Team Bath vow to keep fighting for BUCS Super Rugby top-four finish after frustrating home defeat to Nottingham
The Bath Building Society-sponsored men’s 1st XV needed a win to keep the pressure on Loughborough and Exeter at the top of the table and led with five minutes to go after rallying from 17-7 down at half-time.
However, it was Nottingham who grabbed a decisive late try to secure a 24-19 victory – their first win on the road this season which guarantees their BUCS Super Rugby status for another year.
Aaron James, Head of Rugby at the University of Bath, said: “Credit to Nottingham, they stuck at it, scored some good tries and deserved to win but we’re disappointed, it was down to our mistakes and penalties.
“We all know why we lost and it’s now about what we do in our last two league games. We want to be in the top four so we get a home quarter-final and we are going to go hard at that, that’s our goal.”
Team Bath were looking to bounce back from their narrow defeat at Loughborough two weeks ago and got off to the perfect start, hooker Duncan Hood touching down inside 10 minutes following a trademark lineout drive.
Alfie Garside’s excellent conversion put them 7-0 up and they continued to dominate territory for the next 10 minutes but handling and kicking errors began to creep into their game, allowing Nottingham a route back into the contest.
They got on the scoresheet in the 26th minute when winger Connor Moyse was found in acres of space to collect a kick to the corner and touch down while Team Bath appealed in vain for offside. Henry Mortimer added the conversion and then slotted over a penalty two minutes later to give Nottingham the lead.
The visitors stretched that advantage four minutes before half-time when Nottingham hit the defensive line at pace several times before prop Archie van der Flier bounced off a couple of tackles to crash over, Mortimer’s conversion putting Nottingham 17-7 up at half-time.
Team Bath needed a strong start to the second half and thought they had pulled a try back when Tom Cowan chased up a long kick to the line to pounce on a Nottingham handling error and touch down but he was adjudged to have knocked on.
However, they only had to wait another couple of minutes before registering their second try of the night, again utilising their unstoppable lineout drive to score through replacement hooker Jasper Spandler.
Garside added the extras to cut the gap to three before Team Bath edged ahead again when a chip to the corner took a fortunate bounce into the hands of centre Austin Emens, allowing him to mark his home BUCS Super Rugby debut with a try. Garside was just off target with the conversion.
Back came Nottingham as they laid siege to the Team Bath line but the hosts held strong, Tom Carr-Smith getting a crucial touch on a wide pass when winger Jamie Whitwell looked certain to go over in the corner and intense defensive pressure forcing another ball to go to touch.
Team Bath couldn’t clear their lines, though, and fly-half Max Brown eventually managed to find a gap in the home defence before offloading for Alex Connaghton to touch down. Brown also added the conversion as Nottingham went 24-19 up with less than five minutes to go.
The hosts threw everything forward in the closing stages in search of the winning score but a try-saving tackle denied replacement Sam Mercer and two other opportunities were knocked on as a frustrating night ended in defeat.
Team Bath remain fourth in the table, though, ahead of their final away trip of the league season to Swansea on Wednesday 8th March (6.30pm). They then conclude their campaign with a huge South West derby against second-placed Exeter at the Team Bath Sports Training Village on Wednesday 15th March (6pm kick-off), entry is free to spectators.
Team Bath starting XV: 1 Ollie Tack, 2 Duncan Hood, 3 Archie McNicol, 4 Will Jeanes, 5 Harvey Cuckson, 6 Mackenzie Graham, 7 Tom Cowan, 8 George Doel; 9 Tom Carr-Smith, 10 Zach Rodber, 11 Alfie Garside (c), 12 Ludo Kolade, 13 Austin Emens, 14 Byron Lloyd-Gilmour, 15 Alex Clayton. Replacements: 16 Jasper Spandler, 17 Josh Cilia, 18 Joe Atkins, 19 Eddie Erskine, 20 Olu Odunlami, 21 Archie Friend, 22 James Beverley, 23 Sam Mercer.
Tries: Hood, Spandler, Emens.
Conversions: Garside 2.
Nottingham starting XV: 1 Archie van der Flier, 2 Lewis Pickford, 3 Fred Ma’a, 4 Alex Connaghton, 5 Caelan Stanton, 6 Connor O’Byrne, 7 Elijah Hiscock-Smith, 8 James Cherry; 9 Henry Mortimer, 10 Max Brown, 11 Jamie Whitwell, 12 Freddie Vaughan, 13 Cormac Calnan, 14 Connor Moyse, 15 Tom Allen. Replacements: 16 Oliver Gilbert, 17 Alan Lewis, 18 Alex Sabin, 19 Charlie Jackman, 20 Niall Tsang-Weatherald, 21 Will Bailey, 22 Cameron Furley, 23 Will Gatus.
Tries: Moyse, van der Flier, Connaghton.
Conversions: Mortimer 2, Brown.
Referee: Phil Russell.
Assistant referees: Dave Philpot, Brian Ravenhill.