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Rugby: Bath break West spirit

West Hartlepool 16 Bath 24
Bath have never relished their trips to Brierton Lane after a memorable match there in 1994 when West outscored them three tries to two. Although Bath squeaked home 20-18, they had been given the fright of their lives by a West team who won a legion of admirers for their bravura and commitment.

Until Mike Catt put last night's result beyond doubt with Bath's third try, in the 68th minute, there was every sign West were going to go one better than on that heady afternoon 30 months ago to steal a game which Bath, at one stage, looked as if they would run away with.

It had not taken Bath long to underline their notional superiority by running in two early tries which, with both conversions and a penalty by Jon Callard, enabled them to open up a 17-point lead and leave West facing another of those drubbings which have been a feature of their relegation- haunted season.

West's porous defence which before Bath's visit had conceded 72 tries allowed Martin Haag a stroll to the posts for the 73rd. Jeremy Guscott delivered a sublime pass to Callard, who put Adedayo Adebayo over and Bath seemed in command.

But there were any number of alarms before Bath could be sure of replacing Leicester in second place in National League One. With better decision- making and without their earlier defensive lapses, it would have been West who had something notable to cheer about.

"I was disappointed that we started so well and then almost let it slip. But at this stage of the season no games can be considered easy as we nearly discovered to our cost," Clive Woodward, Bath's assistant coach, said.

Revealing some of the determination which once was their hallmark, West dug a foothold deep in Bath territory for Chris John to weight a grubber kick for Stephen John to squeeze in at the corner.

David Barnes claimed West's second try and, at 17-13 with 30 minutes to play, there was still plenty of time for West to mark their campaign with an upset. However, no sooner had Woodward sent on three replacements - including Simon Geoghegan for only his second League appearance of the season - than Catt struck the decisive blow. Callard's conversion went in off the upright and Bath, in spite of Chris John's late penalty, had done enough to keep their title ambitions intact.

West Hartlepool: Tries S John, Barnes; Penalties C John 2. Bath: Tries Haag, Adebayo, Catt; Conversions: Callard 3; Penalty: Callard.

West Hartlepool: M Silva; G Truelove, L Botham, J Connolly, S John; C John, B Ryan; D Barnes, A Peacock, W De Jonge (P Whitelock, 51), C Murphy, K Moseley, J Ions, R Earnshaw, I Morgan.

Bath: J Callard; J Sleightholme (S Geoghegan, 56), J Guscott, P De Glanville, A Adebayo; M Catt, C Harrison; K Yates, G Dawe, C Horsman (D Hilton, 56), M Haag, N Redman, A Robinson, R Webster (N Thomas, 56), D Lyle.

Referee: B Campsall.