Olly Barkley’s flawless kicking display inspired Bath’s comeback as they kicked off their Aviva Premiership season with a last-gasp 24-23 win over Worcester at Sixways.
The Bath fly-half slotted over eight penalties, his last coming with the last kick of the game, as the visitors edged a topsy-turvy second half.
Andy Goode’s six penalties and an unconverted try from James Percival looked like being enough for the Warriors but Barkley held his nerve as time expired to ensure that Gary Gold’s reign got off to a winning start.
Referee Luke Pearce was a hawk at the breakdown throughout, penalising both sides frequently meaning that the goalkickers were key.
And the 30-year-old Barkley emerged victorious in that battle as Goode missed a conversion and a late penalty as Richard Hill’s men had to settle for a losing bonus-point.
The first half was a disjointed affair and with only three minutes on the clock Goode showed a sign of things to come when he slotted over a penalty after Bath infringed at the breakdown.
Two minutes later and the Warriors lead was 6-0 as Goode made no mistake from an identical position after yet more Bath indiscipline.
The visitors were struggling to get into the game and when Matt Banahan was penalised for not rolling away shortly afterwards it left the Worcester fly-half in great position to send over his third penalty.
On the quarter hour mark Gold’s troops still had not learnt their lesson and Goode’s unerring right boot put the Warriors 12 points to the good despite failing to enter Bath’s 22.
And it went from bad to worse for Bath moments later as a deliberate knock-on saw Banahan sent to the sin bin.
But despite a prolonged spell of pressure in their opponents’ 22 the Warriors failed to make their numerical advantage count as the visitors defended stoutly.
And Banahan was not on his own in the sin bin for very long as a scuffle between the two skippers Dean Schofield and Stuart Hooper on 20 minutes meant both of them saw yellow.
So with Bath now down to 13 men and Worcester 14, Gold’s troops finally get onto the scoreboard on 26 minutes, Barkley slotting over a penalty after their first serious attack of the match.
Shortly after the half-hour mark Barkley was on target again after a Josh Drauniniu knock-on but Goode did not take long to reply to put the home side 15-6 up.
Both sides continued to put boot to ball but on the stroke of half-time Worcester came agonisingly close to the first try of the match after a dazzling counter-attack from virtually his own tryline by David Lemi put Goode over in the corner but the try was ruled out for a forward pass.
After the break Pearce continued to penalise frequently at the breakdown but this time it was Worcester who were on the receiving end as three penalties from Barkley in the first ten minutes of the second period leveled the scores at 15-15.
Bath had finally opted to put the ball in hand and young tyro Kyle Eastmond and the mercurial Nick Abendanon began to stretch their legs but Worcester held firm.
But on 66 minutes Bath hit the front for the first time when Barkley slotted over his sixth penalty of the game.
However they were not in front for long as Percival barged his way past Eastmond in the corner as Worcester finally began to assert their dominance in the second period.
But Goode’s conversion came back off the post meaning the Warriors only led 20-18 and Barkley restored Bath’s lead on 73 minutes with another penalty.
Goode then appeared to have won the match for Worcester when he atoned for his earlier miss with a 78th minute kick but back came Bath and that man Barkley to steal it at the death.