As an apperitif to the biggest match in the club's history, this tasted distinctly like a crepe. Bath, who have monopolised the National Cup competition, winning at Twickenham on 10 occasions, welcomed back their prodigal son, Jeremy Guscott, for this fifth-round match against the Richmond all-stars. But not even the presence of the Lion could save them at the Recreation Ground yesterday.
Bath, overshadowed in the line-out, were on the back foot for most of the match but rallied in the closing stages to level the scores at 14- 14. Mike Catt kicked two penalties to take the game into extra time but the additional 20 minutes (10 minutes each way) served only to prolong the agony for the West Countrymen.
In fact, had Catt shown any consistency in his goal-kicking, Bath would probably have gone into the quarter-finals without the need for a postscript. Catt missed three penalty attempts, all eminently kickable.
Richmond secured a notable victory early in the period of extra time when the half-backs, Andy Moore and Adrian Davies, combined with Allan Bateman to release Dominic Chapman and the wing cut inside to comfortably defeat the cover defence to cross near the post.
Although Catt landed a penalty, Richmond deservedly progressed with Davies taking a penalty and Steve Cottrell scoring another try at the death.
After a soporific first half, Bath were 9-8 down. They began as if they meant business and wasted several opportunities, particularly when the England full-back, Matt Perry, lost his footing 20 yards out.
Catt kicked a penalty and then pulled a tackle out of the bag to stop Chapman, the flavour of the month, whose try-scoring exploits have attracted the attentions of both Ireland and England.
As the heavyweight Richmond pack began to lumber up a gear, Bath were forced into a role which might well serve as useful practice for when they face Brive: all-out defence.
Helped by some unprofessional passing from Richmond, they managed to defend their line, if not their line-out, as the Londoners (not that many were born within the sound of Bow Bells) were restricted to a hat-trick of penalties from Davies.
It was 26 minutes before the crowd witnessed a demonstration of the passing art. Although Perry failed to gather a high kick from Davies, the ball rebounded to Dan Lyle who gave a sublime pass to Guscott who in turn drew Matthew Pini, the Richmond full-back, like a Renaissance artist to release Adedayo Adebayo on a free run down the left wing.
Richmond looked like increasing their lead when Bateman scythed through but was grounded a yard short by Perry. It took a world class tackle on a world class player to prevent a try.
However, in the 48th minute, smart work from Davies and Chapman stretched the Bath defence to the extent that when Jim Fallon received the ball on the right wing he had a yard to the line and five minutes to get there. Ieuan Evans, his opposite number, stood no chance.
Bath, 14-8 down, raised their game sufficiently to make life difficult for Richmond in the last quarter of normal time and Catt levelled with two penalties.
In the last minute Davies, from a very reasonable position, missed a drop goal attempt and held his head in his hands. Twenty minutes later, however, he was doing high fives with his team mates.
The Tetley's Bitter Cup has been appropriately named for Bath. It was in the last round that they became embroiled in the row over the bitten ear of the London Scottish flanker, Simon Fenn.
Bath: M Perry (R Butland, 89); I Evans, P De Glanville (capt; I Balshaw, 88)), J Guscott, A Adebayo; M Catt, R Pellow; F Mendez (J Mallett, 40), M Regan (A Long, 90), V Ubogu, N Redman, B Cousack, N Thomas, D Lyle, R Webster (E Peters, 40).
Richmond: M Pini; J Fallon, A Bateman, S Cottrell, D Chapman; A Davies, A Moore; D McFarland, B Williams, D Crompton (J Davies, 54), C Quinnell (A Codling, 93), C Gillies, R Martin ( A Vander, 80), S Quinnell, B Clarke (capt).
Referee: J Pearson (Yarm, Cleveland).