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).

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kellie Bright as Linda Carter and Danny Dyer as Mick Carter

EastEnders Christmas specials are known for their shouty, over-the-top soap drama but tonight the show has done itself proud thanks to Danny Dyer.

Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Sport
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy
tvCall the Midwife Christmas Special
Sport
Laura Trott and Jason Kenny are preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there