New improved Grewcock echoes past greatness

Bath 39 Bourgoin 12
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The Independent Online

Wrong on both counts, it transpires. Connolly says he is very definitely heading back to Queensland over the next few days, although he may well resurface at the Recreation Ground sooner rather than later. As for Welsh, the West Country club have no intention of releasing him a day earlier than necessary, despite the things they are saying down Pretoria way. Why would they? The man is playing out of his socks.

More importantly, a third myth was exploded during the course of Saturday's thoroughly convincing four-try ravaging of a side good enough to have won six of their opening nine games in the French domestic championship: the one that paints Bath as a blacker than black, forward-obsessed, route-one bunch of rugger-thugs who possess neither the desire or the expertise to stretch their game beyond the bog-standard disciplines of scrum, line-out, ruck and maul. At the weekend, the 1998 champions produced some terrific stuff, and the fact that all four of their tries were scored by tight forwards did not detract one iota from their sense of adventure.

This was not a new Bath; rather, their performance was eerily reminiscent of some of those that marked the high points of the golden era that ended a decade ago, when they habitually softened up opponents in the first hour of a contest before letting rip in the last 20. The John Halls and Nigel Redmans - and, yes, the Andy Robinsons - would have recognised the magnificence of Danny Grewcock's all-round contribution, of Andy Beattie's rugged display in the enforcer's role, of Matt Stevens' potent ball-carrying in the heavy traffic. They would have enjoyed it, too, blood being thicker than water.

Last season, Bourgoin shamed themselves and the tournament by sacrificing their European ambitions in an effort to maximise their fortunes in Le Championnat; indeed, their couldn't-care-less performances against Treviso at home and Leinster in Dublin were a stain on the good name of professional club rugby.

They had, however, given it a proper go against Bath in the opening round of that competition, and were similarly gung-ho on their return to the Georgian city. It is inconceivable that the likes of Benôit Cabello and Wessel Jooste could work as hard as this without giving a damn.

In fact, Bourgoin were still in the shake-up at 16-12 with less than a quarter of an hour left on the clock, but Bath, with Olly Barkley operating with considerable class at outside-half after shifting from inside centre to cover for the stricken Chris Malone, were beginning to run hot by then. Sure enough, Stevens completed a blinding try, started by the powerful Lee Best some 100 metres back in his own in-goal area, to give his side the cushion they craved, and thus, freed from all care, they ran the Frenchmen ragged.

The final try fell to Grewcock - a new, space-loving, side-stepping, ball-distributing Grewcock who looked every inch the international player everyone thought he no longer was when he bowed out of the Lions tour of New Zealand with another suspension on his record. This was the second time in a fortnight he had stampeded around the Rec like a world-beater. If there is a better second-row forward in England right now, he is playing behind closed doors.

Bath: Tries Borthwick, Stevens, Hudson, Grewcock. Conversions Barkley 2. Penalties Barkley 5. Bourgoin: Penalties Peclier 3, Boyet.

Bath: L Best (A Williams, 78); S Finau, T Cheeseman, O Barkley, F Welsh; C Malone (R Davis, 48), M Wood; M Stevens, L Mears (P Dixon, 66), D Bell (C Loader, 78), S Borthwick (capt; J Hudson, 74), D Grewcock, A Beattie (M Lipman, 59), J Scaysbrook, G Delve (I Fea'unati, 57).

Bourgoin: A Peclier (A Forest, 62); D Janin, J-F Coux (I Giorgadze, 62), G Davis, N Carmona; B Boyet, M Forest (capt); O Milloud, B Cabello, P Peyron (P Cardinali, 53), J Pierre, C Del Fava (A Mazel, 53), A Diotallevi, L Baluc-Rittener (B Monzeglio, 53), W Jooste.

Referee: N Owens (Wales).