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Bath storm to top of table Bath storm to top of table

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Bath storm to top of table

Towering wing Matt Banahan scored a hat-trick of tries to propel Bath into top spot in the Guinness Premiership – if only for 24 hours.

Banahan’s third try also clinched the bonus points as Bath subdued Leeds and notched their seventh win in eight games.

Scrum-half Michael Claassens also claimed tries and Olly Barkley landed seven kicks out of seven to make it a perfect afternoon at The Recreation Ground.

Leeds, second from bottom and already with the worst defensive record in the league, suffered late withdrawals in their pack but stuck to their task until their meagre source of possession finally ran dry.

Bath gave themselves the best possible start as Banahan crashed over in the right corner after just 38 seconds.

Leeds had collected the ball at the kick-off but promptly lost it and Bath switched play left, then right before Abendanon fed the giant wing with the scoring pass.

Barkley landed a difficult conversion and, when Leeds were stretched again in the seventh minute, Barkley added a 30-metre penalty to put his side 10-0 up.

Despite their record of only one Premiership win all season, Leeds were initially competitive at the breakdown and even forced a scrum turnover.

But Bath were too often masters of their own undoing when presented with scoring chances.

As Leeds refused to roll over as easily as expected, Barkley contented himself with a second penalty on the half hour.

There was encouragement for the visitors almost straight away as Alberto Di Bernardo landed a penalty from barely 20 metres.

Bath came out firing for the second half and again delivered an early blow through Banahan.

Leeds turned over possession in the Bath half and the home side swiftly moved the ball left before Barkley and Abendanon set Banahan free to run in from 30 metres.

Ominously, possession began to dry up for Leeds, and they had a lucky escape when Leigh Hinton only just saved the try when Butch James charged down Di Barnardo’s clearance.

The Leeds fly-half attempted a penalty from inside his own half but it backfired badly as Bath ran the ball back from under their own posts, keeping it in play for nearly two minutes before Claassens strolled over and Barkley added the conversion.

Banahan celebrated his hat-trick almost immediately from another long range attack, Barkley having a hand in the try and also adding a conversion.

Tom Biggs saved face for Leeds with an opportunist effort after 69 minutes but it was the impressive Barkley who nudged a clever kick through for Abendanon to score Bath’s fifth try on the final whistle, Barkley notching the conversion.

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