Barkley's switch to the centre bears fruit for Bath

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The Independent Online

Phil Davies, the Leeds Tykes director of rugby, was understandably upset after his side fell to a last-minute, 30-28 defeat to Bath at Headingley. The two sides shared six tries in an entertaining game.

Phil Davies, the Leeds Tykes director of rugby, was understandably upset after his side fell to a last-minute, 30-28 defeat to Bath at Headingley. The two sides shared six tries in an entertaining game.

"With 40 seconds to go we should have shown more control," said Davies, who saw Olly Barkley, who seems to have slipped in the race for the England No 10 shirt and was playing in the centre in place of the absent Mike Tindall, nip over for the deciding score late in Friday night's game. "We did really well to get to 28-20 in front but we were very disappointing from then on. It's really frustrating but at least we got a bonus point. There are some tough lessons to learn from this but we will go away and learn them."

Barkley's positional switch, with the Australian Chris Malone wearing the No 10 shirt, began as a matter of expediency but is proving a bonus for a depleted Bath squad.

"Last year we won 14 games by seven points or less, so I can honestly say I know how Phil Davies feels tonight," said Bath's director of rugby, John Connolly. "It was one of those games which I didn't think we were going to win but we came back really well at the end. Olly Barkley will keep getting better and better. He's getting more comfortable at inside-centre. He could be a fly-half or an inside-centre but we will be sticking with him at 12. He's bigger than you think, he's durable and courage is not a problem."

Some of the hits dealt to Barkley by a Leeds defence led by the flanker John Dunbar tested that theory to breaking point, but the 22-year-old absorbed the punishment and had enough to energy to skip through a number of tackles for the winning try.

Harlequins' chief executive, Mark Evans, refused to get carried away despite seeing his side pick up their second win in a row, against Sale at Edgeley Park.

Quins' 19-13 win was their first away this season - with their Irish fly-half Jeremy Staunton slotting four penalties out of four. "It wasn't much of a game for a number of reasons, but we won," said Evans. "I don't feel particularly buoyant about it. We are on 14 points and it's still a poor start. If we can win a third in a row, it will look a bit different than it did a few weeks ago."

Sale's head coach, Phillipe Saint-André, bemoaned the loss of his international players, including England's Jason Robinson, Charlie Hodgson, Mark Cueto, Andy Titterrell and Andy Sheridan, Scotland's Jason White and France's Sébastien Bruno.

"We missed 10 players today and still we should win against Harlequins who missed just one player," said the Frenchman. Sale were forced to play Byron Hayward, a 35-year-old signed from the amateurs of Ebbw Vale, at fly-half thanks to the absence of Hodgson and his deputy, the US Eagles No 10 Mike Hercus.

"When you lose your two first-choice loose-heads, your two hookers, your two number sixes, your two fly-halves, your captain, full-back and your wing, it's difficult," said Saint-André. "For next year, we will need a new strategy about international players."

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