Rugby Union: Barnes exploits the gap

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The Independent Online
West Hartlepool. . .10

Bath . . . . . . . .38

WEST HARTLEPOOL'S faint hopes of halting Bath's relentless progress to a fourth Courage League title and so protecting their own First Division status, were demolished in two spells of compelling Bath brilliance which yielded four of the champions' five tries.

In the space of four minutes, midway through the first half, Bath pointedly illustrated what sets them apart from other leading English clubs. They had soaked up considerable pressure from West - who scored the opening try through their scrum-half Steve Havery - before breaking free to take the lead with tries by Jonathan Callard and Stuart Barnes.

Both scores were the end product of accurate handling and unflagging support for the ball carrier after tacklers had been committed. By aiming as many players into defensive gaps and executing their moves with precision and speed, Bath stretch opposing defences with a finality others can only hope to emulate.

Barnes and John Stabler had swapped first-half penalties after Stabler had converted Havery's try from the touch-line, to leave Bath ahead 13-10 at the break. Bath's advantage might have been more marked if Barnes had not failed with both conversions and a 35-metre penalty.

With his back row in the ascendant and John Hall gaining a plentiful supply of line-out ball, Barnes took charge. Two well-struck penalties - one from 45 metres - presaged the second passage of play which killed West off.

Barnes supplied the scoring pass for Callard's second try, which the England outside-half converted. Four minutes later, Callard returned the compliment, putting Barnes over wide on the right.

To conclude a marvellous individual contribution to what Bath's coach, Jack Rowell, described as 'our best team performance of the year' Barnes completed his hat- trick.

West Hartlepool: K Oliphant; O Evans, C Lee, P Hodder, D Cooke; J Stabler (capt), S Havery; P Lancaster, S Mitchell, P Whitelock, J Dixon, K Westgarth, P Evans, M Watson, A Brown.

Bath: J Callard; A Swift, P de Glanville, I Lewis, A Adebayo; S Barnes, R Hill; G Chilcott, G Dawe, V Ubogu, N Redman, A Reed, A Robinson (capt), B Clarke, J Hall.

Referee: D Leslie (Manchester).

Scores: Havery / Stabler (try / con, 4 min, 7-0); Barnes (pen, 11 min, 7-3); Callard (try, 25 min

7-8); Barnes (try, 29 min, 7-13); Stabler (pen, 37 min, 10-13); Barnes (pen, 44 min, 10-16); Barnes (pen, 48 min, 10-19); Callard / Barnes (try / con, 62 min, 10-26); Barnes (try, 66 min, 10-31); Barnes / Callard (try / con, 83 min, 10-38).