Catt gives Bath shove in the right direction

Bath 30 London Irish 3

The Recreation Ground

There was a time, not so very long ago, when Nathan Catt was the talk of the coaching community. "He will, without a shadow of a doubt, play for England," Rob Andrew predicted shortly after moving to Twickenham as director of elite rugby in 2006, when the loose-head prop was still in his teens and tripping the light fantastic with his ultra-modern all-court game. Since then... nothing much. Certainly not a cap. Over recent seasons, Catt has become a sporting yeti: often talked about, seldom seen.

At the Recreation Ground yesterday, London Irish saw far too much of him for comfort. The Exiles tend not to lose heavily at Premiership level – indeed, their ability to minimise the impact of defeat by securing losing bonus points has been central to their operation for some years – but Catt and his fellow tight forwards denied them so much as a half-chance of taking something tangible from this game.

Catt was off the field when the Bath pack drove the visitors' scrum backwards into penalty-try territory with five minutes left on the clock, but the foundations had been laid, the real damage done, long before that final scoring act. He hurt the Exiles at the set-piece – no mean feat against an opponent as capable of the Romanian prop Paulica Ion, one of the outstanding tight-head specialists at the recent World Cup – and dished out double helpings of pain around the field. At one point in the first half, he helped his side secure a strike against the head before going within inches of scoring from the ensuing attack.

Quite why he has waited this long to start throwing his weight around is something of a mystery, although there was once some talk among the West Country cognoscenti that he was rather too aware of his own talent: hence, perhaps, the comment of a Bath elder who, presenting the youngster with the "most improved player of the year" gong a couple of seasons back, pointed out that the award's title might indicate that he had been "complete crap" at the start of the campaign.

No one could question the quality of his performance here, however, and while Catt has been overtaken in the representative pecking order by Alex Corbisiero, his opposite number yesterday, and the much-admired Joe Marler of Harlequins, a month's worth of displays like this will see him recover much of the lost ground.

While Catt was setting the tone up front with some fierce driving in open field – one of his more spectacular surges presented outside-half Stephen Donald with his third penalty just past the hour mark – Michael Claassens was enjoying himself mightily at the heels of a rampant pack. Bath were 13-3 up, thanks to Donald's marksmanship and a close-range finish from Catt's fellow prop, Anthony Perenise, when the Exiles midfielder Adrian Jarvis kicked fractionally too widely into the Bath 22 and allowed Nick Abendaon to gather on the run, skin Tom Homer and free Tom Biggs up the left. Claassens picked the perfect supporting line, took a well-timed pass and completed a fine game-breaking try in the corner.

Abendanon might have scored himself a couple of minutes later after Biggs' heavy hit on Matt Garvey produced the kind of turnover ball craved by all fleet-footed full-backs. As it was, the Bath man was run down five metres short by Delon Armitage, who owed his colleagues a favour or two after contributing handsomely to Perenise's 14th-minute try by making a profoundly ugly hash of a clearance kick. Unfortunately for Armitage, he followed up his try-saving tackle by clattering Claassens with an illegal one and spent the remainder of the contest in the cooler.

It is now something of an event if the England back negotiates an entire game without being shown a card of one colour or another.

"It's disappointing," acknowledged Toby Booth, the Exiles head coach, through gritted teeth when asked about Armitage's latest brush with rugby law. "What happened out there had no bearing on the outcome of the game, but it's not helpful in the long term, that's for certain."

Armitage can expect to receive an Apollo-sized rocket when he and his clubmates gather to analyse the tape of this painful defeat. Bath, on the other hand, will keep the match footage on DVD and send out copies as Christmas presents in 11 months' time.

"We've been looking for consistency and we saw some today," the director of rugby, Sir Ian McGeechan, said. "I'm particularly pleased with the way the forwards went, because it's the forwards who allow the half-backs to play. We had eight ball-carriers out there, not two or three, and that makes the game a little easier."

Easy victories over London Irish are as rare as hen's teeth. It is far too soon for Bath to start crowing but, as McGeechan pointed out with a grin, they can at least say they are unbeaten in 2012.

Scorers: Bath: Tries Perenise, Claassens, penalty try Conversions Donald 3 Penalties: Donald 3 London Irish: Penalty Homer.

Bath N Abendanon; O Woodburn (K Eastmond, 65), M Carraro, M Banahan, T Biggs; S Donald, M Claassens; N Catt (C Beech, 63), R Batty, A Perenise (D Wilson, 57), D Attwood, R Caldwell, A Beattie (B Skirving, 61), F Louw (capt), S Taylor.

London Irish: D Armitage; T Homer (A Thompstone, 77), J Ansbro (A Jarvis, 55), S Hape, T Ojo; S Shingler, D Allinson (P Hodgon, 63); A Corbisiero (C Dermody, 54), J Buckland (D Paice, 54), P Ion (M Lahiff, 63), N Kennedy, B Evans, D Danaher (capt), J Gibson (A Gray, 65), R Thorpe (M Garvey, 33).

Referee M Fox (Leicestershire).

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
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

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home