Barkley's sore point for Bath

Bath 47 - Treviso 7
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The Independent Online

Bath, more depleted than uranium but equally as dangerous, are not yet dead in the murky waters of Pool Two. They avenged last week's shocking defeat in Italy and earned a precious bonus point in the process. Anything less and they would have kissed goodbye to their chances of surviving to the knock-out stages.

Bath, more depleted than uranium but equally as dangerous, are not yet dead in the murky waters of Pool Two. They avenged last week's shocking defeat in Italy and earned a precious bonus point in the process. Anything less and they would have kissed goodbye to their chances of surviving to the knock-out stages.

As it is they have to beat Leinster, the runaway leaders of the group, at The Rec by a convincing margin early in the new year and do the same to Bourgoin in France to stand an earthly of qualifying. That is, if they can field a squad.

Yesterday Bath, the champions of Europe in 1998, could field only six replacements instead of seven as they had 13 players injured. All six subs were used as Bath, displaying a huge measure of pride, overpowered Treviso by five goals and four penalties to a goal. All things considered it was a commendable performance.

The jokers in this pack have been Bourgoin, whose dramatic changes in appearance would make a chameleon blush. After putting up a decent display here in round one when they lost 22-12 there were demands for rugby's equivalent of a steward's inquiry after the French club were defeated 34-0 at home to Treviso and 92-17 to Leinster in Dublin.

Bath have crossed European Rugby Cup Ltd off their Christmas card list, not just because of Bourgoin's Jekyll and Hyde past, particularly in their fielding of weakened teams, but at the limit of a 34 man squad. Players who are not registered for Europe cannot appear - under any circumstances.

On Friday night Bourgoin, who are second in the French Championship, lost to Leinster only 26-23, clearly fielding a much stronger side than the one that had been demolished in Ireland. "I can understand why they do it," John Connolly, the Bath coach who used to work in France, said. "Bourgoin have a limited budget. They have decided to focus on the French Championship. In the league you have your well-off sides and your less well-off. Bourgoin are the latter and there is a huge drop in class between their first string and their second string and that is why they get smashed."

Yesterday Treviso played their strongest hand and got smashed because Bath's hotchpotch of regulars, irregulars and what remains of the walking wounded refused to accept they are drinking in the Heineken's last-chance saloon.

Olly Barkley, playing at full-back, landed nine kicks out of nine for 22 points although it was his opposite number, Brendan Williams, an Australian sevens specialist, who gave the astounding attacking display. Williams' jinking and running often bemused Bath but unfortunately it had the same effect on his team-mates, who could not offer him the support he deserved.

After Barkley kicked his side into an early lead, they set about getting the tries they needed. The first came after 18 minutes when Chris Malone sent Andrew Higgins in for a try at the posts and the second was scored by Andy Beattie, standing in as captain, from an unstoppable maul.

The match descended into pantomime when Treviso, going for a pushover try, were awarded a penalty try, the French referee Franck Maciello ruling that Bath had deliberately collapsed a scrum. It was the signal for a mass punch-up and when the dust had settled the principal protagonists, the hookers Lee Mears and Fabio Ongaro, were dispatched to the sin-bin.

Leading 23-7 at the break, Bath needed two more tries to secure a bonus point and they got them within 12 minutes of the re-start. Their third arrived when a bizarre rebound from what was supposed to be a pass from Malone rolled to Rob Fidler, who was as stunned to receive possession in midfield as everybody else in the ground. Nevertheless, the lock entertained the audience to a rare performance of Fidler on the hoof by selling a marvellous dummy before galloping over.

Michael Lipman got Bath's fourth try which earned them the extra point and in injury time Duncan Bell, on as a replacement, bulldozed his way over for try number five.

In between there was more from the panto season when Alvaro Tejeda, who had come into the Treviso front row after Ongaro's expulsion, also received a yellow card and trooped off early in the second half, leaving the Treviso scrum in utter turmoil.

By the 71st minute Bath had nobody left on the bench and were fortunate to finish with 15 players on the pitch. "Perhaps European rugby should look into the situation that anyone registered on a club's books by July should be allowed to play in the Heineken Cup," Connolly said. "I understand the restrictions. They want to stop an influx of southern hemisphere players into the competition but injuries are taking their toll."

Bath: O Barkley; A Higgins, A Crockett, Davey (M Baxter, 53), B Daniel; C Malone, N Walshe (J Scaysbrook, 60); D Barnes (L Ovens, 71), L Mears, M Stevens (D Bell, 71), J Hudson, R Fidler (S Borthwick, 60), A Beattie (capt; D Ward, 71), G Lewis, M Lipman.

Treviso: B Williams; T Visentin (S Legg, 58), W Pozzebon (S Piccone, 47), M Goosen, G Canale; F Smith, A Troncon (capt); G Faliva (F Sbaraglini, 67), F Ongaro, S Costanzo (J Mauro, 40), G Klerck, A Gritti (S Parisse, 47), E Pavanello (A Tajeda, 40), S Palmer (D Dal Maso, 68), S Orlando.

Referee: F Maciello (France).

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