Team Bath hold off Hartpury comeback to complete brilliant BUCS Super Rugby double over local rivals
In-form Team Bath men’s 1st XV produced another tremendous performance to complete their first-ever BUCS Super Rugby double over local rivals Hartpury.
A fortnight after recording a historic 13-11 success in Gloucestershire, the Fulkers-sponsored Blue & Gold – who are also supported by MJ Church – again held off a late comeback from the league leaders to secure a deserved 33-31 victory at the University of Bath Sports Training Village.
Hugo Stiles, who kicked superbly in windy conditions, scored two penalties, a try and two conversions – the second from hooker James Hadfield’s touchdown (pictured top) – in a first half that saw Team Bath on top.
However, they allowed Hartpury to respond through tries from Dwayne Burrows and Nick English, both well converted by Paul Morgan, and only held a 20-17 advantage at the break.
It was a similar story in the second half as a penalty try and two Stiles penalties extended the home team’s advantage, only for errors to provide battling Hartpury with converted tries for Evrin Murac and Harry Short – the latter when they were down to 14 men.
However, Team Bath showed terrific character to hold on for a third notable win in as many weeks, following on from their successes at Hartpury and Loughborough.
Head of Rugby Aaron James said: “We don’t beat Hartpury very often so to beat them twice in a season is really good for us.
“The players are working hard for each other and we have some momentum now, we’ve just got to keep it going now. We’ll enjoy this but we have Leeds Beckett away next week and we can’t slow down.”
Captain Alex Burrage added: “I thought we performed really well and to beat the table-toppers twice in three weeks is massive for us. Not many teams have done the double over Hartpury in recent years.
“We have given away a couple of soft tries but we showed great character to keep our cool and come away with the win. I’m delighted for the boys.”
With a number of Bath Rugby Academy players unavailable due to A League commitments, Team Bath made five changes to the side that had won so impressively at Loughborough last week.
The hosts settled quickly, though, and were on top in the opening stages as two Stiles penalties gave them a 6-0 lead after 16 minutes before Morgan replied with three points for Hartpury.
Hong Kong international Stiles then produced a moment of magic as he put a grubber kick behind the Hartpury defence and continued his run to collect Will Stride’s return pass before racing over the line.
The conversion extended Team Bath’s lead to 13-3 but Hartpury made the most of a bit of a luck to quickly respond, a pass bouncing kindly off the back of home winger Stride for Burrows to collect and go over. Morgan added the extras.
Team Bath were playing well, though, and restored their ten-point advantage when hooker Hadfield crashed over after Hartpury had to no answer to a tremendous driving maul.
Stiles again converted for the hosts, who looked in a good position to extend their lead just before the interval. However, a fumble in front of the posts was pounced upon by Hartpury who quickly broke to the other end of the pitch where prop English was able to touch down. Morgan’s conversion meant there was just three points in it at half-time.
Team Bath cranked up the pressure at the start of the second period and, after forcing several scrums on the Hartpury line, they were eventually awarded a penalty try.
They then forced a penalty in the Hartpury 22 that Stiles slotted over but a lapse in defence at the other end allowed Murac to cross the line, with Morgan’s conversion closing the gap to 30-24.
A rampaging run from Jordan Martin set up another penalty for Stiles and saw Aiden Burnett sent to the sin bin but, despite being a man short, Hartpury refused to accept defeat and were able to score a bonus-point try when Jamie Forrester broke from his own half before the ball was spread wide for replacement Short to score in the corner.
A terrific conversion from Nathan Chamberlain brought Hartpury to within two points and they forced a penalty in the dying seconds. However, the attempted kick to touch fell short and Team Bath gleefully cleared into the stands to start the celebrations.
Team Bath travel to Leeds Beckett next Wednesday (December 19) for their last match before the festive break. Their next home game is against Cardiff University on February 13, 2019.
Team Bath starting XV: 15 Hugo Stiles, 14 Finn Murphy, 13 Brandon Bellamin, 12 Alex Nisbett, 11 Will Stride, 10 Alex Burrage (c), 9 Ed Rimmer; 1 George Cave, 2 James Hadfield, 3 Austin Hay, 4 Kas Eelman, 5 Jordan Martin, 6 Jack Kenningham, 7 Chris Barry, 8 James Catlin. Replacements: 16 Beck Cutting, 17 David da Costa, 18 Simone Ngeng, 19 Adam Thresher, 20 Cameron Keys, 21 George Wootten, 22 Miles Gilbert, 23 Ethan Hutt.
Tries: Stiles, Hadfield, penalty.
Conversions: Stiles 2.
Penalties: Stiles 4.
Hartpury starting XV: 15 Jack Johnson, 14 Evrin Murac, 13 Robbie Smith, 12 Jamie Forrester, 11 Dwayne Burrows, 10 Paul Morgan, 9 Ben George; 1 Luke Boon, 2 Will Biggs, 3 Nick English, 4 Tom Everard, 5 Angus Southon, 6 Aiden Burnett, 7 Max Clementson, 8 Harry Holland. Replacements: 16 Jordon Liney, 17 Oliver Adkins, 18 Brian Ncube, 19 Jack Ward, 20 Harry Short, 21 James Clancy, 22 Nathan Chamberlain, 23 Alex Forrester.
Tries: Burrows, English, Murac, Short.
Conversions: Morgan 3, Chamberlain.
Referee: George Selwood.
Assistant referees: Andy Wigley, Stuart Dillon.
Fourth official: Brad Bignell.