Rugby Union: Botham's eye-catching display

Bath 44 Cardiff 32
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HAD BATH and Cardiff been playing this match as part of a British League, or in a formalised Anglo-Welsh competition, instead of it being another friendly in the meaningless matches between the Premiership clubs and Cardiff or Swansea, those who witnessed it would have run out of superlatives well before the end.

It had almost everything. Quite apart from being a welcome relief from run-of-the-mill league fare, it was more like an important cup match. To start with, there was a near- capacity crowd of almost 8,000 jammed into the Recreation Ground. Once Eric Peters had scored the first of Bath's six tries, the atmosphere became electric.

There were fine displays from three youngsters, Iain Balshaw, Matt Perry and Liam Botham, a point acknowledged by Bath's director of rugby, Andy Robinson. "I cut my teeth on games like this. We should have more matches against the top Welsh clubs. The youngsters learn so much from them."

Botham has clearly learnt a lot since he first appeared as a raw centre for West Hartlepool. Although he was not to finish on the winning side, his defence has improved immeasurably since he joined Cardiff two seasons ago. His try-saving tackle on Balshaw was a gem. With two tries to finish the match, and Clive Woodward so short of quality backs, one wonders why Botham was not even considered for the England A training squad, before their encounter with Scotland A, at Leeds on Friday evening.

The same could be asked of Balshaw who, along with Matt Perry repeatedly sliced open the Cardiff defence. With Adedayo Adebayo looking sharp, Cardiff were always in deficit.

After only half an hour they were 20 points the wrong way but, thanks to Lee Jarvis, it was only 10 at the interval after the Cardiff outside- half weighed in with a neat try, which he converted, before adding a penalty. The Welshmen narrowed it to seven points after Botham's first try, but Adebayo and Mike Tindall took Bath clear before Botham had the final say.

Bath: Tries Peters, Guscott, Cooper, Adebayo 2, Tindall; Conversions Perry 4; Penalties Perry 2. Cardiff: Tries Botham 2, Jarvis, Hall; Conversions Jarvis 3; Penalties Jarvis 2.

Bath: I Balshaw; M Tindall, K Maggs, J Guscott (T Adebayo, 76), A Adebayo; M Perry, G Cooper; D Hilton (K Yates, 67), A Long (M Regan, 67), V Ubogo, S Borthwick, N Redman, R Earnshaw, E Peters (capt, R Webster, 76), D Lyle.

Cardiff: M Rayer (C Morgan, 76); S Hill, L Davies, M Hall (M Wintle, 72), L Botham; L Jarvis, R Howley (capt, M Williams, h-t); S John, P Young, L Mustoe (A Lewis, 70), S Moore (K Stewart, 64), J Tait, O Williams, D Baugh (S Williams, h-t), G Kacala.

Referee: F Howard (St Helens).