Holt brings delight to Leeds as Bath lose way

Bath 6 - Leeds 10
Click to follow
The Independent Online

There are great escapes and great escapes, but the one Leeds completed here yesterday would have had Steve McQueen falling off his motorbike. Quite simply, Phil Davies' men were dead, and if Harlequins' downfall meant they weren't quite buried, they weren't to know that as dirt fell in all around them and the Bath forwards ground them down.

There are great escapes and great escapes, but the one Leeds completed here yesterday would have had Steve McQueen falling off his motorbike. Quite simply, Phil Davies' men were dead, and if Harlequins' downfall meant they weren't quite buried, they weren't to know that as dirt fell in all around them and the Bath forwards ground them down.

But with the home backs at their miserable worst, Leeds were somehow able to hang on in there and when Matt Holt was presented with one of his side's few chances in the final seconds of injury time the substitute prop wasn't about to turn down such an unlikely invitation. In doing so, he made it four wins out of the last four League games for Leeds, who kept believing in survival when all around had long left the operating theatre.

"The players have been magnificent over the last six weeks," said Davies, who will take the Powergen Cup winners into the Heineken Cup next season. "I'm going to have a few cold beers tonight to celebrate. I'll probably end up disgracing myself."

It would have taken a brave man to stop him, although if there was anyone about to try he would undoubtedly have snarled a West Country accent. The poor quality of the occasion might have hinted at tired Tykes legs, but Bath's were only leaden through a blatant lack of ambition. How they ever lost here to concede third place and a place in the Premiership semi-final will live a while in bitter memories, despite them scraping into next season's Heineken Cup.

Time after time the Bath forwards won decent ball and time after time it went hurtling towards the touchline instead of across the back line. Of course, with metronomes such as Chris Malone and Olly Barkley on your mantelpiece the score will always keep ticking along, the outside-half with a drop goal after 17 minutes, the English centre doubling the lead with a penalty before the break. The trouble was Bath were their usual one-dimensional selves. However, the Leeds attack appeared none-dimensional.

Missing the towering line-out presence of Tom Palmer, not to mention a scrummage which must have taken the wrong junction off the M1, the Tykes simply could not get hold of the ball. This was relegation form in all its glory.

Except, unbelievably, with 15 minutes remaining a game that had been weighted entirely to one side was still in the balance. Malone broke clear in the 66th minute, but he looked as surprised as everyone else when flinging a forward pass like a three-year-old might a hot potato. Eight minutes later, he was at it again, charging towards the line and taking the ball into the tackle when a pass outside had "try" written all over it.

Such mediocrity did not deserve it, but tension filled the old ground. Despite a Ross penalty as Bath were winding-up quicker than the stadium clock, there was still a palpable danger that the bonus point would be forsaken and Leeds might yet disappear through union's unkindest trap-door. Conversely, Bath were needing a win to further their Premiership final dreams, and when Barkley stood in front of the posts confronted by a penalty opportunity he could have backheeled over in his slippers, the contest was surely decided.

Was it hell. Olly got them in another fine mess with a scratch of his head and a snatch of his boot. Leeds got the ball upfield, Alan Dickens jinked and danced his way through the Bath defence and the ball was fed to Holt for a quite incredible win. They promised us drama. Boy, they made us wait.

Bath: M Perry; A Williams, T Cheeseman, O Barkley, F Welsh; C Malone, M Wood (N Walshe, 61); D Barnes, J Humphreys (L Mears, 30), D Bell, J Hudson, D Grewcock, G Lewis, J Scaysbrook, G Delve.

Leeds Tykes: D Albanese; A Snyman, P Christophers, C Bell, T Biggs; G Ross, A Dickens; M Shelley, M Regan (R Rawlinson, 56), G Kerr (M Holt, 46); S Hooper (capt), S Morgan; Rigney (J Dunbar, 65), R Parks (D Hyde, 46), A Popham.

Referee: S Lander (Cheshire).

Comments