Rugby Union:Sharman provides spark

London Scottish 13 Bath 11
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THIS WAS something of a bloodless coup. There was no biting back. The Kevin Yates-Simon Fenn incident in the fourth-round Cup tie last season which saw the Bath man found guilty and banned for biting the London Scottish flanker's ear was left buried. A tatty piece of history.

Of far more significance was the beating of the Allied Dunbar Premiership leaders by London Scottish. Bath were lacklustre and lacking in ideas. The Exiles, bottom but one and with a solitary win to their name before this, were far more aggressive and deserving of victory. They defended like demons and attacked like Trojans. Bath were given more than six minutes of injury-time - in which Mike Catt fluffed two long-range penalties - to try to win but they failed.

The Bath coach Andy Robinson had delayed naming his side until the absolute deadline of 45 minutes before the game and, when it was published, Yates was at loose-head. But, true to their word, neither side was dwelling on the past, they had to concentrate on trying to keep the ball moving in atrocious conditions. Kicks needed to be route one to find touch, otherwise the moment the ball hit the deck it stayed there until a player was able to free it.

Not that they did much with it when they had it in their possession. The idea for much of the first half seemed to be hoof hopefully but, thankfully, Conan Sharman's eighth-minute try provided a bright spark early on. Scottish were in up-and-at-'em mode and, at times, Bath did not seem to know what had hit them. Some vigorous work up front brought the Exiles within striking distance. A scrum was won, the ball went to ground, was rucked back, and when Phil de Glanville appeared to miss his tackle on Ronnie Eriksson it gave Iain McAusland room to come into the line and send Sharman over.

McAusland converted and landed a penalty not long after. Bath hit back with two Catt penalties, but they looked stale and off the pace and Scottish went into the interval 10-6 ahead. They could have increased that lead soon after the restart but Jeremy Guscott fell on a through kick and the immediate danger was cleared.

Bath then began to assert themselves. The Exiles finally conceded a try when Andy Nicol, who had replaced the scrum-half Steve Hatley, got the vital touchdown close to the posts which nosed Bath in front. Unfortunately Catt missed the conversion and that proved costly because, when Bath were caught offside on their 22 shortly afterwards, McAusland had the luck of the devil - well it was Hallowe'en - as his penalty struck the left- hand upright, bounced on to the crossbar and flopped over.

London Scottish: I McAusland; K Milligan, R Davies, R Eriksson (J Bonney, 62-66), C Sharman (D Lee, 73); S Binns, G Easterby; P Johnstone (M MacDonald, 68), D Rudham (P Robertson, 25), P Burnell, E Jones (J Bonney, 80), M Watson (M McAtamney, 43), S Fenn, R Hunter (G Manson-Bishop, 65), S Holmes (capt).

Bath: M Perry; I Evans, P de Glanville (K Maggs, 73), J Guscott, A Adebayo; M Catt, S Hatley (A Nicol, 45); K Yates (D Hilton, 73), M Regan, V Ubogu, M Haag, N Redman, N Thomas, E Peters, R Webster (capt).

Referee: S Savage (Nuneaton).