PriSing the Courage League trophy from Bath is proving more difficult than people imagined a few weeks ago when the West Country club was torn by rancour and self-doubt.
Their phenomenal powers of recovery may not be enough to deny Wasps the title but Bath are determined to be in the reckoning, lying in wait for the slightest stumble from the Londoners, who face Sale today and still have tricky visits to Northampton and Harlequins.
After the intensity of last weekend's destruction of Leicester, the visit of the bottom club Orrell was always going to bring a sense of anti-climax to the occasion yesterday. Bath were in front after just three minutes but the try was a strange affair, most players waiting for the whistle after an apparent knock-on by Mike Catt. The only one who did not was Jon Callard, standing in as skipper for the injured Phil de Glanville and alert enough to hack on the loose ball to score by the posts. Catt added the conversion and went on to give a superb display of goal-kicking.
A chilly wind seemed to dull Bath's senses and the backs struggled to find any fluency among themselves or gaps in Orrell's defence. It was left to Bath's forwards to end a tedious opening quarter by driving away from a line-out to set up a try under the posts for the Scottish flanker Eric Peters, back in the side after several weeks' absence with a broken thumb.
With relegation beckoning, Orrell could have done without Matthew McCarthy fluffing two easy kicks. Bath were in a generous mood, however, and in the 35th minute the Orrell skipper Dave Lyon broke through a clutch of players and raced 40 metres for a try, which was converted by Rob Hitchmough.
That soft try stirred up the home side, who responded with scores either side of half-time. The Orrell cover was stretched so far that Federico Mendez was able to burst through, and immediately after the restart Peters claimed his second. He owed it to the determination of Catt, who burst away from a tap penalty and fed his team-mate when tackled short of the line.
Catt, unlucky not to make the Lions squad, also converted a pushover try from Steve Ojomoh on 52 minutes. That put Bath 35-7 ahead and prompted a string of substitutions: Chris Horsman for John Mallett, Brian Cusack for German Llanes and Richard Butland for Jeremy Guscott. But while Bath were rearranging themselves, the Lancashire side finished off a spell of pressure with a try for Guy Hope. Hitchmough added the points again.
Bath sauntered through the last quarter but roused themselves in injury time when Adedayo Adebayo grabbed a richly deserved score in the corner from a scrum, when Ojomoh and yet another substitute, scrum-half Charlie Harrison, created the opening.
Bath: J Callard; J Sleightholme, M Perry, J Guscott, A Adebayo; M Catt, A Nicol; K Yates, F Mendez, J Mallett, M Haag, G Llanes, R Webster, E Peters, S Ojomoh.
Orrell: D Lyon; J Naylor, L Tuigamala, G Hope, R Hitchmough; M McCarthy, R Saverimutto; M Worsley, A Moffat, S Turner, P Rees, C Cusani, A Bennett, R Higgs, P Anglesea.
Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).Reuse content