The University of Bath men’s 1st XV brought the curtain down on their 2017-18 BUCS Super Rugby home campaign in fine style as they beat Nottingham Trent 50-25 at the Sports Training Village on Wednesday.
On a bitterly cold night, Bath – sponsored by IKON Construction and supported by Investigo – warmed up the crowd by running in seven tries on the way to their biggest win of the season.
Charlie Dunbar, Jack Davies and Tom Doughty touched down in the first half, the latter ensuring Bath went into the interval with a 21-15 lead after Nottingham had turned the game on its head via a Will Sutton penalty and tries from Jon Broberg and Scott Hall.
The hosts bossed long periods of the second half and increased their lead through Miles Reid, Austin Hay, Davies again and Will Partington, who converted six of the tries and added a penalty. Nottingham worked tirelessly, though, and touched down in the last two minutes through Alex Crocker and Harry Graham to earn a well-deserved bonus point.
University of Bath Head Coach Mark Lilley said: “I thought we played some great rugby and showed what we can do with the ball in hand, which was really pleasing.
“There are still some clear areas for us to work on – our discipline cost us again in the first half and we went off our game plan – but our character was good, we just have to start making life a bit easier for ourselves.”
Captain Will Britton, back in the team after helping Bath Rugby reach the Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-finals, added: “We talked a lot about putting in a big performance to reward all the home supporters and everyone around the University, and I think we did today.
“We said at half-time that we needed to get some points early doors to get the momentum back and we were able to do just that. One thing this team has got a lot better at is regaining momentum and that’s something we will look to carry forward for the rest of the season.”
Bath had been edged out by high-flying Cardiff Met and Northumbria in their previous two matches of 2018 but have been playing well and got off to a great start as, with nine minutes on the clock, scrum-half Luca Petrozzi broke off the back of a maul and stepped past two defenders before passing inside for the onrushing Dunbar to touch down. Partington added the extras.
However, Bath then lost their discipline and Nottingham took full advantage to score 15 points in five minutes. Petrozzi was sent to the sin bin when he conceded a penalty that Sutton slotted over, then the hosts were caught cold from the restart as Caetano Branco was allowed to collect the kick and surge 75 yards down the left before teeing up the supporting Broberg for a try, converted by Sutton.
The same thing happened again from the kick-off, with Nottingham forcing Bath to concede a penalty as they charged forward. It was kicked to the corner and, from the resulting lineout, the visitors forced an overload on the right and Hall touched down.
Bath managed to clear their heads and, while still down to 14 men, utilised their lineout catch and drive to maximum effect as Davies was pushed over for his first try of the evening.
Partington converted and did so again with the last kick of the half two minutes later as, with Bath back to full strength and Nottingham down to 14 after Seb Cecil was yellow-carded, another lineout drive ended with Doughty burrowing over.
Bath were 21-15 up and quickly increased that at the start of the second half as captain Britton broke through the Nottingham defence with a bullocking run before offloading for Reid to cross the line. Partington kicked the conversion and then added a penalty as the hosts pulled clear.
A series of sorties on the Nottingham line ended with replacement prop Hay finding a gap to touch down, then an unstoppable surge from the Bath scrum ended with a delighted Davies grabbing his second try of the game.
Partington converted both and then produced a moment of magic to deservedly get on the try-sheet himself. A sweeping Bath move from inside their own 22 looked to have come to a halt when Partington seemingly ran into traffic on the halfway line. However, the full-back shrugged off a tackle and then jinked past three defenders before finishing with a flourish in the corner. His conversion attempt hit the post.
Nottingham were determined to leave with something to show for their effort and did so thanks to two tries in the last couple of minutes. Crocker went over in the corner after good pressure, then Graham showed a great turn of pace to run in from the halfway line.
The University of Bath have two matches remaining in their BUCS Super Rugby season, both away to West Country opposition. They visit title-chasing Exeter University on Wednesday, February 14 for a match being shown live on the FreeSports TV channel (7.45pm), then travel to 2016-17 champions Hartpury College on Wednesday, February 28 (7pm).
University of Bath: 15 Will Partington, 14 Will Hughes, 13 Charlie Dunbar, 12 Craig Duncan, 11 Levi Davis, 10 Alex Burrage, 9 Luca Petrozzi; 1 Arthur Cordwell, 2 Tom Doughty, 3 David da Costa, 4 Scott Russell, 5 Will Britton (c), 6 Jack Davies, 7 Miles Reid, 8 James Catlin. Replacements: 16 James Hadfield, 17 Austin Hay, 18 Gus Antons, 19 Michael Snook, 20 Chris Barry, 21 Will Flinn, 22 Finn Murphy.
Tries: Dunbar, Davies (2), Doughty, Reid, Hay, Partington.
Conversions: Partington 6.
Nottingham Trent: 15 Will Sutton, 14 Caetano Branco, 13 Alex Goble, 12 Harry Clempson, 11 David Williams, 10 John Hargreaves, 9 Alex Crocker; 1 Jamie Jack, 2 Jon Broberg, 3 Will Clarke, 4 Ben Davis-Moore, 5 Tim Cardell, 6 Scott Hall, 7 Seb Cecil, 8 Mike Ozdili. Replacements: 16 Tommie Collingwood, 17 Ben Smith, 18 Jacob Wraffter, 19 Mikey Gatehouse, 20 Harry Graham, 21 Adam Castle, 22 Max Craven.
Tries: Broberg, Hall, Crocker, Graham.
Referee: Andy Wigley.
Assistant referees: Adam Wookey, Stuart Dillon.