Barkley pulls strings to help Bath sew up fourth place

Bath 39 Leeds 3: Steve Meehan's team complete their remarkable rise up the table to set up a semi-final at Leicester

Bath gathered their entire squad and back-room staff into a mega-huddle of joy after charging into the Guinness Premiership play-offs. The only fly in the ointment – and it was debatable whether the head coach, Steve Meehan, pointed this out as he addressed his troops – was that the only team Bath have failed to beat in the run of 11 wins in 12 matches which secured them fourth place is the one they must play away in the semi- finals next Sunday: Leicester.

It has been a remarkable rise from second-bottom to qualifying for the title shootout in four months although, in truth, Bath were always in a false position. This is their third successive top-four finish. The return from injury of three key players, Olly Barkley, Butch James and Lee Mears, has been one factor; Luke Watson's arrival from South Africa in November was another, in the general shakedown after the five players tainted by last summer's drugs scandal had departed. Then there was the extra leeway afforded by referees at the breakdown in recent weeks, though at its apotheosis, Bath's style is all about passing before contact.

The only question yesterday was how much contact Bath would encounter from a Leeds side who had made themselves safe from relegation. It might be guessed the answer was "not much" when Bath led 17-0 by half-time. True, it took the home side 20 minutes to score – and they were facing 14 men by then, as Leeds's venerable scrum-half, Andy Gomarsall, was in the sin-bin for preventing Michael Claassens' quick tap – but that was due mainly to a series of loose passes as Bath sought the open spaces. In the end it was a straightforward move from a scrum which did the trick, Shontayne Hape running a decoy while Claassens and Olly Barkley fed the scorer, Nick Abendanon, who beat Richard Welding's tackle.

Unfortunately, Mears, who will be hoping to reclaim his England hooking spot on the summer tour of Australia and New Zealand, was already out of the fray, with what Meehan called "a bang on the ribs". Abendanon would score again after 60 minutes, by which time Bath were 34-3 ahead and cantering. They were inconvenienced three times when the television match official turned down tries but they finished with five, four of them shared by Abendanon and his fellow outside backs, Matt Banahan and Joe Maddock.

Barkley converted Abendanon's first try and accumulated 14 points with the boot, as well as providing a lovely offload for Banahan's try in the 58th minute. There was a Barkley penalty for offside after 27 minutes, then Watson at the base of a scrum set Claassens free on the short side for an easy – too easy – break on a wide arc past the fly-half Ceiron Thomas for Bath's second try. It was converted by Barkley, another hot tip to tour with England.

It was all rather festive, which was just as well for the dozens of souls who watched the action on a large screen on the cricket field in the chilly drizzle, screened from the rugby pitch by one of the stands. A slightly odd way to consume your live rugby.

Bath's new owner, Bruce Craig, is said to be none too fond of the limelight and he did not join the parade after the final whistle. Before that, Barkley and Thomas swapped penalties in the first seven minutes of the second period for Bath to lead 20-3 but the half was mostly a wave of home attacks, now towards the posh seats which could fall to the Rec wrecking ball if Craig's grand plans for a new stadium and training centre come off.

Leeds's current suffix has been particularly apt in their successful campaign for survival. Dale Carnegie knew how to win friends and influence people and Leeds's coaches, Andy Key and Neil Back, have earned the admiration of many an observer. Here they ended up with a back division of all-sorts and a front row easily dealt with by Dave Flatman, back after missing four matches with an arm injury, and friends. Joe Maddock, who is leaving Bath in the summer, finished the scoring with six minutes remaining after a move of many passes, the most lavish of which being Claassens' back-handed one.

"We were tense and uptight when we lost at Leicester at the beginning of April," said Meehan. "We want to go up this time and play to our potential."

Bath N Abendanon; J Maddock, S Hape, O Barkley, M Banahan; B James (R Davis, 62), M Claassens (capt); D Flatman (N Catt, 68), L Mears (P Dixon, 11), D Wilson (A Jarvis, 68), S Hooper (P Short, 51), D Grewcock, A Beattie, L Watson, J Salvi.

Leeds Carnegie J Goodridge; R Welding (H Paul, 22-30; J Ford, 68), L Burrell, S Rabeni, L Blackett (Paul, 75); C Thomas, A Gomarsall (S Mathie, 45); M MacDonald, A Titterrell, J F Gomez (P Swainston, 17; A Moreno, 79), E Lund, M Wentzel (capt), K Myall, A To'oala (T Denton, 51), R Oakley (J Pendlebury, 65).

Referee M Fox (Leicestershire; D Rose, Warwickshire, 32).

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam