Buoyant Bath show their title credentials in derby victory

Last updated at 18:53 24 November 2007

Bath confirmed they are to be taken seriously as early Guinness Premiership

title contenders with a conclusive three-try victory over neighbours Bristol.

South Africa's World Cup-winning fly-half Butch James enjoyed an impressive

league debut as tries went to Andrew Higgins, Michael Lipman and Matthew Banahan

with Olly Barkley kicking 13 points.

Bath came straight out of the blocks to rattle up a point a minute as the

visitors looked on in some bewilderment for the first 20 minutes.

First, a multi-phased attack forced an offside decision and a penalty kick by

Barkley from 30 metres.

Next James's inch-perfect kick to the right touchline saw the ball bounce into

Luke Arscott's arms just as Higgins made the tackle. The ex-Bristol wing robbed

the fullback and cantered over for a ninth-minute try converted by Barkley.

Then on 19 minutes James was creator again, feeding Banahan with a neat inside


The giant wing stepped out of a tackle on the gain line and made 25 metres

before being brought down, but his path out of the tackle found flanker Lipman

in support for the try.

Barkley's conversion gave Bath a 17-0 advantage - and Bristol had not mounted a

meaningful attack.

However, their forwards became more competitive at the set-piece and in the


A speculative kick to the Bath 22 by fly half Jason Strange was fumbled by

Higgins and, as Bristol kept up the pressure, referee Wayne Barnes eventually

awarded a penalty which Strange landed from short-range on 26 minutes.

The former Wales fly half was on target again from a tight angle six minutes

later and Bristol were finally looking more like the side that had toppled Stade

Francais six days earlier in the Heineken Cup.

Just as importantly they mounted a strong defence to deny Bath a try from a

line-out after James again teased Arscott with a clever cross-kick.

Bath stepped up the pace after the break and should have scored from a 70-metre

counterattack initiated by impressive England prop Matt Stevens.

Bristol infringed, however, and Barkley kicked his second penalty to put Bath

20-6 ahead on 50 minutes.

Bristol responded on the hour with a fine try by left-wing David Lemi, riding

Nick Abendanon's tackle after Shaun Perry and Rob Higgitt had made space on the

short side.

Strange converted to cut the margin to seven points but Barkley responded

almost immediately with his third penalty.

Bristol desperately searched for another score keeping the ball for minutes on

end but eventually spilled a pass and Bath struck, the ball passing through

eight pairs of hands before Banahan crashed through Arscott's tackle to score 70

metres upfield.

Barkley's conversion was wide but Bath were happy with their sixth win in seven

Premiership matches.

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