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