Brave Wanderers beaten by Bath in ‘A’ League final

FINAL SCORE - Paul Diggin congratulates try scorer Howard Packman (Picture: Linda Dawson)
FINAL SCORE - Paul Diggin congratulates try scorer Howard Packman (Picture: Linda Dawson)

There was plenty of guts but no glory for the Wanderers as Bath United were crowned Aviva ‘A’ League champions at Franklin’s Gardens on Monday night.

The Saints shadow squad had come back from 17-3 down to level at the break as a Howard Packman score and a penalty try restored parity.

But prop Charlie Beech pounced with 20 minutes to go and wing Richard Lane rounded things off to complete a 29-20 victory and send the silverware to the Recreation Ground.

Tom Biggs and Gavin Henson, names who demonstrated the strength of the Bath side, put the visitors in command with an early score apiece.

Biggs burst through to give Bath the lead inside the opening three minutes, with fly-half Tom Heathcote adding the extras.

Wanderers Kiwi kicker Glenn Dickson landed an immediate riposte to cut the gap to four points, but the Bath back line were enjoying plenty of joy and some great work from Nick Abendanon, who grabbed his own chip through, set up Henson to score.

Heathcote’s conversion put the away team in command at 14-3 up and the Wanderers were in real need of a strong response.

But Bath were defending impressively and after relieving the pressure on their own line they pushed forward to win a penalty, which was missed by Heathcote.

He made a better job of another tee kick soon after, though, and the Wanderers were dealt another blow in the process as hooker Mike Haywood saw yellow.

The home side may have been down, but they weren’t out and Packman issued a reply by finishing off a move started by a big carry from impressive flanker Matt Williams.

Dickson slotted the conversion superbly and suddenly there were just seven points in it.

Williams was leading the effort to get back on terms as he continued to bulldoze Bath players with alarming regularity.

The Wanderers forwards were cranking up the heat and Bath captain Kane Palma-Newport paid the price as he was sin-binned for offending five metres out.

The away side simply couldn’t resist as the home pack kept applying the pressure at the scrum, leaving referee Darren Gamage with no option but to award a penalty try.

Dickson added the extras to send the teams in level at 17-17 at the break and the first 20 minutes of the second half were to be nip and tuck as Bath kept the Wanderers at bay.

They then hit their hosts with a sucker punch as a huge maul from 22 metres took them to the line and Beech pounced to put his team back in front.

Dickson reduced the deficit to four points with a penalty nine minutes from time but Lane ended any hopes of a comeback with a right wing run that took him over the line.

Wanderers: Diggin; Packman, Stephenson, G Dickson, Artemyev (Skelcey 71); Olver (Hooley 64), A Day; E Waller (Warren 64), Haywood (McMillan 59), Denman (Parkins 64), Verbakel, Woolford, Harrison, Williams, van Velze.

Replacements not used: Onojaife, Harry, Glynn.

Bath United: Adendanon (Devoto 48); Lane, Clark, Henson, Biggs; Heathcote, Young (Cook 56); Beech, Dunn, P-Newport, Ewels, Caldwell, Ellis, Gilbert, Skuse.

Replacements not used: Woolstencroft, Jamieson, Clarke, Northcote-Green, Beer.

Referee: Darren Gamage