Bath 53-8 Bucuresti: Jack Cuthbert try treble sees Bath top group stage
Bath will face an all-French affair in their bid to reach the Amlin Challenge Cup final in May.
Their victory over Bucuresti at The Rec ensured Bath topped Pool 4 and finished the group stage as number one seeds.
Gary Gold’s side, therefore, avoided the three teams dropping down from the Heineken Cup in the quarter-finals and will entertain Stade Francais on the weekend of Friday, April 5.
Should they come through that test, Bath face a trip to the winners of the clash between Top 14 rivals Perpignan and Toulouse in the semi-finals three weeks later.
Jack Cuthbert scored a hat-trick of tries in the final pool game at The Rec.
Freezing conditions had put the game in doubt following Friday’s heavy snowfall and it only went ahead following a massive clean-up operation backed by the club’s supporters.
The bonus-point success – Bath’s fifth in six Pool 4 wins – ensured they would avoid the three sides dropping down from the Heineken Cup in the last-eight.
First-team coach Mike Ford hailed Bath’s fast start, with the home side putting the game to bed before half-time.
“All week it was about the word tempo,” said Ford. “We wanted to try to get speed into the game, knowing that they probably couldn’t live with us.
“We did that by getting the first four tries on the board and then we came out in the second half and started well again.
“There was a period when they just slowed the game down but fair play to them, that’s what they wanted to do. We couldn’t really get back into it until the late stages when we got a flurry of tries.
“We played some good rugby, controlled the tempo of the game very well, scored nine tries and we probably left a couple more out there.”
Despite only needing victory to guarantee top seeding and not an extra bonus point, Bath’s intention was clear from the start, with fly-half Tom Heathcote opting to kick for the corner at every opportunity.
This tactic brought two tries in the opening 20 minutes, with University of Bath student Tom Dunn getting the ball rolling from five metres out. On his first start for the club, the 20-year-old hooker got possession at the back of a maul following his own lineout and proceeded to run the short distance to the line.
Heathcote landed the conversion before Bucuresti got themselves on the scoreboard immediately from the restart. Ryan Caldwell was penalised for not releasing, allowing Florin Vlaicu to score a penalty in front of the posts from 25 metres.
That was the closest the Romanians go to the hosts, however, as Bath scored three tries in the space of eight minutes. The first came from a penalty try, with Bucuresti unable to control a Bath five-metre scrum. Heathcote added the extras.
Cuthbert then scored twice in three minutes to put the game to bed and, although the first was relatively routine – finishing off a good team move from close in – the second was brilliant.
The full-back gathered a clearing kick just inside his own half before racing up the left-hand touchline, beating four tacklers, and crossing in the corner. Both tries went unconverted.
Although Bath failed to score again in the final 13 minutes of the first half, it took them just two minutes of the second to extend their advantage. Winger Horacio Agulla grabbed an uncoverted try in the corner.
Scrum-half Gregorus Diaconescu gave the visitors some cheer for the day soon afterwards when he dived over the whitewash following a five-metre scrum, but once Adrian Ion was sent to the sin-bin it was all one-way traffic.
Nick Koster grabbed a close-range converted try after an initial good break by Olly Woodburn, while Chris Cook crossed in the corner just two minutes after coming on as a replacement.
Cuthbert then completed his treble under the posts, taking an offload on Woodburn’s shoulder.
Sam Vesty, on for Heathcote, added the extras before Will Skuse rounded off the scoring, showing good strength to power over the whitewash four minutes from time.
After avoiding potential banana skins during the visits of Agen and Bucharest in the past two weeks, Ford was delighted Bath were able to hold onto their top seeding for the quarter-finals.
“It’s job done. To finish as number one seed is great and we are going to have a great tie at home,” said Ford.
“It’ll be a great occasion and a good opportunity to go even further. Over the last couple of weeks we could quite easily have lost that number one seeding.
“There’s a lot of positives but we’ll put it to bed now and look forward to the LV= Cup games in the next couple of weeks.”
Bath: Cuthbert, Agulla, Hipkiss, Williams, Woodburn; Heathcote, McMillan; Beech, Dunn, Perenise, Hooper, Caldwell, Skuse, Mercer, Koster. Replacements: Banahan for Hipkiss (57), Vesty for Heathcote (66), Cook for McMillan (66), Catt for Beech (57), Palma-Newport for Perenise (57), Attwood for Hooper (66), Sharman for Koster (67). Not Used: Louw.
Scorers: Tries – Dunn, Penalty, Cuthbert 3, Agulla, Koster, Cook, Skuse. Cons – Heathcote 3, Vesty.
Bucuresti: Fercu, Lemnaru, Dascalu, Vlaicu, Niacsu, Wiringi, Diaconescu, Pristavita, Radoi, Pungea, Munteanu, Drenceanu, Mitu, Ion, Carpo. Replacements: Filip for Lemnaru (80), Badalicescu for Pristavita (57), Dobre for Pungea (57), Lazar for Munteanu (73), Gal for Mitu (65). Not Used: Capatana, Ianus, Apostol. Sin Bin: Ion (56).
Scorers: Tries – Diaconescu. Pens – Vlaicu.
Referee: Laurent Cardona (France).