Abendanon helps get Bath back on track
Aironi 6 Bath 22
Bath got their Heineken Cup campaign back on track with a bonus-point win over Italian strugglers Aironi yesterday.
The English West Country side's victory at the Stadio Luigi Zaffanella ended their worst ever run of losses -- four -- on the road in Europe.
First-half tries from Matt Carraro, man-of-the-match Nick Abendanon and the eye-catching Tom Biggs, followed by a second-half touchdown from skipper Luke Watson, gave Bath the spoils. Olly Barkley slotted a solitary conversion.
Ex-Gloucester out-half Ludovic Mercier kicked two penalties for the home side, who enjoyed more ball and territory then the scoreline suggested.
It was first blood to Bath in the 11th minute as the English side executed a glorious first-phase move. Quick ball off the top of a line-out on the halfway line was followed by a missed pass to Abendanon who drew his man and popped the ball to Biggs. The wing then collected his own perfectly weighted chip to touch down in the corner.
Mercier was quick to pull three points back as the Italian side enjoyed the bulk of ball and possession. Bath then capitalised on error for wing Carraro to burrow over.
Bath grabbed their third try five minutes before the break. Abendanon was the recipient of another missed pass from Barkley, and a poor challenge by Mercier allowed him to surge into the Italians' half. Neat handling ensued and Abendanon finished off what he had started. Barkley made no mistake this time and Bath were 17-3 to the good.
The Aironi pack set up camp inches from the Bath try line shortly after the resumption. But with the forwards having done all the hard work their backs botched the job at the first attempt.
The Italians finally turned their second half pressure into points in the 55th minute. Bath infringed at a ruck and Mercier stepped up to chip over an easy penalty goal. But the try that clinched the extra point came with 10 minutes to go. Aironi wing Giulio Toniolatti was forced to take the ball into touch and the Bath pack then engineered an unstoppable driving maul from the resulting line-out, with Watson emerging from the heap of bodies with the ball.
Scorers -- Aironi: Mercier 2 pens. Bath: Biggs, Carraro, Abendanon, Watson tries; Barkley 1 con
Aironi Rugby: Demas; Toniolatti, Penney, Pavan (Pratichetti 56), Rubini; Mercier (Bocchini 56), Canavosio (Tebaldi 58); Perugini (De Marchi 65), Ongaro (Santamaria 70), Redolfini (Del Fava 56), Bortolami, Geldenhuys, Erasmus (Favaro 70), Benatti, Williams
Bath: Abendanon; Biggs, Williams, Barkley, Banahan; Vesty, Claassens (McMillan 68); Catt (Flatman 51), Dixon (Batty 70), Wilson (Bell 41), Hooper, Grewcock (Fernandez Lobbe 31), Beattie, Watson (Skirving 68), Taylor
Referee: J Lacey (Ireland)