Matt Banahan’s late try sealed a crucial bonus point victory for Bath Rugby who took a step closer to the Aviva Premiership play-offs with a 32-20 win over Worcester Warriors at the Rec.
Tries from Micky Young, Horacio Agulla and Nick Abendanon had Bath 19-5 up and cruising at half-time but the Warriors hit back and closed to 25-20.
Had Chris Pennell converted his own try and then hit the target with a late penalty the scores would have been level going into the closing stages but he was off target with both before Banahan struck.
The bonus point victory sees Bath move third, edging ahead of Leicester Tigers, and extends their lead over fifth-placed Harlequins to six points – a crucial gap with Mike Ford’s men heading to the Stoop on the final day of the season.
For Worcester, it was another tale of woe as despite their second-half endeavour, they butchered a late try-scoring chance which ensured they came away with no points, rather than the two they’d have earned with a fourth late try.
Worcester began on the front foot and the visitors were the first on the scoreboard – winger Josh Drauniniu riding Nick Abendanon’s tackle to dot down on eight minutes.
Ryan Lamb missed the conversion however and midway through the first half, Bath were level after their pressure finally told.
Matt Garvey, who was impressive throughout, was held up by some impressive Worcester defence but Young evaded the challenge of lock Mariano Galarza to snipe over.
George Ford converted and the England fly-half turned creator for Bath’s second score on 24 minutes.
Ford swiftly changed direction, beat three Worcester defenders and released Argentina flyer Horacio Agulla, who scooted over the line – Ford again converted.
The Warriors were rattled and Lamb struck the upright with a penalty on 27 minutes.
And things got worse when they found themselves down to 14 men when flanker Sam Betty was adjudged to have taken Agulla out in the air on 36 minutes.
Bath scented blood and they had their third score just before the break after a prolonged period of pressure – with Banahan at the fore – and Abendanon went over to continue his impressive recent run.
Ford missed the conversion but Bath went in at the interval 19-5 to the good.
Worcester switched kickers soon after the break but it was to no avail – Chris Pennell was wayward with a penalty soon after the break as Bath maintained their 14-point lead.
And the hosts extended that to 17 eight minutes into the second half when Worcester were penalised at the scrum – Ford making no mistake from the tee.
Ford however, was soon sent to the sin bin following a tackle on David Lemi and that opened the way for Worcester to score their second try of the match.
The Warriors kicked to the corner and from the resulting lineout, powerful centre Andy Symons powered over on his first Aviva Premiership start since December.
Pennell added the extras and on the hour mark, Worcester were back to within seven when the Warriors full-back was on target with a penalty.
With Ford off the pitch, replacement Gavin Henson took over the kicking duties for Bath, who were awarded a 63rd-minute penalty and the Welshman bisected the posts.
But Pennell grabbed the Warriors’ third try of the match just before Bath were restored to a full compliment, and while he missed the conversion, Worcester trailed just 25-20 with 16 minutes to go.
Worcester had the chance the trim the gap to just two points with eight minutes remaining but he pushed his effort across goal and Bath cleared their lines.
And it was Banahan that had the final say and his score – converted by Ford – ensured Worcester remain seven points adrift at the foot of the table.