Bath continued their move towards the Gallagher Premiership play-off positions by beating Worcester 22-21 at Sixways. Worcester had a chance to win it with the game’s final kick, but full-back Chris Pennell’s 55-metre effort drifted wide.
Although Storm Dennis did not arrive during the game, Bath’s forwards provided sufficient ferocity to knock Worcester out of their stride. Number eight Zach Mercer, flanker Francois Louw and lock Josh McNally all scored tries, while fly-half Rhys Priestland kicked two conversions and a penalty.
In contrast to Priestland’s accuracy, his opposite number Duncan Weir could not master the blustery conditions, missing five from nine shots at goal. The Scotland international booted three penalties and a conversion, but tries by number eight Cornell du Preez and wing Nick David, on his Premiership debut, could not sink Bath.
Bath have now lost only one of their last five Premiership games, underlining an impressive run of form as the league season approaches its halfway mark. David replaced an injured Melani Nanai, while Warriors scrum-half Francois Hougaard returned after recovering from a foot injury, but backs Jamie Shillcock (thigh) and Ashley Beck (illness) were sidelined.
England international Mercer returned for Bath after three months out due to a knee injury, and Wales star Taulupe Faletau featured on the replacements’ bench following two weeks of Six Nations action. And it took Mercer just two minutes to mark his return in style, as Bath scored from their first attack.
(Continue reading below…)
Championship clubs fear RFU’s savage second-tier funding cut ‘will affect many people’s livelihoods’
Priestland’s pass found prop Beno Obano in space, and after he was tackled short of the line, Mercer finished off for a try that Priestland converted. Weir missed a long-range penalty attempt to open Worcester’s account, but he made amends three minutes later, bisecting the posts from 38 metres as Bath saw their lead trimmed.
And the flurry of early scoring continued, with Priestland’s penalty opening up a 10-3 advantage, only for Worcester to draw level inside 15 minutes. Despite heavy rain that tested both teams’ handling skills, Worcester kept possession inside Bath’s 22, and some crisp passing resulted in Du Preez powering over for a try, with Weir’s conversion hauling Warriors level.
A second Weir penalty then nudged Worcester ahead, and although Bath closed out the first half in control of territory and possession, the closest they came to another try was via another Obano charge. But he lost control of the ball as he dived towards Worcester’s line, and the Warriors took a 13-10 advantage into the break.
'To me, Ellis Genge was just doing an interview having a beer as if he was in the changing rooms. To me that him just being himself'
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 15, 2020
Bath took just five minutes of the second period to wipe out that advantage, and they did it after Worcester had lock Graham Kitchener sin-binned for a technical offence. And Bath immediately capitalised on their one-man advantage, patiently building phases through their forwards before skipper Louw touched down and Priestland converted.
Faletau joined the action with 28 minutes left, and he was immediately into the thick of things as Bath’s pack began to assert dominance. The relentless pressure had to tell, and it was McNally who scored, putting Bath nine points clear as the game moved towards its final quarter.
Worcester did not throw in the towel, though, and after Weir competed his penalty hat-trick, David showed an impressive turn of speed to out-sprint Bath’s defence and make it a one-point game. But Worcester did not threaten Bath again, apart from Pennell’s penalty attempt, and the visitors deservedly claimed victory.
– Press Association
WATCH: Michael Fatialofa releases footage of his landmark first steps following spinal injury
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now