Rugby Union: Chilcott relishes conversion

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The Independent Online
Bath . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .46

Newcastle Gosforth. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

GARETH CHILCOTT'S conversion - his successful kick at goal, not his transformation from rugby villain to hero - was the talk of the Recreation Ground after Bath had duly maintained their unbeaten league record with a comprehensive, if muddy, victory here.

It was the former England loose- head prop's final home appearance. Retirement is two matches away. He will celebrate his 37th birthday at Leicester next Saturday, while his last game will be at Harlequins on 4 December. Then it is a season in pantomime and sports promotion.

The roars of a near-capacity crowd were saved for Bath's favourite skinhead, whose life and times include a fistful of sendings- off, as he trotted out ahead of the team he has served so well for 17 years. There were jeers for the referee when Chilcott was penalised twice for collapsing.

There were cheers when Bath's captain, John Hall, waved away his regular kicker, Jon Callard, and summoned Chilcott to add the finishing touch after John Bamsey, a last-minute replacement for the injured Jeremy Guscott, had scored a try at the Newcastle posts. And there were tears at the end when Bath's iron man was presented with a silver salver.

'If my eyes were wet it was because it was raining,' Chilcott said. 'I was quite pleased with my game. Everyone seemed to slow down to my pace in the mud and it was a great moment when I kicked the conversion. Now I am going to have a quiet pint, followed by 15 noisy ones.'

There were not many other great moments in a match dictated by Saturday's conditions. Newcastle were courageous in defence but gave away too many penalties - Callard landing five in six attempts - while offering little in the way of counter attack.

On a worrying note, Ben Clarke injured his neck and right shoulder when scoring the opening try. He played on but will be a worry for Bath and England, as will Guscott, whose groin strain has restricted him to just a handful of games this season.

Meanwhile, Richard Hill, the former England captain and scrum- half, announced he is to retire at the end of the season.

Bath: Tries Clarke, Hill, Bamsey, Dawe, Lumsden; Conversions Callard 2, Chilcott; Penalties Callard 5. Newcastle Gosforth: Penalty Willcox.

Bath: J Callard; T Swift, M Catt, J Bamsey, A Lumsden; S Barnes, R Hill; G Chilcott, G Dawe, V Ubogu, M Haag, N Redman, S Ojomoh, B Clarke, J Hall (capt).

Newcastle Gosforth: D Bennett; T Penn, M Beattie, J Merritt, M White; T Willcox, S Douglas; M Fraser, N Frankland (capt), P Vanzandliet, J Fowler, G Archer, B Chick (G Clarkson, 27), R Arnold, J Nicholson.

Referee: J Burtenshaw (Croydon).

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