Beattie puts Bath on edge of glory

Bath 41 Gloucester 7
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The Independent Online

Bath, who have led the Zurich Premiership from day one back in the mists of September, deservedly finished top of the pile but are not yet officially allowed to sing "We Are The Champions", although they played the song anyway. It would have been fitting had they received the trophy here but that, of course, would have been far too simple.

Bath, who have led the Zurich Premiership from day one back in the mists of September, deservedly finished top of the pile but are not yet officially allowed to sing "We Are The Champions", although they played the song anyway. It would have been fitting had they received the trophy here but that, of course, would have been far too simple.

The agony is unnecessarily prolonged and Bath have to wait for the final on 29 May at Twickenham, where they will meet the winners of the play-off between second and third, Wasps and Northampton. Gloucester, who were taken apart yesterday, know the feeling. Twelve months ago, when Bath were at the opposite end of the table, Gloucester won the Premiership by a mile and had three weeks to wait before meeting Wasps, who proceeded to run them into the ground at Twickenham. This time Bath do not intend to make the same mistake. They are trying to arrange a fixture against overseas opposition before the end of the month.

The regular season may be over but nothing, apart from Rotherham's relegation, has been resolved. Bath are as ignorant of the destiny of the championship as they are of their future at a ground where they need planning permission to cough. For Bath, who crushed Gloucester by three goals, a try and five penalties to a goal, there was an emotional farewell from Mike Catt, who came on in the 71st minute for the injured Matt Perry. "They offered me a deal but we couldn't come to terms,'' the England World Cup winner said.

It is understood that Catt, who is joining London Irish, was offered £20,000 and £2,000 a match. "I've had 10 happy years here and I've played with the best,'' Catt said. "Much has been made of the fact that I've only played seven or eight games for Bath this season but had I not been in the World Cup I would have been available for 22. I've still got so much to offer.'' Andrew Brownsword, the chief executive, said: "Our squad is sensibly restricted by a salary cap and the debate over who stays, who goes and who comes has to be managed within the limit.''

Of more concern to Brownsword, who effectively owns the club, is whether Bath will continue to play at the Rec. They lease the ground from a charity commission. "We cannot plan effectively for next season,'' he said. "We want to stay and play on the Rec with a new horseshoe arena that would enhance the environment and provide the right facilities for our supporters. At least we know the original lease is robust. We were granted permission for today's game.'' The last remark, of course, was heavily laced with sarcasm. If Bath could develop the ground they could sell another 6,000 tickets without trying.

Such is the spirit in the Bath team that they could afford to leave out Olly Barkley, their leading points scorer, and leave Catt on the bench. It was Chris Malone, preferred to Barkley at stand-off, who kicked his side into a 12-0 lead at half time with four penalties and by the time Catt came on for the unfortunate Perry, to a tremendous ovation, Bath had the match in their pocket. A highlight of a gruesome first half was a fight between the hookers, Jonathan Humphreys and Chris Fortey, which provided an example of the spirit in which the game was played. It was off the ball but on the boil and Malone's goal kicking was a softening-up process on Gloucester, who had an even worse second half, during which they conceded four tries.

The first came when they haplessly conceded a line-out and although Wylie Human was held on the left Bath, as they had for most of the afternoon, regained possession and the bullocking runs of Danny Grewcock and Andy Beattie were too much for the Gloucester defence, the latter crashing over. No sooner had Lee Mears come on for Humphreys than the replacement hooker took a short, sharp pass from the scrum-half Martyn Wood to surge over at the posts.

By now Gloucester, who go into the Wildcard play-offs in an attempt to secure a place in next season's Heineken Cup, were not even playing with a degree of pride. When Henry Paul, who had a miserable time of it - he missed two first-half penalties - threw out a long pass, it was intercepted by Beattie, who galloped into the Gloucester 22 before releasing Human, who crossed at the posts. It was of human interest as the wing is also leaving the club.

Gloucester finally got on the scoreboard when their replacement hooker, Delarey du Preez, got a try in the 79th minute but their day was summed up when, from the resultant kick off, Alex Crockett stole the ball from under the nose of du Preez and helped himself to Bath's fourth try. They earned a bonus point which was about as relevant as a blush on a dead man's face.

Bath 41
Tries: Beattie, Mears, Human, Crockett
Cons: Malone 3
Pens: Malone 5

Gloucester 7
Try: Du Preez
Con: Paul

Half-time: 12-0 Attendance: 9,980

Bath: M Perry (M Catt, 71); A Higgins (A Crockett, 77), R Fleck, S Davey, W Human; C Malone, M Wood (R Blake, 77); D Barnes (D Flatman, 57), J Humphreys (capt, L Mears, 60), D Bell, S Borthwick (R Fidler, 69), D Grewcock, A Beattie, I Feaunati, M Lipman (J Scaysbrook, 77).

Gloucester: J Goodridge; M Garvey, T Fanolua, H Paul, J Simpson-Daniel; D McRae, A Gomarsall (S Amor, 69); T Woodman, C Fortey (D du Preez, 69), A Deacon, M Cornwell (A Eustace, 69), A Brown, J Boer (capt), J Paramore (A Hazell, 40), P Buxton.

Referee: S Lander (Merseyside).

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