Olly Barkley showed his current employers what they will be missing next season as Bath cantered to a bonus-point win to leave Leeds staring at the bleak prospect of relegation from the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP.
The 26-year-old England international raised eyebrows this week when he announced he is to quit Bath this summer and join fierce west country rivals Gloucester in a two-year deal.
Barkley will follow the same path trodden in recent years by Mike Tindall, Iain Balshaw and Gareth Delve in moving from the Recreation Ground to Kingsholm.
Bath’s loss will clearly be Gloucester’s gain and while he may have fallen way down the pecking order of England fly-halves, Barkley again proved his Premiership class with a commanding display at Headingley.
He kicked two penalties, converted all four of his side’s tries and combined superbly with Nick Abendanon to send Joe Maddock in at the right corner for an 18th-minute touchdown which laid the platform for victory.
Barkley’s personal points haul of 14 and astute kicking game lit up an otherwise disappointing encounter which again exposed Leeds’ customary failings and lack of quality.
Leeds wing Apo Satala – a Fiji international and private in the British Army – finished off a fine break from Jonny Hepworth in the 49th minute to briefly raise the prospect of a home fightback.
It never materialised as Bath hit back to claim two further tries through Danny Grewcock and Jonny Faamatuaina to ensure Satala’s second try late on counted for little.
There was still time for wing Matt Banahan to claim a late fourth try for Bath to earn them a bonus point and rub salt deeper into Leeds’ wounds.
Since winning promotion back to the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP last April, the Yorkshiremen have done little to dispel the theory that they are incapable of top-flight survival.
This was their 12th defeat from 13 games and leaves them rock-bottom of the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP.
Barkley’s penalty after eight-minutes put the visitors ahead, and thereafter the playmaker gradually assumed control of proceedings with a steady stream of clever kicks and probing offloads.
A sustained spell of Bath pressure in the 18th minute saw the pass through at least five pairs of hands and led to Barkley finding Abendanon out wide on the right.
The full-back – another man with Englandhopes – kept the move flowing with a short neat offload to Maddock who dived over in the corner.
Barkley converted superbly from close to the touchline and added another penalty in the 25th minute to put his side
Leigh Hinton’s penalty got Leeds off the mark shortly before the half-hour mark but the Bath try-line was not threatened at all in the first half.
That changed nine minutes after the break when Satala collected Hepworth’s offload and raced over the line in the left corner to encourage hopes of a home fightback.
Hinton failed to convert the score and two tries in less than 10 minutes from Grewcock and then Faamatuainu – both of them scrappy close-range efforts from scrums – put Bath back in control.
Barkley converted both tries and not even another fine finish from Satala could mask Leeds’ deficiencies as Bath claimed their fourth try in the closing stages through Banahan.
Barkley, once again, did not falter with the boot as his fourth conversion took his points tally to 14.