Rugby Union: Bath's day of pace and grace

Bath 47 Richmond 31
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The Independent Online
If professional rugby has done nothing else it has introduced unpredictability and uncertainty to our Saturday afternoons. Last week Bath were well and truly beaten by Leicester who the previous week had been soundly thrashed at Northampton. Yesterday Bath were back on the rails with a comprehensive demolition of Richmond, the old name with the new money which, on the evidence of this display, might have been better invested.

Welcome to the real world, Richmond. They conceded seven tries and until Bath removed their foot from the pedal in the final quarter, were outplayed in all phases of the game. They were beaten for speed, beaten for skill and beaten for possession, albeit against a side transformed from the plodding mediocrity of the previous week. This was how Bath like the game to be played and the ultimate margin of their victory bore little relation to their total domination of the match.

They scored three sublime tries in the first half but missed almost as many opportunities. Indeed, in one five-minute spell, Mike Catt's woeful distribution cost two wonderful opportunities, the first when Ieuan Evans couldn't hold a hard and fast bullet on the Richmond line and the second when the fly-half missed Adedayo Adebayo altogether once again with the Richmond line at Bath's mercy.

On another occasion Matt Perry, good, bad and plain ugly all in the one match, was fractionally off line with his scoring pass to Adebayo. Like Catt's, his distribution left a lot to be desired, but both contributed massively to Bath's victory and to the entertaining spectacle.

It was from Perry's searing break that Nathan Thomas scored Bath's first try and it was from Catt's laceration of the Richmond defence that Phil de Glanville, with a perfectly timed supporting run, scored the third. In both tries Dan Lyle, who is fast establishing himself as a formidable power in English rugby, played a crucial part, having a hand in the line- out and also in his quick support of Perry.

Bath's quick-wittedness and resourcefulness were at times breathtaking, as were the speed and accuracy of their counter- attacks. On one occasion two wickedly accurate kicks - the first from Catt, the second from Andy Nicol - carried them from goal-line to goal- line; and their ability to regain possession from those kicks has become something of a trademark. The backs did miss a few tackles yesterday, but the quality of their attacking play was such that they could be forgiven the odd defensive lapse.

Richmond did succeed in rousing themselves briefly after half-time when John Davies crashed over from short range, but even then it was apparent they were a spent force. It was only a matter of time before Bath's preliminary work in the first half began to bear fruit in the second. Jon Callard converted his second penalty before Evans, on his return from injury, began to feel at home.

One or two of the passes he had received from colleagues earlier in the match might have made him question the wisdom of his move to the Rec and even the try he scored after 35 minutes had been somewhat fortuitous. Catt had missed touch with a penalty, Richmond had lost possession, Nicol had mis-cued his kick, but still Evans had plucked the ball out of the air to score proving that if two wrongs don't always make a right three certainly do. Richmond surrendered possession and De Glanville put the winger away for Bath's fourth try.

The fifth by Nicol was another beauty, following a sweeping move and more stunning support from Bath's back row. The sixth from Nigel Redman was from shorter range but was equally well received by the home support, and after it Bath finally relaxed. This enabled Richmond to score tries by Steve Cottrell, Jim Fallon, Allan Bateman and Scott Quinnell, but did nothing to ease their humiliation.

Bath: J Callard (Balshaw, 50); I Evans, P de Glanville, M Perry, A Adebayo (K Tsimba, 68); M Catt, A Nicol (capt); K Yates, A Long, V Ubogu (D Hilton, 77), G Llanes, N Redman, N Thomas, D Lyle, E Peters.

Richmond: M Pini (S Mason, 40); J Fallon, A Bateman, S Cottrell, S Browne (B Harvey 23-28); E Va'a, A Moore; D McFarland (D Crompton, 65), B Williams, J Davies, C Quinnell (A Codling, 78), C Gillies, B Clarke (capt), S Quinnell, S Barlow.

Referee: J Pearson (Yarm).