Bath 28 Bristol 13: James's big impression has Regan lost for words

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The Independent Online

It is a fact of life that those admirable souls who habitually poke their heads above the parapet occasionally get them shot off. Mark Regan, the Bristol hooker, played a full part in helping England reach an unlikely World Cup final last month.

On Saturday, though, after a single trademark rutting jut of the chin at a scrum he fell as quiet as a church mouse. Bath – as Regan himself might say – did a job on him and the Bristol pack. "I have never known Ronnie be less vociferous," Steve Borthwick, the Bath captain and line-out king, said, measuredly.

Regan was a squad-mate of Borthwick's during England's French odyssey and they used to be colleagues at Bath too. Borthwick was not interested in rubbing in this three tries to one derby victory – well, perhaps he was, just a little – but it was his firm opinion that Bath's hooker, Lee Mears, and openside flanker, Michael Lipman, had run the forward show.

And then at fly-half there was Butch James, whom you will recall England last came across when losing 36-0 in the World Cup pool and 15-6 in the final, and who made a telling Premiership debut for Bath.

"Butch bossed the match for us," Borthwick said. "Like all the best players, he tends to do the simple things really, really well. The way he is during the week, the way he handles himself and talks to people, I've been hugely impressed by him, hugely. With Butch and the other players we have signed this year, we knew they were good players but they are also good men, they have fitted straight into the group."

This is the same Borthwick, remember, who finished last season at Bath's losing European Challenge Cup final, fiercely criticising the club's powers-that-be for a lack of investment in the squad.

Bristol admit they are spending more on training facilities than new players for the time being. Drained perhaps from beating Stade Français in the Heineken Cup the previous Sunday, they were driven on to the back foot by Bath's scrum and line-out, and by kicks from James which flopped accurately into the visitors' 22 like Tiger Woods bunker shots.

Bath fielded two recent signings at prop, Lorne Ward (a less well-known South African) and a Romanian replacement, Paulica Ion – hands up who had heard of him before now? – whose pass set off the third try in the 76th minute which swept across most of the field and was finished by the 6ft 7in wing, Matt Banahan.

After nine wins in 11 matches this season, the Rec crew are on the up; specifically, after this latest victory, to second in the Premiership table.

As for Banahan, a converted lock from Jersey who turns 21 next month, he is off now with England Sevens to the warmer climes of Dubai and South Africa: it will part the Sunshine Kid from Butch James for a fortnight.

"I hope Matt doesn't come back broken," said Steve Meehan, the Bath coach, urging a sensible workload. Used wisely by club and country, Banahan could be breaking opposition tackles for years.

Bath: Tries Higgins, Lipman, Banahan; Conversions Barkley 2; Penalties Barkley 3. Bristol: Try Lemi; Conversion Strange; Penalties Strange 2.

Bath: N Abendanon (M Stephenson, 79); A Higgins, S Berne (T Cheeseman, 78), O Barkley, M Banahan; B James, M Claassens (N Walshe, 78); M Stevens, L Mears (P Dixon, 79), L Ward (P Ion, 52), S Borthwick (capt), P Short, A Beattie (J Faamatuainu, 52), M Lipman, D Browne (J Scaysbrook, 76).

Bristol: L Arscott; L Robinson, R Higgitt, N Brew (D Hill, 56), D Lemi; J Strange (J Taumalolo, 71), S Perry (capt); A Clarke (D Crompton, 56), M Regan (D Blaney, 71), J Hobson, R Winters, S Hohneck, A Blowers, J el Abd (A To'oala, 50), D Ward-Smith.

Referee: W Barnes (London).

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