WEST OF ENGLAND CHAMPIONSHIP FIVES GRAND FINAL
Cheltenham Phoenix 30
T: Alex Ratcliffe (5), Zack Taylor (15), George Jewell (43), Munro Third (77), Joe Hart (79)
G: Sam Hughes 5
Bath Rugby League 42
T: Ali Frost (10), Connor Breen 2 (12, 49), Luke Cador (27), Ben Thyer 2 (40, 74), Jordan Talbot (54), Jack Burnett (71)
G: Leigh Wheatley 2, Connor Breen 3
(report by Matt Anniss)
Bath RLFC produced an entertaining display of expansive, attacking rugby to beat Cheltenham Phoenix 42-30 in a memorable West of England Championship Fives Grand Final at Shaftsbury Park, Bristol.
The Melksham-based side scored eight tries in total, which was more than enough to secure the club’s first ever silverware.
It was Cheltenham who started the brighter, though, opening the scoring on five minutes when Alex Ratcliffe crossed following a fine break by Hugh Howes. Sam Hughes slotted the extras.
Bath hit back hard, taking the lead thanks to two tries in as many minutes. First, Ali Frost crossed unopposed, before man-of-the-match Connor Breen dived over following a thrilling break by impressive second-rower Ben Thyer. Leigh Wheatley converted both to give Bath a 6-12 lead.
Less than three minutes later Cheltenham were once again level, Sam Hughes converting a fine solo score from Zack Taylor. An even period of forward-dominated play followed, before Bath once again edged ahead with two scores in the closing 13 minutes of the first half, both converted by the nerveless Breen. First, winger Luke Cador finished off an exhilarating team move, before Thyer barged his way over from 10 metres out on the stroke of half time.
Cheltenham raised hopes of a brilliant second-half fight back when George Jewell dived over in the right corner just three minutes into the second half, with Sam Hughes adding a brilliant touchline conversion.
However, Bath quickly reasserted their authority via the first of four consecutive tries that all but secured the game. First Breen scythed through the Cheltenham defence, before another unconverted score from Jordan Talbot stretched their lead to 32-18. Then, with valiant Cheltenham fading fast, scores from Jack Burnett – who received a superb inside pass from Breen – and Ben Thyer secured victory.
There was still time for Cheltenham to pull two tries back – both converted by Hughes – with Munro Third and Joe Hart crossing the whitewash in the final three minutes. They were more than deserved on the balance of play, but sadly little more than consolation scores.
The victory secured the Melksham-based side’s first trophy since their formation in January 2017.
Man of the Match: Connor Breen (Bath, scrum half)
Referee: Ian Waters (Southern RS)
(report by Matt Anniss)