Rugby Union: Commentary - Bath stumble under a pack of problems

Bath 17

Richmond 29 after extra time

It is one thing to throw a ring-rusty Jeremy Guscott into an awkward fifth-round cup tie without so much as a single second-team rehearsal and say: "Do your best for an hour, Jerry, then feel free to come off if you're knackered."

It is quite another to ask the most outrageously gifted centre of his generation to put six months of career-threatening injury behind him in the flicker of an eyelid and win a match without any discernible help from his club-mates. At the very least, it smacks of desperation.

But then, Bath have been scratching around in search of desperate remedies for quite some time now. On Saturday, seven days before a Heineken Cup final with Brive that would test the most confident and capable of international sides to the absolute limit, the West Countrymen realised precisely half of the equation: that is to say, they were profoundly desperate without suggesting anything approaching a remedy.

Guscott was productive enough, but then, he usually is; a sporting genius may lose match hardness and a few degrees of competitive edge during the course of a long convalescence, but he forfeits none of his skill, his animal instinct, his acute awareness of circumstance as a game unfolds around him.

Winning rugby has never been the exclusive preserve of the individual, however, least of all a midfield cavalryman wholly dependent on the effectiveness of the forward infantry plying their trade in front of him. In short, no threequarter can hope to do the business on his Jack Jones.

It is now transparently clear that those forwards are failing the Guscott- inspired glitterati in the Bath back division. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to suggest that the most successful English club side of them all are shambling from pillar to post with their most ineffectual pack since John Hall was in short trousers and Jack Rowell accepted an unpaid role as Gareth Chilcott's rugby probation officer and made an upstanding citizen of him.

Andy Robinson, the Bath coach, was admirably diplomatic in refusing to point the finger, but his back row, in particular, are off the pace and he knows it. All the great Bath sides boasted loose trios of potency and balance - Hall or Steve Ojomoh on the blind-side, Paul Simpson, David Egerton or Ben Clarke at No 8, Roger Spurrell or Robbo himself on the breakaway flank - but the 1998 vintage has little to do with Chateau Petrus and everything to do with cut-price supermarket plonk.

Robinson tacitly admitted as much by singling out the Richmond threesome as the stand-out performers on a curiously flat occasion. If Clarke oozed vim and vigour on an emotional return to the scene of so many former glories and Rolando Martin made mincemeat of an out-of-position Nathan Thomas, Scott Quinnell was more influential still.

The big Welshman did not make yards off the base of the scrummage, he made furlongs. He carried the ball up, he tackled like the proverbial ton of bricks and in the words of his coach, John Kingston, he "caught fire" during extra time. "When Scott wants it, he gets a glazed look in his eyes," Kingston said. "Believe me, he was well glazed towards the end."

Not that the game should have gone anywhere near extra time. Bath started well enough - "We maintained possession through seven phases in the first minute," Robinson pointed out - but the following 79 were rather more of a problem. The home side virtually wrote off the line-outs, not just because the accuracy of Mark Regan's throwing was more reminiscent of Harold Wilson than Jocky Wilson, but because Craig Gillies, a former Recreation Grounder, displayed a flexibility and athleticism way beyond the scope of his old club-mates.

"He's 21 and he wants to be the best," Kingston said. "You might say Craig is a player who slipped through Bath's fingers." Robinson grimaced at that comment while, at the same time, acknowledging its legitimacy. "When we signed German Llanes last season, it was felt Craig would struggle to get sufficient games to allow him to develop," he said. "Yes, he was allowed to go. Those decisions have a way of coming back to haunt you, don't they? Just to rub it in, we'll have Steve Ojomoh and Jon Sleightholme back here soon."

With Gillies hoovering up, Richmond chiselled out leads of 9-3 and 14- 8 by the 48th minute and looked set fair for an uncomplicated victory. One exquisite delayed pass from Guscott sent Adedayo Adebayo in at the left corner for a 26th minute try but it was a mere blip compared to the Londoners' steady accumulation of points through Adrian Davies' right boot and an early second-half strike for yet another Bath old boy, Jim Fallon.

Only when Richmond allowed themselves to be fazed by the prospect of victory did Bath exert any meaningful pressure. Mike Catt, who looks increasingly like a world-class outside centre impersonating a second-class stand-off, landed two simple penalties in the final quarter to square the tie at 14-14, but when the teams emerged from their huddled breathers, it was the visitors who seized the moment.

They were helped no end by the fact that the first five minutes of extra time constituted the most naive, inept and inadequate spell of knock-out rugby produced by Bath since they first won the John Player Cup in 1984. Catt and Dan Lyle made a mutual mess-up of Richmond's restart, Adebayo fly-hacked a promising attacking ball straight into the 58th row of the temporary stand, Matt Perry failed to lay a hand on a pick-up he would normally have dealt with in his sleep and Catt threw a certifiable pass straight to Matthew Pini in dangerous waters on half-way.

Norman Wisdom would have made a better fist of it and not even the most myopic of Bath supporters expressed the slightest surprise when Dominic Chapman justified his reputation as a quick, no-nonsense finisher with the killer score at the left flag. Catt dragged his side back to within a score with another sand-wedge penalty, but the game had drifted away. Davies replied in kind from right field before Steve Cottrell, a useful performer alongside the excellent Allan Bateman, set up and finished his own try on the final whistle.

Leicester demonstrated last season that Bath's cup mystique was a phenomenon of the past. On Saturday, Richmond took the exploding of the myth one stage further - and they did not even need to pack any dynamite.

Bath: Try Adebayo. Penalties Catt 4. Richmond: Tries Fallon, Chapman, Cottrell. Conversion A Davies. Penalties A Davies 4.

Bath: M Perry (I Balshaw, 99); I Evans, P de Glanville (capt, R Butland, 87), J Guscott, A Adebayo; M Catt, R Pellow; F Mendez (J Mallett, 49), M Regan (A Long, 90), V Ubogu, B Cusack, N Redman, R Webster (E Peters, 49), D Lyle, N Thomas.

Richmond: M Pini; J Fallon, A Bateman, S Cottrell, D Chapman; A Davies, A Moore; D McFarland, B Williams, D Crompton (J Davies, 53), C Quinnell (A Codling, 93), C Gillies, B Clarke (capt), S Quinnell, R Martin (A Vander, 80).

Referee: J Pearson (Durham).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine