Rugby Union: Bath put on vivid show

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The Independent Online
Bath 52

Bristol 19

AT LAST, some club rugby to shout about. Admittedly, the best of it only lasted half an hour, but by then Bristol had been so comprehensively beaten that their game was lost and with it the competitive element to the match.

By then Jeremy Guscott had completed two thirds of his hat-trick and proved beyond doubt that his much-admired skills need not now be seen as glimmers of excellence that can only flicker and die. And when the second half looked to be petering out into the obscurity of damage limitation, Bath served up an exhibition to savour. True, this only lasted four minutes, but it included three tries, Ben Clarke plunging over on the left wing - of all places - and two more tries following consecutive restarts. There had been little competition up until then, but this was surely the best game of the season so far.

Reassuringly, this was not because Bristol were poor. They did lose a lot of possession in the thick of it, but they simply couldn't match the speed, strength and ingenuity of Bath's backs. With Jack Rowell, the England manager, in the crowd, it was a fine day for Guscott to deliver his very best, and timely, too, for Jon Callard to disprove the theory that he is a full-back unable to counter-attack. Callard's running and passing were crucial elements to this display of total rugby, as were Adedayo Adebayo on the left wing and Andy Robinson, the ubiquitous flanker ever on the shoulder of play.

Guscott required little time to make his point. Three times in the first 10 minutes his handling created gaps, and on the first occasion he received a return pass inside from Adebayo to score. Fourteen minutes later Robinson flung out a gem of a pass for Guscott to register his second try and the game already appeared won.

Bristol rallied mid-match, but once Guscott had completed his hat-trick - his searing pace splitting the cover of both Mark Tainton and Mark Denney - theirs was a hopeless cause.

Steve Ojomoh broke a tackle to score in the 51st minute, and then Clarke, Mike Catt and Simon Geoghegan all went over in that blistering late burst.

The best of these tries was probably Catt's, but the significant factor was the sheer number of hands that were involved in each of them. Garath Archer plunged over for a late consolation score for Bristol, but this was an irrelevance. The excellence that preceded it is worth remembering.

Bath: J Callard; S Geoghegan, P de Glanville (capt), J Guscott, A Adebayo; M Catt, I Sanders; D Hilton, G Dawe, V Ubogu, M Haag, N Redman, A Robinson, S Ojomoh, B Clarke.

Bristol: P Hull (capt); M Denney, J Keyter, D Wring, K Maggs; M Tainton, K Bracken; A Sharp, M Regan, D Hinkins, S Shaw, G Archer, R Armstrong, C Barrow, M Corry.

Referee: B Campsall (Halifax).