Rugby Union: Bath display bears classic Hall mark

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Bath . . .39

Orrell. . .3

WITH JOHN HALL back to front their charge, Bath left no one in any doubt that from here on in the rest of the pack had better watch out. It is a familiar story. Bath are never more dangerous than when cornered, which they were a fortnight ago at Franklin's Gardens, and hence the reaction at the Rec, where Orrell were the first to be savaged.

A few home truths emerged, too. 'We are the only side who can play like this,' Andy Robinson, the Bath captain, said after the five-try demolition of a side just as keen to make up ground lost when London Irish pinched the points at Edge Hall Road. Robinson's assessment was not meant to sound boastful, either.

'While in all honesty we should have won at Northampton, we gave away too many penalties. But when we play like this, I don't think anyone can match us for all- round skills.'

Orrell, who had managed the narrowest of wins over the champions last season, would agree because on Saturday, however hard they tried, Bath just simply devoured them in a ferocious second-half display.

This leaves the remainder, in particular Wasps, looking anxiously over their shoulders. Wasps have 'only' to keep on winning to pick up a second First Division title, but Bath have a match in hand and the sort of incentive they are used to. It is almost as if they have to handicap themselves to function properly.

One defeat has been the norm on each of the three occasions they have made off with the Courage trophy and if they are to make it a hat-trick of successes this season, the crunch would appear to be due on 13 March. That is when Wasps head for Bath and what a contest that promises to be.

Particularly so as a couple of seasons ago Wasps joined Waterloo in becoming only one of two sides to have won a League match at the Recreation Ground when they scraped in 16-15. Even then, Wasps were to finish running second to Bath in the title stakes and you can count on the champions making a special effort from now on.

In an initial scrap for line-out possession, Orrell competed pretty well thanks to the return to duty from family business commitments of the 6ft 7in Charles Cusani. 'It's an area in which we have been struggling,' Steve Taberner, the Orrell captain said. It was, though, to prove the only area in which the northerners enjoyed some satisfaction.

Taberner also spoke of the return of Bob Kimmins, their other towering line-out force. 'At 6ft 9in Bob is always going to have back problems and it's now just a question of whether he can play through the pain. He's now been on about making a comeback in two weeks' time.' Too late now, one fears, for any hope of salvation for Orrell.

A second successive defeat was soon staring them in the face once Richard Hill had poached a ball on their own scrum put-in and darted over from five yards out.

The first half closed with Orrell seven points off the pace and they were then comprehensively outpaced as Bath accelerated away to score four further tries.

Two of these came from Hall, who in any case thought he had touched down just moments before Hill's strike. Now the flanker took complete control and there is none better in the land when he is in this sort of form. Hall could yet feature in the England frame before the season is out and while he finished limping - which is nothing unusual - Orrell just finished limp.

Ben Clarke and Robinson also ensured that the Bath back row dominated the proceedings. Jon Webb, too, had an outstanding game at full-back. Having relieved Bath of any early pressure with some immaculate clearances, he then stepped in with a try through a perfectly-timed excursion into the line and at the end had accumulated 19 points.

Bath: Tries: Hill, Webb, Hall 2, Redman. Conversions: Webb 4. Penalties: Webb 2. Orrell: Penalty: Ainscough.

Bath: J Webb; T Swift, P de Glanville, J Guscott, A Abebayo; S Barnes, R Hill; G Chilcott, G Dawe, V Ubogu, N Redman, A Reed, A Robinson (capt), B Clarke, J Hall.

Orrell: S Taberner (capt); P Halsall, S Langford, B Wellens, N Heslop; G Ainscough, D Morris; M Hynds, N Hitchen, D Southern, C Cusani, C Brierley, D Cleary, S Gallagher, P Manley.

Referee: S Piercey (Yorkshire).

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