VIDEO: Backs to the fore as five-try Team Bath head into BUCS Super Rugby Christmas break with victory over Leeds Beckett
Team Bath will go into the Christmas break sitting second in the BUCS Super Rugby table after recording a bonus-point 35-22 victory over Leeds Beckett in bitterly-cold conditions at Shaftesbury Park, home of Bristol club Dings Crusaders.
The men’s 1st XV, sponsored by Bath Building Society, scored five well-worked backs tries through Alfie Garside, Alex Clayton, Luca Mignot, Tom Carr-Smith and Sam Harris, the latter kicking all the conversions, as Team Bath recorded their eighth win from 11 matches.
Ryan Davis, Rugby Performance Squad Backs Coach for Team Bath, said: “It was a pretty stop-start game but we found a way to win and we’re happy with where we are going into the break. We now get three or four weeks to reflect on the season so far and we’ll be raring to go again come January.
“Our back play has really stepped up in the past couple of weeks. It’s a running competition between me and [forwards coach] Mark Lilley – our maul tries and pick-and-goes have been getting the headlines recently, so it’s good for our backs to step up and score all the tries today! It adds another string to our bow.”
The match was played on Crusaders’ artificial pitch in temperatures below freezing and Team Bath were caught cold from the off, centre Alex Green slicing through their defence to score the opening try with just two minutes on the clock. Freddie Spensley added the conversion and then kicked a penalty soon after to give the visitors an early 10-0 lead.
Team Bath responded instantly as, from their first sustained spell of possession and pressure, the ball was switched from left to right where captain Garside was on hand to cut through for a fine try which Harris converted.
They went ahead for the first time just before the 20-minute mark when they took advantage of an overthrow on a Leeds Beckett lineout to launch an attack which ended with Clayton going over in the left-hand corner for his first try of the season. Harris added an excellent conversion from the touchline.
Spensley was just off target with a penalty attempt before Team Bath stretched their lead with another fine backs try, with full-back Mignot this time touching down after some swift hands from Ludo Kolade and Harris, who again added the extras.
Leeds Beckett have shown improved form in recent weeks, though, and cut the half-time gap to 21-15 when a perfectly-judged kick to the corner proved just too high for Team Bath to cut out and winger Joey Devine was able to touch down.
Team Bath’s advantage was extended two minutes into the second half thanks to a lightning break from their own 22 by their half-back pairing. A loose ball was kicked forward by scrum-half Carr-Smith, who managed to outsprint his opponent to kick on again and Harris supported brilliantly to touch down before it went over the dead-ball line.
His conversion made it 28-15 but Leeds Beckett were not going away and, despite the setback of losing a player to a dislocated shoulder, they were able to launch a sustained period of pressure during which replacement Elis Horgan was sent to the sin-bin.
Team Bath held firm, though, and stretched their advantage when an incisive line break from Ethan Staddon set up fellow Bath Rugby Academy player Carr-Smith to touch down near the posts and leave Harris with a simple conversion.
Leeds Beckett had the last word when Devine intercepted a pass in his own 22 and sprinted the length of the field to score the visitors’ third try, which Jake Scott converted.
Team Bath now have a six-week break over the festive period before kicking off the second half of the season with a West Country derby against Hartpury at the Team Bath Sports Training Village. It is taking place on Friday 27th January, kick-off 6.30pm, and admission is free.
Team Bath starting XV: 1 Archie Stanley, 2 Jasper Spandler, 3 Archie McNicol, 4 Eddie Erskine, 5 Mackenzie Graham, 6 Tom Cowan, 7 Ethan Staddon, 8 Harry Breeze; 9 Tom Carr-Smith, 10 Sam Harris, 11 Alex Clayton, 12 Ludo Kolade, 13 Sam Kennaugh, 14 Alfie Garside (c), 15 Luca Mignot. Replacements: 16 Duncan Hood, 17 Ollie Tack, 18 Zak Giannini, 19 Josh Dingley, 20 Haydn Barnes, 21 Tom Williams, 22 Elis Horgan, 23 Ethan Hawtin.
Tries: Garside, Clayton, Mignot, Harris, Carr-Smith.
Conversions: Harris 5.
Leeds Beckett starting XV: 1 Emi Ilincuta, 2 Madison Hunting, 3 Callum Hancock, 4 Louis Guthrie, 5 Aron Suggate, 6 Tom Mills, 7 Ben Pettifer, 8 Ollie Mullarkey; 9 Spencer Cope, 10 Freddie Spensley, 11 Max Lindsey, 12 Alex Green, 13 Jake Scott, 14 Jody Devine, 15 Matt Salisbury. Replacements: 16 Ben Bailey, 17 Morgan Hall, 18 Caleb Kudjoe, 19 Ollie Maher, 20 Charlie Mears, 21 Sam Cox, 22 Sam Bullett, 23 Dan Reed.
Tries: Green, Devine 2.
Conversions: Spensley, Scott.
Referee: Neil Sweeney.
Assistant referees: Dan Evans, Ben Simpson.