Rugby Union: Guscott's relief for Robinson: Bath 44 Cardiff 32

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IN ANOTHER era, and in markedly different circumstances, a game between Bath and Cardiff, two of the aristocrats of the British game, would be something to savour. But such are the problems being experienced by both clubs that there was little of the pulsing expectation that one would expect before a meeting between these giants; even though the Recreation Ground was jammed to overflowing well before the delayed start

Since they lost at Cardiff 24-3 in October, Bath have slipped off their pedestal and they have lost seven of their last 10 Allied Dunbar Premiership games; the most recent at Wasps by an unprecedented 35-0. So Andy Robinson's side were in desperate need of something to restore their confidence. It would unquestionably be of help to the beleaguered Robinson if the restoration of some self-respect among his charges were to make his position as director of rugby less open to question.

All this is of little interest to Cardiff, who have exacerbated their dispute with the Welsh Rugby Union by searching around for an English club to buy, so they can play in the Premiership next season. So what should have been a game capable of standing alone as a glamorous occasion was shrouded in the uncertainty which has bedevilled the British game these past months.

In their pomp Bath would never have squandered a lead of 20 points; especially on their own patch. But this is not the Bath of old, any more than this is a Cardiff team of the best vintage. Matt Perry, coming in at outside-half for the injured Mike Catt, had banged over a couple of penalties and converted a try scored by Eric Peters, before we got a glimpse of Bath at their most convincing. Kevin Maggs made a devastating break and Jeremy Guscott finished it off for the try.

From there, Bath did not exactly regress, but they most certainly let Cardiff back into the game. Lee Jarvis converted his own try and kicked a penalty to make it 20-10 at the break. Gareth Cooper increased Bath's lead with a neat try, but Mike Hall pegged Bath back with a try before Adedayo Adebayo countered with a try which Perry converted to make it 32-18. Although Liam Botham crossed twice, further tries by Adebayo and Mike Tindall made the game safe for Bath in a frenetic final quarter, as Cardiff threw everything at the home defence in a bid to make Bath pay for their earlier largesse.

Bath: I Balshaw; M Tindall, K Maggs, J Guscott (T Adebayo 76), A Adebayo; M Perry, G Cooper; D Hilton (K Yates 67), A Long (M Regan 67), V Ubogu, S Borthwick, N Redman, R Earnshaw, E Peters (capt, R Webster 76), D Lyle

Cardiff: M Rayer (C Morgan 76); S Hill, L Davies, M Hall (M Witle 72), L Botham; L Jarvis, R Howley (capt, M Williams 40); S John, P Young, L Mustoe (A Lewis 70), S Moore (K Stewart 64), J Tait, O Williams, D Baugh (S Williams 40), G Kacala.

Referee: F Howard (St Helens)