Rugby Union: Warren's warning

Bedford 17 Bath 30
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The Independent Online
IN THEIR efforts to attract 6,000 souls they say will make professional rugby viable, Bedford had at least some good news yesterday; for the first time this season, their owner Frank Warren was available to make his own contribution towards swelling the attendance.

Just how long the boxing promoter's financial contribution will continue is uncertain, though, as he believes Premiership survival to be a pre-requisite of continuing full-time existence.

Given that he has already courted Cardiff, discussed a merger with Saracens and held talks with a local consortium, Warren does not seem to rate their chances too highly. He may well be right, but Bedford will not fail for any lack of heart or commitment.

Bath, still convalescent rather than resurgent, looked set to continue their rehabilitation in recording a third successive league win when they scored after five minutes, but their hosts were unlucky not to be level at the break instead of an insurmountable 12 points adrift.

Ian Balshaw gave the visitors the lead with their first serious attack. Rory Underwood failed to deal with Jeremy Guscott's chip ahead and when the ball was recycled, Matt Perry gave Balshaw the space to score. Mike Catt, whose slashing break had created the original platform, converted.

But Balshaw, who appeared to have both time and room, crossed the line carrying two defenders, which showed that the home side were not about to roll over. And although a Catt penalty extended the lead, Bedford responded with a try of their own on the half-hour.

Catt's kick-out on the full gave them an attacking line-out and when Jason Forster battered his way to the threshold of the line, a quick transfer sent Alastair Murdoch in on the left.

Within minutes, Forster was again on the charge, this time creating an opening for Richard Elliott. The scrum-half was held just short and Bedford's disappointment at failing to capitalise on an ensuing string of scrums was compounded by the final act of the half.

Breaks by Abedayo Adebayo and Balshaw forced Bedford to concede a five- metre scrum. That created an overlap but a deliberate knock-on prevented them from using it. Referee Nigel Yates had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try.

Chances were far harder to come by after the break and although Bedford lock Dan Zaltzman drove over in reply to a Catt penalty, the Bath stand-off's boot and an Adebayo interception try pulled the visitors clear before Elliott scrambled over with an injury-time consolation for the Blues.

Bedford: B Whetstone (S Howard, 50); R Underwood, A Murdoch (capt), D Harris, D O'Mahony; T Yapp, R Elliott; C Boyd, J Richards, V Hartland (A Ozdemir, 70), D Zaltzman, S Murray, J Cockle, J Paramore, J Forster.

Bath: M Perry; I Balshaw, K Maggs, J Guscott, A Adebayo, M Catt, S Hatley (A Gomarsall, 74); D Hilton, M Regan, V Ubogu, M Haag, S Borthwick, R Earnshaw, D Lyle, R Webster (capt), E Peters.

Referee: N Yates (Cheshire).