RUGBY UNION: Catt turns on the hot tap

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Treviso 27 Bath 50

Mike Catt will spearhead Bath's bid to move a step closer to Heineken Cup glory at Cardiff Arms Park the weekend after next on the back of a virtuoso display that should have concluded the national stand-off debate.

When the England team to play Italy is announced on Wednesday Catt must surely be installed at No 10. He was bang in form and sky-high on confidence with a remarkable 33-point contribution - including four of the seven tries - to the English double champions' Pool A victory at Treviso on Saturday that booked them a place in the quarter-finals and a trip to Cardiff.

But if waiting for the England call to No 10 is nothing new for Catt, playing against Cardiff will be a brand new experience. "Going there will be very tough as Cardiff have got talent all the way through their side," Catt said. "I have never played against Cardiff before because the last time the clubs met I was on the bench and Jon Web played."

Bath failed to top their group, and with it the bonus of a home quarter- final, when they alarmingly ran out of steam just when they looked poised for a cricket score against the Benetton-backed Italian club.

It turned into a case of desperately protecting the 16-point advantage they needed - with five minutes remaining they led by 20 - for them to retain any further interest in the tournament.

After beating Dax and Bristol, Treviso almost proved one hurdle too many in an energy sapping eight days. Jon Hall, their director of rugby, said: "The legs just went in the second half."

However, they had done enough by then, Catt providing the cushion ultimately required with three tries in the space of just five minutes early in the second half when Bath were at their best. For half an hour they produced some irresistible rugby, knocking the stuffing out of a Treviso side that had high quality players in the back row and midfield in particular.

Inevitably it was Catt who began the job of settling Bath nerves as Treviso twice took the lead in the opening quarter. For his first try he worked the blind side and coolly collected his own kick but a cut under his right eye-brow that required running repairs meant he was absent when wing Adedayo Adebayo muscled his way over for his first try.

That meant scrum-half Charlie Harrison added the conversion, and cost Catt a tournament record in the process, his final haul falling one short of the Dax's Richard Dourthe's harvest against Edinburgh.

Catt was back in time to convert Adebayo's second try, again supplied by centre Jeremy Guscott with sweetly timed passes, and the Bath wing would be justified in expecting good news on Wednesday as well, in Adebayo's case in the shape of a first cap.

Dave Hilton popped up for the next try, a prop's speciality from close range, before Catt turned into something of a one man show. Try two was virtually a carbon copy of his first, the third a glorious solo effort with the ball in hand and the last came courtesy of his back row, in which Nathan Thomas and Steve Ojomoh played their hearts out.

And they needed to as Treviso stormed back with three tries of their own before Catt sealed it with a late penalty.

Treviso: Tries Francescato, Troncon, Donati, Mazzariol; Penalty Mazzariol; Conversions Mazariol 2. Bath: Tries Catt 4, Adebayo 2, Hilton; Penalty Catt; Conversions Catt 5, Harrison.

Treviso: F Donati; L Perziano (M Perziano, 69), T Visentin (P Dotto, 39), I Francescato, L Manteri; F Mazzariol, A Troncon (capt); G Grespan, A Moscardi, A Castellani, M Dal Sievcristofoletto, D Scaglia, A Sgorlon, S Rigo (P Pellarini, 60), J Gardner.

Bath: J Robinson; J Sleightholme, P De Glanville (capt), J Guscott, A Adebayo; M Catt (H Paul, 14-20), C Harrison; D Hilton, G Dawe, J Mallett (V Obogu, 72), M Haag, B Cusack, N Thomas, E Peters, S Ojomoh.

Referee: D Gillet (France).