Rugby Union: Catt is quick to take his chance

Richmond 23 Bath 30
ANXIOUS DAYS at Reading. And not just for Richmond. The England coach Clive Woodward had learned that his first choice fly-half, Paul Grayson, is doubtful for Saturday's Five Nations match against France and was apparently somewhere among the record 10,096 crowd at the Madejski Stadium, running the rule over Mike Catt.

What he saw was a competent display by Catt, whose kicking earned him 20 points, a sparkling display by the Richmond scrum-half Agustin Pichot, and two sides who went at it like express trains and did well to overcome the handicap of a referee with a propensity to punctuate play with inappropriate whistle stops.

A delayed kick-off because of congestion on the M4 would not have helped nerves, in particular those of Adedayo Adebayo who had to catch a 6.30pm flight to New York to watch the big fight at Madison Square Garden between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. In the event Adebayo's nerves were not so shredded, since he scored Bath's opening try to pile on the misery for Richmond.

During the week the administrator's axe had fallen on 11 members of the playing and coaching staff out in a total of 34 redundancies. The squad was reduced by half a dozen players from 31 to what the administrator feels is a more manageable 25, but all six, who include the wing Dominic Chapman, the former French flanker Laurent Cabannes and Wales fly-half Adrian Davies, are still in training at the club, who are also retaining their registration.

The remaining players all had to accept a pay cut, for their captain Ben Clarke it was his second this season and he is now reckoned to be on pounds 120,000 per year compared with the reported pounds 200,000 he received on joining three years ago. Despite the cuts there was an air of optimism that the rot had been nipped in the bud. Not surprising given the talent that remains.

On and off the field Richmond are nothing if not fighters and they made that clear in a cut and thrust first half in which the lead changed hands four times. Bath, it must be said, had the edge, and deservedly so having run in two tries through Adebayo and Matt Perry within the space of a couple of minutes.

But Richmond came back. Adam Vander crossed for a try and Earl Va'a converted it then added a second penalty to ease his side back in front. It was not until the third minute of injury time that Catt came back with a penalty of his own.

Four more followed, yet still Richmond hung in. In defence they managed to snuff out every Bath threat in the second half and pose a few of their own including that which led to Robbie Hutton's try. But Catt's sixth penalty, a minute after Hutton's heroics, finally did for them. They may be down but Richmond are by no means out.

Richmond: M Pini (L Best, 23-29); N Walne, J Wright, M Dixon (M Deane, 77), S Brown; E Va'a, A Pichot; D McFarland, B Williams, D Crompton, A Sheridan, C Gillies, R Hutton, B Clarke (capt), A Vander (B Cusack, 60- 64).

Bath: M Perry; I Balshaw, K Maggs, J Guscott, A Adebayo; M Catt, G Cooper; D Hilton, M Regan, V Ubogu (J Mallett, 76), M Haag, S Borthwick, R Earnshaw, D Lyle, R Bryan.

Referee: G Hughes (Manchester).

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