Ten-try Team Bath dispatch Durham in stunning style to set up BUCS Super Rugby semi-final with derby rivals Hartpury
Ten-try Team Bath men’s 1st XV sent out a statement to their BUCS Super Rugby Championship rivals as they clinically dispatched Durham 64-29 to reach the semi-finals for a third successive year.
A large and vocal crowd at the University of Bath Sports Training Village had plenty to cheer as the Fulkers-sponsored Blue & Gold, who are also supported by MJ Church, produced arguably their best all-round team performance of the season so far.
The forwards were totally dominant with seven of the tries coming from set pieces. Five of them were scored by hookers, captain Tom Doughty bagging two and replacement James Hadfield notching a hat-trick, while prop Austin Hay also touched down.
Team Bath also played some wonderfully expansive rugby as illustrated by their three other beautifully-crafted tries, one for Will Hughes and two for Will Partington who also added six conversions.
The victory, a sixth in the row for Team Bath, sets up a mouthwatering semi-final visit to Hartpury next Wednesday (March 27). The Blue & Gold narrowly lost out to their West Country rivals at the same stage two years ago but have done the double over them in the league this season.
Head coach Aaron James said: “We’re very happy, we’d never have dreamt of scoring 60 points. I think you definitely saw some of the best of us tonight but we let in 29 points as well, so we remain grounded.
“I’m really pleased for the boys and for the supporters. We had great backing tonight from parents, students and the Bath community.
“Going to Hartpury is going to be a tough task, the stats aren’t exactly in our favour there over the years, but we’ll enjoy tonight and start working towards that on Friday.”
Vice-captain Alex Burrage added: “We’ve known we could produce a performance like that all season and luckily it arrived in the quarter-final. Now we’ve got another massive game against Hartpury to look forward to.
“We’ve really developed our game to win in a number of ways and I think we showed that tonight. The defence was outstanding and we’re scoring length-of-the-field tries in attack.
“Hartpury know how to win semi-finals but beating them twice this season has given us a massive boost of confidence and hopefully we can achieve our ultimate goal of getting to Twickenham.”
Team Bath went into the quarter-final on the back of five successive league wins and they bossed the early stages, moving the ball around confidently.
However, a loose pass was picked off and when the hosts were forced to concede a penalty, Paddy McDuell slotted over the kick to give Durham the lead.
Partington missed a chance to level three minutes later, his penalty from 25m drifting wide, and instead Team Bath found themselves even further adrift when Durham scored the first try of the game moments later.
An overthrown lineout was retrieved by the visitors and the ball was quickly spread to the other side of the pitch, where a neat dummy by Saul Melvin Farr allowed the full-back to find a gap in the stretched home defence to dot down. McDuell missed the conversion.
Team Bath did not let the early setback affect their confidence and they continued to play an expansive game. However, it was their set pieces that would prove decisive as the game was turned on its head in the space of ten minutes.
The hosts unleashed their trademark driving lineouts to devastating effect as Doughty went over for his eighth of the season, converted by Partington, before Durham prop Jack Conteh conceded a penalty try and was sent to the sin bin.
Team Bath took full advantage of their extra man to drive over again, Doughty grabbing his second of the game, before prop Hay burrowed over by the posts from another well-worked set piece. Partington converted both tries as the hosts surged into a 28-8 lead.
They were dealt a blow from the restart as Doughty suffered an arm injury and was clearly in discomfort as he left the pitch to be replaced by Hadfield. Durham then narrowed the gap to 28-15 with the last action of the half as Freddie Davies touched down and McDuell added the conversion off the post.
Team Bath were quickly back on the front foot in the second half and extended their lead in magnificent fashion. Chris Barry gathered a deflected pass and broke past two players before offloading to the charging Hughes, who showed great hands to juggle the ball before racing over the line.
Partington added the extras before notching his own try-of-the-game contender. Receiving the ball on his own try line, he surged to the halfway line before passing wide to Ethan Hutt, then continued his run to collect the return pass and go over in the corner.
Durham kept battling away and pulled a fine try back through Josh Wright but they had no answer to Team Bath’s driving maul at the other end and Hadfield went over twice in five minutes to extend the lead to 52-22.
Confidence was surging through Team Bath now and another flowing move ended with man of the match Partington darting through again.
Replacement Myles Rawstron Rudd barrelled over for Durham’s fourth try but there was still time for Team Bath to take their tally to double figures as Hadfield went over from another lineout.
Team Bath starting XV: 15 Will Partington, 14 Ethan Hutt, 13 Alex Nisbett, 12 Will Butt, 11 Will Hughes, 10 Alex Burrage, 9 Ed Rimmer; 1 Arthur Cordwell, 2 Tom Doughty (c), 3 Austin Hay, 4 Angus Hinton, 5 Jack Davies, 6 Jack Kenningham, 7 Chris Barry, 8 James Catlin. Replacements: 16 James Hadfield, 17 Jake Buckingham, 18 Kieran Verden, 19 Adam Thresher, 20 Rhys Davis, 21 George Wootten, 22 Brandon Bellamin, 23 Hugo Stiles.
Tries: Doughty 2, penalty, Hay, Hughes, Partington 2, Hadfield 3.
Conversions: Partington 6.
Durham starting XV: 15 Saul Melvin Farr, 14 Jack Hedley, 13 Matt Welsh, 12 Charlie Wilson, 11 Josh Wright, 10 Paddy McDuell, 9 Jacob Collin; 1 Jack Conteh, 2 Freddie Davies, 3 Toby Woods, 4 Colin Markham (c), 5 Henry Paremain, 6 Chris Johnston, 7 Jamie Adamson, 8 Ben Fowles. Replacements: 16 Luke Chadwick, 17 Joe Burdis, 18 Sam Hughes, 19 Marijn Huis. 20 Ben Osuntokun, 21 Ollie Green, 22 Myles Rawstron Rudd, 23 Cameron Gleave.
Tries: Melvin Farr, Davies, Wright, Rawstron Rudd.
Conversions: McDuell 2, Rawstron Rudd.
Referee: Henry Waulbaum.
Assistant referees: Adam Wookey, Gareth Holsgrove.
Fourth official: Brad Bignall.