Bath Book Their Final Place
Bath completed a remarkable turnaround in their
fortunes on Saturday as they thrashed bitter West country rivals Gloucester 41-7 to assure themselves of an automatic place in the English Premiership final at Twickenham on May 29th.
Last season a final match victory over Gloucester had ensured they
in the Premiership on points difference but this time the emotions
different as they ran in four second-half tries to their rivals one
to wrap up
a highly successful league campaign under Australian coach John
Even defeat would not have affected their topping the table as
finalists Wasps were at the receiving end of a record home defeat,
48-17, by a
revitalised Leicester, who ran in six tries.
Wasps, the reigning champions, will face a tough clash with
see if they will play Bath in the showpiece final but with the
final also at Twickenham on May 23rd Lawrence Dallaglio’s team face a
Bath’s renaissance was a suitable farewell season for England’s
African-born centre Mike Catt, who is leaving after over a decade at
for London Irish.
“It is disappointing to have to leave,” said Catt, whose
the World Cup especially in the quarter-final against Wales were
in England’s victory.
“The last few weeks have been tough, but we showed we are the
I thought (Australian fly-half) Chris Malone was fantastic,
Fleck is coming into his own.
“It is 10-12 years of fantastic fun but it is a pity to move
Hopefully I will play in the final but it is an opportunity
younger boys to get some silverware.”
Catt said that they would be celebrating in rather different style
“We’ve got a Ladies night with 250 of them coming where the
parade their stuff!”
Bath’s Australian coach John ‘Knuckles’ Connolly paid handsome
his players for turning it around, though his investment in 14 new
the close season was credited by Catt as the main difference.
“It is a great achievement and a tribute to the
players,” said Connolly,
who was part of the Wallaby backroom in their 1991 World Cup triumph.
“The last couple of weeks we have been playing well in
patches and then
dropping away, but today we played well for the 80 minutes,”
who guided Stade Francais to the 2001 European Cup final where they
Connolly, though, said that he would keep the players sharp in the
week gap between Saturday’s match and the final unlike Gloucester
who finished top but were beaten by Wasps in the one-off match.
“They’ll have three days off and then we’ll organise a four
camp and a friendly, so as to keep up to match sharpness,” said
A shellshocked Gloucester handler Nigel Melville had few excuses.
“That was a humiliation, for anyone to do with Gloucester
rugby club,” said
the former England scrum-half.
Gloucester will still have a chance to earn the final European Cup
they are in the wild card play-offs along with Leicester Harlequins,
comeback against Northampton saw them end up one point short beaten
Sale, who beat Leeds 31-20.
AFP – 2004.