Heineken Cup, Round Three
Bath edge home against Glasgow
December 7, 2008
Bath's Daniel Browne is tackled by Glasgow's Johnnie Beattie during the match at The Rec
© Getty Images
Bath saw off a spirited challenge from Glasgow to notch a 35-31 victory in an entertaining Heineken Cup Pool 5 clash at The Rec.
Glasgow wing Thom Evans notched a hat-trick for the visitors to claim the man of the match honour but it is Bath who remain in the hunt for the quarter-finals and in touch with Pool 5 leaders Toulouse. In contrast Glasgow, who impressed throughout, are on the verge of another pool stage exit following their third successive loss.
The Premiership title contenders dug deep when required, conjuring quickfire tries for wing Michael Stephenson and substitute centre Shaun Berne midway through the second half. Stephenson finished with a double, while flanker Andy Beattie also crossed; yet it was fly-half Butch James' goal-kicking that gave Bath breathing space. The South African ended the game with 15 points courtesy of three penalties and three conversions.
Stripped of first-choice half-backs Dan Parks and Mark McMillan through injury, Glasgow gave Bath a surprising amount to think about - and substitute Hefin O'Hare's late try provided a deserved four-try bonus point. Fly-half Ruaridh Jackson even caused late panic in the Bath ranks by converting his own breakaway touchdown four minutes from time. But the home side prevailed, despite losing out 5-4 on tries and only narrowly thwarting a last-gasp Glasgow break-out.
Glasgow made a storming start, rocking Bath with a sixth-minute try. The hosts proved slow to react in defence, and slick Glasgow approach work resulted in a try for Evans that scrum-half Colin Gregor converted.
Bath, despite the presence of returning England internationals Matt Stevens and Michael Lipman up front, could not get going as errors abounded. James opened their account with a 45-metre penalty after 13 minutes. Yet despite the South African's promptings, repeated handling mistakes allowed Glasgow an easier time of things in defence than they might have imagined.
Bath eventually stirred six minutes before half-time when their forwards rumbled Glasgow backwards at a short-range scrum, and Beattie touched down - although referee Alain Rolland required video official confirmation before awarding it. Any thoughts of Bath taking charge by the interval were set aside when Glasgow stung them with a second Evans try.
Flanker John Barclay, at the heart of a magnificent Glasgow back-row performance, made a telling thrust that proved sufficient to break Bath's defence apart - and Evans finished off in expert fashion. Gregor slotted the extras - and although James kicked a 38th-minute penalty, Glasgow trooped off deserved 14-11 leaders.
Bath would undoubtedly have received a half-time rocket from head coach Steve Meehan - and they responded by regaining the lead just five minutes into the second period. Hooker Pieter Dixon spearheaded some relentless work by the Bath forwards, and Stephenson had just enough space to weave his way over in the corner for a try that James improved.
James completed his penalty hat-trick just four minutes later, and Glasgow were suddenly in danger of being run into submission - until Stephenson went from hero to villain and 'gifted' Evans his hat-trick. The former Newcastle wing could not gather possession under pressure, and his fumble played straight into Evans' hands for a soft try.
Gregor saw his conversion attempt hit the post, but it was another warning to Bath that they risked defeat unless they could consistently raise the tempo. The unlucky Gregor then had a speculative drop-goal strike rebound off the crossbar - which cued a triple Bath substitution as Lee Mears, Justin Harrison and Jonny Faamatuainu provided reinforcements.
The combined effect was exactly what Meehan wanted as Bath secured a bonus point with two tries inside two minutes from Stephenson and Berne, both converted by James.
The double blast ended Glasgow's brave resistance; yet they still had the final say when O'Hare crossed after a thrilling counter-attack inspired by his fellow wing, Samoan international Lome Fa'atau, before Jackson touched down and converted following his interception of erratic Bath fullback Nick Abendanon's speculative pass.
Bath boss Steve Meehan was critical of his team's defensive display and insisted his side had some work to do before the return clash next weekend.
"I am very disappointed with our defensive application. Defence is a reflection of motivation and attitude, and we need to do some work on that. Glasgow are currently second in the Magners League, they have a terrific spirit and great drive, and we have to make sure our attitude is spot-on when we go up there next Sunday.
"At 35-19 ahead, we had the game under control, but it goes until the final bell, which is a question for the players individually and collectively. Holes opened up in our defence because guys were lazy. If we are going to go through, then we need to win in Glasgow next weekend. We need to continue nipping at Toulouse's heels."
Glasgow are now effectively out of the quarter-final running and coach Sean Lineen was disappointed his side came away with just two bonus points.
"We are very frustrated. The guys had a lot of belief coming down here. They are an exceptional bunch of players, and they want to win. Losing against Newport Gwent Dragons in our opening game was the killer for us. We were 10-0 up in that game, then their forwards came back and dominated the contest.
"It would have been fantastic to get a result here, but ultimately we need to tighten our defence and we've got to learn when to play - and when not to play. We came up short, but the players are hurting. We deserved to maybe get a bit more."
Bath Rugby: N Abendanon, M Stephenson (A Higgins 59), T Cheeseman (S Berne 41), E Fuimaono, M Banahan, B James, M Claassens (S Bemand 65), D Flatman, P Dixon (L Mears 56), M Stevens (A Jarvis 72), S Hooper, P Short (J Faamatuainu 56), A Beattie (D Browne 65), M Lipman [capt], D Browne (A Beattie 68)
Glasgow Warriors: B Stortoni, L Fa'atau (J Nunez Piossek 73), M Evans, A Henderson, T Evans (H O'Hare 65), R Jackson, C Gregor (S Pinder 52), K Tkachuk (E Kalman 69), D Hall (E Milligan 64), E Kalman (M Low 41), T Barker, A Kellock, K Brown, J Barclay, J Beattie (R Vernon 64)
Man of the Match: T Evans (Glasgow Warriors)
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)