Higgins hat-trick fires Bath to victory
February 14, 2009
Bath's Andrew Higgin dives over to score one of his three tries at Sixways
© Getty Images
Andrew Higgins returned to torment Worcester by running in a hat-trick of tries at Sixways which helped a weakened Bath to their first Guinness Premiership away win since October 1.
Higgins, who was first signed by Worcester as a schoolboy, ran in a long-range interception effort in the first half and crossed twice more from shorter distances after the break to keep Bath on course for the Premiership play-offs. Bath's win was achieved without 10 first-team regulars, including key backs Nick Abendanon, Alex Crockett and Matt Banahan who were all struck down with a sickness virus that swept their squad in midweek and forced them to field a re-jigged back division.
Higgins' third try in injury-time gave Bath the bonus point and left Worcester, without a win in their last five games, facing a scrap with Bristol to avoid relegation. Worcester were second best for most of the match but scored their two tries in a three-minute period in an entertaining first half.
The first 10 points of the game were also scored in a three-minute burst as former South Africa fly-half Butch James nudged Bath in front with a 10th-minute penalty, then Higgins latched onto a poor pass from Joey Carlisle and stepped out of Marcel Garvey's poor tackle for his opening try. James added the conversion but Worcester stunned Bath with two converted tries between the 25th and 28th minutes.
Bath turned over possession in an attack on the Worcester 22 and Kai Horstmann recycled possession. Centre Loki Crichton launched the counter-attack before he slipped the ball outside to Rico Gear. The former All Blacks winger made ground down the right, drew Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu and then slipped the ball inside to former Australia full-back Chris Latham who cantered over.
Carlisle converted and then atoned for his earlier error by popping a superb pass to Horstmann who made ground through the middle. Prop Matt Mullan was hauled down short of the line but Worcester kept the ball alive and flanker Tom Wood, making his first start in four months, sent Crichton over for a stunning try which Carlisle improved.
Despite their selection problems, Bath remained committed to high-tempo handling game but they were frequently penalised for going off their feet in rucks which let Worcester back into the game. Bath reappeared in determined mood at the start of the second half and they reclaimed the lead within four minutes of the restart.
A multi-phase attack stretched Worcester's defence and created an overlap for Higgins to run in his second try, this time from barely a metre out. Bath increased their lead when Shontayne Hape made ground through the middle and drew Latham before he gave Joe Maddock the scoring pass.
Though Willie Walker, signed on loan from Gloucester for the rest of the season, landed a penalty with his first kick for Worcester, he was off-target with a kickable second that would have put pressure on Bath. Instead Higgins scored again in injury-time and James put over the conversion to maintain his 100 per cent kicking record.
Bath head coach Steve Meehan described his side's win as their best following a mid-season break for three years. "It is our best performance after a break in the last three seasons," Meehan said. "We weren't perfect, but we played the full 80 minutes and scored the fourth try.
"Bonus points are very important in this competition. That finishes a very good week of training and we have achieved everything and more that we set out to. I thought Shontayne Hape was the best we have seen of him in the Premiership, Michael Stephenson who hasn't had much game time this season came in and played very well, Andrew Higgins has come back from a knee injury that has kept him out and grabbed three.
"In addition James Scaysbrook steps in for Michael Lipman and throws himself about. So they have all done quite nicely. All those guys who had an opportunity to start took their chance today."
Worcester director of rugby Mike Ruddock said, "In the first half we were fantastic when we came back from an interception try. I thought our defence was fantastic and I said to our boys at half-time that if we could keep up that intensity we could win the game. Unfortunately we didn't. We dropped off a couple of tackles and made a couple of individual errors that let them in.
"Bath are a great rugby side, they are a dangerous side, they looked very sharp, they play some good back rugby and they are very difficult to defend against. So on a positive side we had some good shape in defence, although maybe our supporters won't think that. On a negative side we have to highlight the individual errors that people made and we will highlight that big time on Monday. The scoreline did flatter them a little bit although Bath were the better team. For my team it's key errors that keep coming back to bite us."
Worcester: Latham, Gear, Rasmussen, Crichton, Garvey, Carlisle, R. Powell, Mullan, Lutui, Tuamoepeau, Rawlinson, Bowley, T. Wood, Sanderson, Horstmann.
Replacements: Grove for Latham (72), Walker for Carlisle (56), M. Powell for R. Powell (56), Fortey for Lutui (68), Morris for Tuamoepeau (72), Gillies for Rawlinson (74), Talei for T. Wood (56).
Bath: Maddock, Stephenson, Hape, Fuimaono-Sapolu, Higgins, James, Claassens, Flatman, Dixon, Bell, Harrison, Hooper, Beattie, Scaysbrook, Browne.
Replacements: Cheeseman for Hape (79), Berne for Fuimaono-Sapolu (77), Bemand for Claassens (70), Hawkins for Dixon (76), Jarvis for Bell (70), Goodman for Scaysbrook (74), Faamatuainu for Browne (58).
Ref: Dean Richards (RFU).