James turns screw on rock-bottom Bristol
Bath 45 Bristol 8
Sunday 08 March 2009
What began as a contest ended in something of a rout as Bath asserted their superiority at the set-piece, in the loose and out wide, in the process ending an unhappy little run that had seen them take two points from two matches.
Their hooker, Rob Hawkins, looked impressive, revealing confident hand-ling and comfortable running. Their fly-half, Butch James, was also in commanding form, collecting 15 points from six conversions and a penalty.
Bath, having slipped to sixth, needed a win with a bonus point, and the Kiwi wing Joe Maddock did his bit with two first-half tries, celebrating his 100th appearance in style. Bristol, however, defended bravely, keeping Bath out for more than half an hour after Maddock's sixth-minute try.
When the home side eventually collected their second score it owed a great deal to a patient build-up by the forwards, Hawkins and the prop David Barnes, as well as the back row, making a great deal of ground. That was followed by a muscular break from the wing Andrew Higgins which almost saw him to the line. Maddock picked up and powered over.
Before that, after 15 minutes, Bath had conceded a soft try when the Bristol wing Lee Robinson had won the chase to Shaun Perry's kick. Ed Barnes missed the conversion but then landed a penalty to give Bristol a taste of the lead. It was just a snifter, because two minutes later James kicked his penalty, and then came Maddock's second score.
Barnes missed a penalty early in the second half and a minute later Bath went further ahead when James, who had shown some stunning touches with hand and foot, pushed a grubber kick through for his captain, Alex Crockett, to touch down.
Then Bath really turned the screw. After putting the squeeze on Bristol – who had lost their replacement scrum-half, Haydn Thomas, to the sin-bin – at three successive scrums, the home team were eventually awarded a penalty try. A fifth five-pointer followed when the replacement No 8 Daniel Browne found himself with support outside and a dispirited defence. He sold a dummy and ran in unopposed. Then a blistering break by Nick Abendanon put Crockett over for his second try of the match.
Bristol's afternoon ended ignominiously, with Robinson being sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle on the Bath scrum-half, Scott Bemand.
Bath: J Maddock; A Higgins (N Abendanon, 54), A Crockett (capt), S Hape (S Berne, 61), M Banahan (M Baxter, 64); B James, S Bemand; D Barnes, R Hawkins (M Lilley, 74), D Bell (P Ion, 60), S Hooper, P Short, A Beattie, J Fa'amatuiainu (D Browne, 47), J Scaysbrook (C Goodman, 69).
Bristol: T Arscott; L Robinson, Neil Brew, L Eves (L Arscott, 60), Nathan Brew; E Barnes (C Ashwin, 72), S Perry (H Thomas, 50); M Irish, D Blaney (O Hayes, 19), D Crompton (W Thompson, 73), R Winters, N Budgett (D Attwood, 69), R Pennycook (A To'oala, 60), D Ward-Smith, J El Abd (capt).
Referee: D Rose (Warwickshire).
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