Red card for Burns and in­jury to Ta­puai take gloss off Bath’s day

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Aviva Pre­mier­ship - By Paul Bolton at the Rec

Bath’s de­light at earn­ing their first bonus-point win was tem­pered by the send­ing-off of fly-half Fred­die Burns and a se­ri­ous in­jury to cen­tre Ben Ta­puai in the space of a minute.

Burns, who had im­pressed on his first start for his home-town club fol- low­ing his move from Le­ices­ter, de­parted in the 63rd minute for a tip tackle on Worces­ter right-wing Josh Adams. Ref­eree Luke Pearce ini­tially thought the of­fence war­ranted only a yel­low card, but he up­graded it to a red af­ter con­sult­ing tele­vi­sion match of­fi­cial Gra­ham Hughes and watch­ing re­plays which showed that Adams landed on his head as Burns drove through with his tackle.

It ap­peared a reck­less rather than cyn­i­cal chal­lenge but, given the cur­rent clam­p­down on of­fences in­volv­ing the head, Burns will be fortunate if he plays again this month.

“It’s a def­i­nite red card, there are no com­plaints from us,” said Todd Black­ad­der, Bath’s di­rec­tor of rugby. “As soon as a player’s legs gets above the par­al­lel it’s in the hands of the ref­eree.

“The red card is de­served; there is noth­ing in­ten­tional in that, it’s just the way things hap­pen, but we will just take that on the chin.” Any sus­pen­sion would leave Bath with se­lec­tion headaches at fly-half for next Satur­day’s Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons Cup opener against Tre­viso, as Rhys Pri­est­land is cur­rently side­lined by a patella ten­don in­jury. Rookie Josh Lewis, who made his de­but as Ta­puai’s re­place­ment, is likely to start against Tre­viso.

Ta­puai will have to go through the re­turn-to-play pro­to­col af­ter he was knocked out in a tackle. There was a 10-minute de­lay while he was treated on the pitch and sym­pa­thetic ap­plause from a sell-out crowd as he was car­ried off on a stretcher.

“He got his head on the wrong side of a tackle and it looks like he got a knee in the head. The good thing is he seems OK. He’s talk­ing and he’s co­her­ent,” Black­ad­der said.

Be­fore his in­jury Ta­puai had wreaked havoc in Worces­ter’s de­fence, scor­ing one try, set­ting up another and reg­u­larly punch­ing holes with his pace and power.

It was Ta­puai who set up Eng­land cen­tre Jonathan Joseph for Bath’s open­ing try, although it had an el­e­ment of luck about it. Joseph’s chip out of de­fence bounced back into his hands of a Worces­ter de­fender and Ta­puai was quick to spot the gap. His break was sup­ported by Joseph who man­aged to beat the cover de­fence to the cor­ner, although it re­quired the TMO to con­firm that he had not knocked on ear­lier in the move.

Worces­ter, as al­ways, worked hard in de­fence but they lacked Bath’s cut­ting edge in at­tack and failed to make the most of first-half pres­sure.

They led briefly when wing Dean Ham­mond crossed for a well-worked try which fol­lowed a penalty by Jamie Shill­cock, but Bath showed them how to fin­ish when a sus­tained at­tack cre­ated an over­lap for Aled Brew.

Ta­puai ar­rived in sup­port of a bul­lock­ing run by Zach Mer­cer for a try on the stroke of half-time. Worces­ter were back within strik­ing dis­tance six min­utes later when Shill­cock went over from close range, but they never looked like end­ing their search for a first away Pre­mier­ship win in 19 months. Brew scored his sec­ond af­ter another Ta­puai break had stretched Worces­ter’s de­fence, which meant they had the bonus point wrapped up be­fore the dis­rup­tion caused by the de­par­ture of Burns then Ta­puai.

“I thought our en­deav­our was re­ally high,” said Worces­ter head coach Carl Hogg. “Again we got lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties in­side the op­po­si­tion 22 and we just need to be more pa­tient and more clin­i­cal in that area of the field.”

Early bath: Fred­die Burns was or­dered off for his tackle on Josh Adams af­ter tele­vi­sion re­plays

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