Bath secured their first win of the season and ended a run of 10 straight Premiership defeats although they struggled to beat a Worcester side who played 78 minutes with 14 men.
England head coach Eddie Jones watched on as Stuart Hooper’s side huffed and puffed despite having an extra player for almost the entire game.
Bath’s confidence was at rock bottom going into this game and a red card for Warriors prop Rory Sutherland created an expectation the hosts must come out on top.
Tom de Glanville scores a try as he helped Bath to secure their first victory of the season
Worcester played 78 minutes with 14 men following the dismissal of Rory Sutherland
In the end they did just that thanks to a late penalty from Orlando Bailey. Bath’s home crowd breathed a huge sigh of relief at the final whistle. No doubt home director of rugby Hooper would have done too. Both teams scored three tries, but Worcester have still never won at The Rec.
Sutherland’s red card for a dangerous tackle means he is likely to receive a ban which may rule him out of Scotland’s Six Nations opener with England on February 5. Jones spent the build-up to the match deep in conversation with Bath chairman Edward Griffiths. Scotland defence coach Steve Tandy and Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb were also at the game.
Both teams were forced into late changes, Tom Prydie coming straight in on the Bath wing for Will Muir. Worcester lost replacement Sam Lewis before kick-off, but Sutherland was dismissed almost immediately. The Scotland and British & Irish Lions prop was back in the Warriors starting side after six weeks out with a dead leg, but when he hit Bath’s Will Stuart high, he looked in trouble.
After Stuart left the field for a head injury assessment, referee Craig Maxwell-Keys – in conjunction with TMO Andrew Jackson – took an age to decide on the severity of the punishment. Eventually, the officials decided Sutherland should see red as there was a high degree of danger to his tackle. Bath immediately went straight up the other end for Semesa Rokoduguni to score.
Bailey converted, but Worcester responded immediately. From a line-out, they spread the ball left where despite Jamie Shillcock scored far too easily. Fin Smith couldn’t convert.
Bath director of football Stuart Hooper admitted it wasn’t a perfect display but praised the effort shown by his side
Bath: Tries: Rokoduguni 8, Ojomoh 22, De Glanville 55
Cons: Bailey 9, 25 Pen: Bailey 69
Worcester Warriors: Tries: Shillcock 12, Batley 33, Simpson 38
Cons: Smith 34, 39
Bath: De Glanville; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Ojomoh (Clark 57), Prydie (McConnochie 51); Bailey, Fox (Simpson 48); Boyce (Schoeman 40), Doughty (Du Toit 51), Stuart (Rae 3), McNally, Ewels (capt) (Spencer 45), Ellis, Richards, Bayliss
Replacement not used: Williams
Worcester: Shillcock; Humphreys (Waller 14), Venter (co-capt), Beck (Morris 61), Van der Merwe; Smith, Simpson; Sutherland, Annett (Baldwin 57), Judge (Tyack 57), Batley, Kitchener (Garvey 50), Hatherell (Dodd 70), Hill (co-capt), Kvesic
Replacements not used: Chudley, Doel
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (RFU)
Star man: Orlando Bailey (Bath)
Worcester replaced wing Perry Humphreys with Ethan Waller to cover Sutherland’s absence in the pack, but playing a man light for so long was always going to be a difficult ask for the Warriors.
Bath centre Max Ojomoh looked like he had missed a golden opportunity to collect and score following a neat chip through from his centre partner Jonathan Joseph. Maxwell-Keys’ initial signal was no try, but he again consulted Jackson who perhaps surprisingly decided there was no reason why he couldn’t rule out the score.
Replays showed Ojomoh seemed to get downward pressure with his face and Bailey kicked the simple conversion to make it 14-5. Despite their lead and numerical superiority, Bath didn’t look entirely convincing.
That was no surprise really given their awful start to the season. Worcester had their fair share of possession and on the verge of the break, Joe Batley grabbed their second try after being found by a long pass from scrum-half Gareth Simpson. It was a fine finish as Batley had plenty of work to do. Smith nailed the touchline extras.
Bath should have scored straight from the restart. Tom Ellis did superbly to collect but he failed to feed Prydie who would have had a facile run to the line.
Instead, he dawdled and when he finally looked for Prydie, the ball was lost. Even without Sutherland, Worcester’s pack was on top.
The Warriors coaching staff were keen to ensure their team used their driving maul as much as possible. They also won a scrum penalty. A third Worcester try soon arrived and it was another gem. This time Simpson was the scorer.
Max Ojomoh’s try was allowed to stand despite there having been questions over his grounding
Francois Venter made the initial break, Smith was in support, and he popped the ball up for Simpson to go over. Smith’s conversion meant Worcester led 19-14 at the break. Rokoduguni went on the charge for Bath at the start of the second half and Worcester’s co-captain Ted Hill diced with death with a high tackle for which he was penalised.
Simpson also led a counterattack from his own half and although his chip ahead went into touch and eluded him, it was a 50:22 kick and gave Worcester the line-out. From the set-piece, Worcester’s drive was unstoppable and Bath’s Josh Bayliss was yellow carded for taking down the maul.
Worcester’s coaches were furious a penalty try was not awarded. It proved a crucial moment as Bath full-back Tom de Glanville then levelled the scores with a finish in the corner. Two poor Smith kicks from hand didn’t help Worcester and when they were penalised for not rolling away, Bailey stepped up.
His penalty put Bath back ahead with 11 minutes to go. Worcester pushed hard late on using Duhan van der Merwe as a battering ram, but Bath held firm to finally give their suffering supporters something to cheer about.