Rugby Union: Bath men swift on the wing

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The Independent Online
North. . . . . .9

South-West. . .29

AFTER their extraordinary defeat by Waterloo in the Cup last Saturday, Bath were doubly keen to avoid any further embarrassment yesterday when they made another trip north, this time in the divisional championship, at Headingley. Sure enough, their 10 players in the South-West side made certain that they won this their first-round match of this year's championship.

The manner of their victory was so conclusive it is hard to believe it was their first victory in eight games against the North. But then no harder to believe than the fact that all their tries, all five of them, came from their two wings.

There were a number of reasons why the South-West won although there was less in it for most of the game than the final scoreline would suggest.

The first reason was that Dewi Morris was far from his usual self at scrum-half. As early as the 15th minute he needed attention and at half-time he left the field for good. In between he just wasn't the player we have come to expect.

The second reason was something similar. Morris's England compatriot Wade Dooley was unable to dominate the line-out.

When you think that the North had Tim Rodber playing in the second row, a position with which he is hardly familiar, then this, combined with the aforementioned reasons, meant that the North were always in trouble.

Though the half-time score doesn't indicate as much - it was 3-10 then - North had spent little time in the South-West's half in the opening 40 minutes. As if this was not enough then another important reason for the North's defeat was the teamwork of the visitors. Again and again, the Hill- Barnes-Guscott axis was brought into play.

John Webb missed four penalties and conversion attempts in the first half but, in the Bath idiom, he was everywhere. He was as involved in this game as many a back-row forward would have been 20 years ago. The North could not win enough balls to mount a challenge whereas the South-West were anxious to spread the ball as far and fast as they could and, in Nick Beal and Simon Morris, they had two elusive finishers. Beal, in particular, scored two stunning tries, both from 40 yards, and both when it looked as though he had no chance of reaching the line. He spun, spiralled, twisted past at least four men on each occasion.

Morris's third try lifted the siege that the North were laying to the South-West line. For a spell in the second half the North threw caution to the wind. Given a decent service, Paul Grayson, their stand-off, ran dangerously and the North closed to within six points. But then Webb attacked down one side of the field, the ball was moved quickly to the left and Morris scored in the corner. That assured the South-West a victory. They were now 22-9 ahead.

All that remained was for Beal to demonstrate his elusiveness again and score his second try which, unusually, since he had kicked poorly all day, Webb converted.

NORTH: I Hunter (Northampton); N Heslop (Orrell) B Barley (Wakefield), K Simms (Liverpool St Helens, capt), R Underwood (Leicester); P Grayson (Waterloo), D Morris (Orrell); M Hynes (Orrell), S Mitchell (West Hartlepool), M Whitcomb (Sale), T Rodber (Northampton), W Dooley (Preston Grasshoppers), P Walton (Northampton), M Pepper (Nottingham), M Greenwood (Wasps).

Replacements: D Scully (Wakefield) for D Morris (half-time), M Jackson (Fylde) for N Heslop (46 min).

SOUTH-WEST: J Webb (Bath); N Beal (Northampton), P de Glanville (Bath), J Guscott (Bath), S Morris (Gloucester); S Barnes (capt), R Hill (both Bath); C Clark (Swansea), K Dunn (Wasps), J Mallet, N Redman (both Bath), A Blackmore (Bristol), J Hall, A Robinson, B Clarke (all Bath).

Referee: J L Bacigalupo (Scotland).

Scorers: Beal (try, 24min, 0-5); Grayson (pen, 36min, 3-5); Morris (try, 41min, 3-10); Morris (try, 54min, 3-15); Grayson (pen, 60min, 6-15); Grayson (pen, 66min, 9-15); Morris/Webb (try/con, 73min, 9-22); Beal/Webb (try/con, 79min, 9-29).

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