties Tainton 4.

Bath: J Callard; S Geoghegan, P de Glanville (capt), J Guscott, A Adebayo; M Catt, I Sanders; D Hilton, G Dawe, V Ubogu, M Haag, N Redman, A Robinson, S Ojomoh, B Clarke.

Bristol: P Hull (capt); M Denney, J Keyter, D Wring, K Maggs; M Tainton, K Bracken; A Sharp, M Regan, D Hinkins, S Shaw, G Archer, R Armstrong, C Barrow, M Corry.

Referee: B Campsall (Halifax).

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