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SEVERN BELLS? WORCESTER v BATH
By P G Tips
January 2 2018


Mercer: busy

Neither coach will need to wind their team up much when Worcester host Bath on Friday evening. Both sides have frustrations to work out –for different reasons- and will want to knock seven bells out of each other. Warriors climb off the bottom of the table has stuttered with defeat in 3 of their last 4 matches, while Bath could suffer their 4th premiership defeat in succession. The prospect of celebration bells for Worcester ringing out over the Severn sounds alarm bells for Bath.    

Neither coach will need to wind their team up much when Worcester host Bath on Friday evening. Both sides have frustrations to work out –for different reasons- and will want to knock seven bells out of each other. Warriors climb off the bottom of the table has stuttered with defeat in 3 of their last 4 matches, while Bath could suffer their 4th premiership defeat in succession. The prospect of celebration bells for Worcester ringing out over the Severn sounds alarm bells for Bath.

 

For over a century there was only one first class club on the river Severn – Gloucester, further downstream. That changed ten years ago with Worcester’s promotion to the Premiership. Although they have often been scoreboard fodder since for the strongest clubs they have clung doggedly to their new status, suffering relegation twice but rebounding straight back each time. This season, despite uncertainty over future ownership, they seem determined not only to cement their pace in the top flight, but also to do so with a more expansive playing style.

 

If grapple and grunt is required, the Warriors can offer plenty from the likes of Waller, O’Callaghan, Denton or Fa’osiliva, but it is the threats behind the scrum Bath may need to pay most attention to. Hougaard seems an ideal scrum half to expose Bath’s weakness around the fringe of rucks which Newcastle, Gloucester and most recently Wasps have all exploited to take bonus point wins this campaign. Heem and Adams are in rich form on the wings, with Pennell in support prepared to counter from deep.

 

Bath have been more enigma than entertainer in their last three Premiership outings. It is a mystery how they can play so boldly and effectively against Toulon two weeks running only to throw away a slim half time lead at Sale. Paradoxically, their two purple patches last Friday against Wasps produced some of the best rugby of the season. Those spells though did appear to be driven less by the gameplan than players “tearing up the script” and giving it a lash. Plus points of the Wasps match were strong scrum and lineout performances, improved discipline (only 4 penalties conceded), the devil of Watson and the busy enthusiasm of Mercer. Things to work on are accuracy of box kicking, dynamism in the catch and drive and the number of tackles missed.

 

This fixture has “banana skin” written all over it. Worcester, at home, on an artificial pitch will be no easy task –as they showed in ambushing Bath last season. They have scored 16 tries in their last 5 games and will want a chance to emulate Wasps in taking the attack to their visitors. Suddenly this match has a “must win” feel about it. Defeat would probably be the death knell for Bath’s hopes of a Top four finish. The squad will know that. They have too much quality for mid table mediocrity and I am backing them to prove it on Friday. It will be a ding –dong battle, but at the end I expect the loudest peal to come from Bath.

 

Possible Teams:
Bath:

Obano, Dunn, Thomas, Charteris, Stooke, Garvey (Capt.), Grant, Mercer. Cook, Burns, Brew, Tapuai, Joseph, Jack Wilson. Watson.

Replacements: Noguera, V Vuuren, Lahiff, Phillips, Bayliss. Fotuali’I, Priestland. James Wilson.

 

Worcester: 

Waller, Singleton, Milasinovich, O'Callaghan (capt), Barry, Denton, Lewis, Van Velze. Hougaard, Olver. Heem, Willison, Mills, Adams. Pennell.

Replacements: Haupt, Bower, Kerrod, Phillips, Faosiliva, Dowsett, Shillcock, Humphreys.