Barkley's boot makes up for lack of cutting edge

Bath 39 Bourgoin 12
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The Independent Online

Bourgoin arrived with a questionable reputation - third in the French Championship last season but virtual no-shows in Europe, and without their suspended captain, Julien Bonnaire, after an all-in brawl in the French Championship against Agen earlier this month. They had three other forwards injured, including the France lock Pascal Papé. Yet they frustrated Bath for a long time.

Strangely for a front five who might, given a particular chain of events, line up for England against Australia on Saturday week - Duncan Bell is on standby, the other four are in the squad of 30 - Bath soon got stuck in a rut in the scrum. Olivier Milloud, on the loose-head side for Bourgoin, had a lot to do with that. Stevens and Lee Mears, loose-head and hooker respectively for Bath, had a prolonged chinwag after one early scrum penalty was conceded. Alexandre Péclier, the visiting full-back, hit a post with the resulting kick but collected three penalty goals before the interval.

Bourgoin tended to rally around the no-nonsense charges of their No 8, Wessel Jooste, but the South African began limping towards the end of the first half and Bourgoin were inconvenienced further by a yellow card to their centre, Jean-François Coux, for being about five metres offside in the defensive line.

While their opponents were down to 14 men, Bath scored the only try of the half. Péclier was part charged down by Chris Malone and the counterattack gathered impetus with a rapid transference between Martyn Wood, James Scaysbrook and Olly Barkley. Ultimately, Lee Best slipped a scoring inside pass out of the tackle to his captain, Steve Borthwick.

Barkley converted, having landed three penalties between the 12th and 34th minutes. The Bath centre was called up by England in midweek and his technique was scrutinised from the touchline by the national team's kicking coach, Dave Alred.

Barkley potted seven from nine, and said: "I've gone back to my own style of kicking. Dave has been an enormous help; he recognised that, in his words, I was 'fatigued as a kicker'. When that happens you tend to lash it rather than keep your composure. I don't think I'm playing overly well but I've progressed from the schoolboy displays at the start of the season."

Bath led 16-9 at the interval, but the numbers game in open play too often boiled down to a baffling use of a tight forward. Clearly, there is a role for muscle but not when it involves the likes of Stevens putting down one pass after another. If England, whose head coach, Andy Robinson, is clearly keen on the present servants of his old club, play like this in the next few weeks they will be roundly stuffed.

Benjamin Boyet put over a penalty for Bourgoin in the 52nd minute, having previously hit the bar, but his side ran out of puff and Bath took advantage. Ryan Davis's break paved the way for Stevens to crash over, then, after a penalty by Barkley, there was a charge off a maul by Michael Lipman which allowed Grewcock and Barkley to send Hudson in. And Grewcock backed himself to hold off the tackle of Anthony Forest for the crucial fourth Bath try and clear leadership of Pool Five.

Bath: L Best (A Williams, 78); S Finau, T Cheeseman, O Barkley, F Welsh; C Malone (R Davis, 48), M Wood; M Stevens, L Mears (P Dixon, 67), D Bell (C Loader, 78), S Borthwick (capt; J Hudson, 75), D Grewcock, A Beattie (M Lipman, 60), G Delve (I Fea'unati, 57), J Scaysbrook.

Bourgoin: A Péclier (A Forest, 62); D Janin, J-F Coux (I Giorgadze, 62), G Davis, N Carmona; B Boyet, M Forest (capt); O Milloud, B Cabello, P Peyron (P Cardinali, 53), J Pierre, C del Fava (A Mazel, 53), A Diotallevi, W Jooste, L Baluc-Rittener (B Monzeglio, 53).

Referee: N Owens (Wales).