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Barkley inspires Bath victory

Olly Barkley

Olly Barkley kicked 19 points from fly-half, converting tries by Matt Banahan and Tom Biggs, as Bath opened their LV= Cup campaign with a comfortable 29-19 win over Cardiff Blues.

Nearly 12,000 spectators crammed into a rain-soaked Recreation Ground even though the visitors were without 10 players on international duty and Bath were resting a number of battle-weary first-teamers.

But it allowed both sides to blood up-and-coming products of their academies and US Eagles skipper John van der Geissen made his debut in the home second row.

Bath were quicker out of the blocks, Barkley being just wide with a 50-metre penalty and then combining with 21-year-old centre Ben Williams to send captain-for-the-night Banahan over for a sixth-minute try.

Barkley, wearing the number 10 shirt for the first time this season, kicked the conversion but opposite number Gareth Davies chipped over two penalties in quick succession to give the Blues a 7-6 lead after 13 minutes.

It was a short-lived advantage however, because Cardiff failed to secure a high ball from Jack Cuthbert and Barkley fashioned an accurate cross-kick for left wing Biggs to gather and score. Barkley converted from the touchline.

Davies, who normally turns out for Cardiff's Welsh Premiership side, pulled back three points with a third penalty and on 22 minutes scored a try against the run of play. Full-back Dan Fish had done the damage with a kick and chase and the fly-half was up in support, also converting his own try from the touchline. But a penalty and a drop-goal from Barkley gave Bath a 20-16 interval lead.

After a final warning to skipper Andries Pretorius, referee Greg Garner showed a yellow card to prop John Yapp and Barkley kicked his second penalty. Although Davies quickly replied at the other end, Barkley rewarded a strong drive by Fernandez-Lobbe with a simple kick to restore the seven-point advantage.

Bath introduced Peter Short and Lee Mears off the bench for their first outings after lengthy injuries and although restored to 15 men, Cardiff continued to give away penalties, gifting Barkley another three points on the hour mark as the rain began to ease.

When replacement flanker Thomas Young, son of Blues Director of Rugby, Dai Young, had a close range effort ruled out by the TV match official on 66 minutes, Bath began to believe they had the tie in the bag. Barkley continued to pepper the Cardiff back three with high balls into the night sky and the home side's greater experience saw them close out the game.