Rugby Union: Bath gather scraps

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Bath. . . . .14

Bristol. . . .9

IT WAS business as usual, battling Bath taken close but staying on course for a third league and cup double after scoring the two tries that made all the difference in yesterday's fifth- round tie.

As for Bristol, the waiting continues, just one win over their West Country rivals in 10 years and that in a friendly.

Perhaps the rugby writers' dinner on Wednesday night had taken its toll in the case of Bath because for the first 20 minutes some of the boys looked a trifle jaded. And one in particular appeared to have terrible sighting problems, Stuart Barnes failing to take advantage of three penalty opportunities.

Since Bristol had given them a hard time in the league match at the Rec a fortnight ago, Bath winning 9-0 but failing to score a try for the first time at home this season, their neighbours had noted some tinkering. 'It's comforting to think we've panicked them into some changes,' Brian Hanlon, Bristol's coaching director, said.

The one change Bristol knew nothing about, though, was the late withdrawal of Jon Callard with a dodgy hamstring and in the absence of the England full-back, Barnes was taking the goal-kicks - and missing. Bath were also struggling in the set-pieces.

Their scrum has never looked as solid since Gareth Chilcott's retirement and, with the Bristol lock Andy Blackmore cleaning up in the line- out, this was going to be a tough struggle. But then things began to click as Bath made a feast out of scraps, which must have been sickening for the hard-working Bristol pack.

Having been bottled up, when Bath were awarded another penalty they turned down the shot at goal and went gunning for the Bristol line instead, Ben Clarke making the initial inroad off Richard Hill's pass and Steve Ojomoh then forcing his way over at the posts. Barnes converted and threw his arms aloft.

That was after 25 minutes and the stand-off was worthy of an encore. Andy Reed, back in the Scotland team, at last won a line-out ball and the next thing Barnes was off like a rocket through a surprised Bristol defence from 45 yards out. Phil de Glanville kept the move going and Mike Catt ran in the try for Barnes to convert.

Tough on Bristol, although the visitors at last got themselves on the scoreboard when Mark Tainton, who earlier had struck an upright, landed a penalty just on the break. He put over two more, too, on the resumption. But Bristol never looked like scoring a try and, while Bath had nothing left, there was no doubting the winners.

Bath: Tries Ojomoh, Catt; Conversions Barnes 2. Bristol: Penalties Tainton 3.

Bath: A Lumsden; T Swift, M Catt, P de Glanville, A Adebayo; S Barnes, R Hill; C Clark, G Dawe, V Ubogu, M Haag, A Reed, S Ojomoh, B Clarke, J Hall (capt).

Bristol: P Hull; D John, A Saverimutto, R Knibbs, S Crossland; M Tainton, R Kitchin; A Sharp, M Regan, D Hinkins, S Shaw, A Blackmore, R Armstrong, C Barrow, D Eves (capt).

Referee: S Piercy (Asselby).