James’ boot gives Bath hope

GARETH DUNCAN looks at the Saffas who impressed in Europe over the weekend.

Lions-bound flyhalf Butch James kicked 14 points in Bath’s 19-15 victory over Harlequins to keep the former’s slim play-off hopes alive. James delivered an impressive all-round performance in a match that was crucial for both teams as the loser would effectively be ruled out of a chance of finishing in the top four with only two rounds remaining.

James, who has been struggling with poor form recently, converted scrumhalf Michael Claassens’ try before slotting four penalties, including two from long range. He only missed one attempt in a good outing with the boot at the Rec.

In other results in England, Saffa-laden Saracens took advantage of and log leaders Leicester’s 41-41 draw against Gloucester as they beat Exeter Chiefs 33-13. Inside centre Brad Barritt, hooker Schalk Brits, lock Mouritz Botha, No 8 Ernst Joubert started for Sarries while reserve prop Petrus du Plessis came off the bench. Sarries now trail Leicester by two log points.

Tighthead prop Brian Mujati’s Northampton Saints continued their good run with a 22-15 triumph over wing Gcobani Bobo’s Newcastle Falcons while replacement prop Faan Rautenbach came off the bench in London Irish’s 34-20 win over Sale Sharks.

In France, No 8 Joe van Niekerk’s Toulon put themselves back in to play-off contention with a 21-9 victory over table-toppers Toulouse. Van Niekerk picked up a yellow card in the 30th minute, but his team still managed to pull of a win in Marseille.

Inside centre Frans Steyn, lock Francois van der Merwe and No 8 Jacques Cronje’s Racing Metro failed to capitalise on Toulouse’s defeat as they also lost to Perpignan. Inside centre Gavin Hume and wing Rudi Coetzee started for the victors in the 23-16 win, with Coetzee scoring the decisive try in the second half.

Replacement flanker Gerhard Vosloo’s double couldn’t help Brive as they were thrashed 52-26 by loosehead prop Eduard Coetzee’s Biarritz. Brive also fielded fullback Scott Spedding, lockRetief Uys, flanker Antonie Claassen and replacement prop Pat Barnard in the defeat.

Wing Sam Gerber scored a try and fullback Joe Pietersen and lock Rob Linde started in Bayonne’s tight 22-17 win over Montepellier while reserve prop Michael Coetzee’s Castres beat centre Piet van Zyl, tighthead prop Ruaan du Preez, flanker Wessel Jooste and lock Coenie Basson’s Bourgoin-Jallieu 33-22.

Agen flyhalf Conrad Barnard won the kicking battle against La Rochelle fullback Greg Goosen as his 19 points with the boot helped his team to a 29-19 win. Goosen’s 14 points was not enough in the ill-tempered clash that saw locks Dewald Senekal and Cobus Grobler yellow carded.

In the Magners League, hooker Richardt Strauss and loosehead prop Heinke van der Merwe crossed the whitewash in Leinster’s 34-26 win over scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, No 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, flanker Robbie Diack and tighthead prop BJ Botha’s Ulster. Pienaar booted seven points and Wannenburg scored a try 20 minutes after being sent to the sin bin. Leinster now jump Ulster into second place in the standings.

Flyhalf Willem de Waal kicked 14 points in Treviso’s 19-16 win over wing Daniel van der Merwe’s Glasgow while Edinburgh beat wing Danwel Demas, lock Quintin Geldenhuys and flanker Gareth Krause’s Aironi 32-15.