Rugby Union: Guscott proves prince of tries

Bristol 13 Bath 18
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The Independent Online
England may find themselves counting the cost of yet another Bath victory over their old West Country rivals. Phil de Glanville hobbled painfully through the last 10 minutes and then the fly-half Mike Catt was carried off with a leg injury. As if things could not get any worse the hooker Mark Regan was left motionless on the pitch at the final whistle and eventually had to be helped off. Otherwise it was the same old story, a scrappy Courage league derby in difficult conditions, thankfully illuminated by the brilliance of Jeremy Guscott.

Bath began with all the swagger of a side that had won 13 consecutive league matches in this fixture, including a devastating 76-7 victory at home in October. Bristol, aided by the wind in the first half, eventually began to exert pressure of their own and their fly-half Paul Burke was just short with a 48-metre kick.

Their line-out, despite the presence of the 6ft 8in England lock Simon Shaw, was operating none too smoothly early on and Bath stole possession after 15 minutes to send the young Matt Perry on a searing run. The first try came on 19 minutes after the England A prop Kevin Yates broke away from a maul on the Bristol 22. The scrum-half Charlie Harrison was up in support and when he was brought down just short of the line Nigel Redman scooped up the ball for an unconverted try.

Burke replied almost immediately with a penalty which sparked off Bristol's best period of the game. They were denied only by some stern defence and Burke landed another penalty to give the 8,000 Memorial Ground crowd something to shout about.

After 37 minutes they were in ecstasy as the flanker Craig Short claimed a try after his pack drove away from a line-out. Burke converted and Bristol found themselves leading 13-5 at half-time. The euphoria was short-lived however as the second half opened with a successful penalty by Kellard and a spectacular solo try by Guscott after 44 minutes.

Put away through a gap just within his own half he dummied inside before scorching outside two defenders to score in the corner. Callard converted from the touchline and added a 55th-minute penalty, as Bath held out against a late Bristol onslaught.

The last five minutes were frantic as Bristol, pressing home their scrummage advantage on the Bath pack, eventually forced their opponents to concede a penalty. But, instead of opting for a put-in right on the Bath line, they chose to tap and run.

The ball was eventually flung across to the right where the England wing Jon Sleightholme snapped up the bouncing ball and hared off towards the Bristol posts. He was finally hauled down by Kevin Maggs and Bristol were left scrambling back upfield to score the try that might have turned the game. Instead, it was Bath who finished on top yet again.

Bristol: P Hull; B Breeze, M Denney, F Waters, K Maggs; P Burke, R Jones; D Hinkins, M Regan, K Fulman, S Shaw, C Eagle, M Corry (capt), E Rollitt, C Short.

Bath: J Callard; J Sleightholme, P de Glanville (capt), J Guscott, M Perry; M Catt, C Harrison; K. Yates, F Mendez, J Mallett, M Haag, N Redman, A Robinson, D Lyle, R Webster.

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).

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