Bath v Gloucester is a massive fixture and the build up this week really got the juices flowing, everyone was up for this game. The weather was not ideal for either side, traditionally in the last few seasons Bath have been totally unable to play in wet conditions but one feels we may be adopting a more rounded game. Gloucester will have also been disappointed to see the rain, with the back three they possess, they must want to play in the southern hemisphere!
With Gloucester kicking off, the game got underway. The very early exchanges were dominated by perhaps the most exciting part of the game, a 30 man fight! Ryan Caldwell and Jim Hamilton, two of the more fiery and tattoo-ridden players had a bit of a set-to and with it being a derby, everyone piled in. Punches were mainly thrown by Caldwell, Hamilton, Nathan Catt, Scott Lawson, Matt Banahan and Eliot Fuaimaono-Sapolu - but the two protagonists were binned. Although strangely Gloucester were awarded the penalty, perhaps the original call of a scrum to Bath may have been best call to make...!!
Once play got back underway again, the handling errors and kicking ping-pong commenced. This kicking game of chess was frankly of very poor quality until Lee Mears found some space and showed what a classy player he is, he found himself and Tom Biggs in a two on two position, threaded a clever grubber kick through for Biggs to chase. Biggs skinned Sharples on the outside (no mean feat), poked the ball on and dived on the ball, sending the crowd into raptures. Barkley missed the conversion narrowly, 10 minutes in, Bath 5 - 0 up.
As the half continued, so did the kicking. Freddie Burns kicked intelligently, looking to turn the Bath back three - in particular targeting the space in behind Woodburn (something that Jimmy Gopperth also did very well). It was clear that Gloucester had spent some time looking over the video of their win at the Rec last year which was played in very similar conditions, it was in that game where Bath just had no answer to Gloucester's clever kicking game. In this game, our defensive positioning was good, Sam Vesty in particular read the play very well but to be perfectly honest, his kicking was the worst I've seen from him - he just couldn't find touch and when he did, he kicked it out on the full!!
Gloucester then bounced back when Freddie Burns sliced through the Bath line, he took advantage of a mis-match of him against Nathan Catt, he then passed onto Eliota F-S who drew Vesty to put in Mike Tindall. Tindall then carried right up to the Bath try line, ignoring men outside him, Tindall went for the line but was stopped short by a strong challenge from Olly Woodburn. The ball was recycled quickly and a fine pass from James Simpson-Daniel put Nick Wood in to touch down. Burns missed the conversion - 5 apiece.
Gloucester then enjoyed much of the territory, which is vital in such poor conditions. They knew that if they pegged Bath back in their own half that they'd just be able to contain Bath, a rather South African approach to the game! This is what they did, and they won a penalty on the Bath 22 from a scrum, but from right in front of the posts, Burns missed! But Burns converted a few minutes later to make it 8-5. Barkley then had the perfect chance to bring it back level, but he rather uncharacteristically missed. Just on half time, Biggs was pinged for a high tackle, which Burns slotted to make it 11-5 at half time.
The early stages of the second half were fairly quiet, until Olly Woodburn made a break after a clever move at the tail of the lineout. Bath really should have made more of the resulting pressure, but they were awarded a penalty under the posts after a Gloucester player went off his feet at the breakdown. Barkley slotted the kick to make it 8-11. Bath then had another penalty, which was taken by Tom Heathcote, due to Olly Barkley nursing a knock. Heathcote coolly kicked the three points to bring the game back to 11-11.
With 20 minutes to go, territory and possession were crucial, but sadly for Bath, Gloucester enjoyed the better of both. After being awarded a penalty for Matt Banahan not rolling away, young Ryan Mills stepped up and kicked the three points from in front of the posts on the 22. Despite being an easy kick in terms of field position, it was a very good kick if you think of the pressure!! The last 10 minutes were fairly uneventful and Bath were unable to unlock the Gloucester defence.
In summary, neither team were particularly good - the conditions didn't really allow them to be. ERE will no doubt be filled with doom and gloom and how bad the team is and how players must go. But that would be unfair, Bath kicked poorly and lacked execution but the spirit shown was excellent. Gloucester's kicking was tactically far more astute and we were unable to maintain a grip on the game. It's still a new side, key players are just coming back into the fold again and I think as fans we are going to have to be patient with this side. We've had no luck with injuries and perhaps some bad luck with referees but sometimes it is possible to be beaten by the better side, and today Gloucester were more precise. I for one greatly look forward to seeing how we respond to this next week at Exeter, with the likely return of Carl Fearns and Lewis Moody, it will be interesting to see what team is picked.
Hope this is now visible to everyone and apologies if you have followed a link off Twitter earlier. I was having a bit of a mare with Sportsnetwork so I had to resort to deleting the old version of Nick's report and starting again.
Rob Webber - my hooker for 2013/14 (I'll try not to break this one mid-season!)
Good to read in the cool light of day a couple of days later. At the final whistle I was wet and p***ed off, especially with the performances of Claasens and Vesty, but thanks to this I am resolved to be patient and not spread more doom and gloom. Thanks.
Apparently Chris Brooker (ex Bath Adacemy - now at Quins) has been called into the England camp as injury cover for Mears - might explain an otherwise hard to understand decision to substitute him so late in the game.
Forgot to add, Hooper has broken his thumb, it'll need an operation. Could be out for the rest of the season. He's really had no luck, I thought he played really well. Taylor, Skirving and Louw were very strong as well.
You must have been watching a different game, in the "cold light of day" Bath were still a shambles, 3 points maybe but we were clueless. In the last 10 minutes the crowd almost apoplectic with rage at the antics of Classens etc. If Craig is in anyway satisfied with what we are having to endure this season he might as well collect his hat and leave. Absolutely nothing has improved since his arrival, nothing, oh I forgot the PA system is better. The rugby being served up by Bath is absolute cods. Don't give me any hogwash about injuries we were missing a couple of players Saturday but so are most clubs now. No Mr Craig if you want a top side in Bath you're going to have to put your hand in the till and spend some cash. The run of recent results has just masked the fact that when the going gets tough we are not at the races.
A couple of injuries? We picked 23 players from an available 24! I was watching exactly the same game as you, where the conditions meant we had to play to a certain game plan.
Bath don't have a divine right to win you know. We have just had a massive change at the club where we've lost more than half a dozen players, important ones too like Barnes, Grewcock, Watson, James and yes Hape. We've got eight new players, and the key ones weren't able to have a pre-season with the rest of the squad. Three of our new players haven't played in the northern hemisphere before either. We have a new Director of Rugby who has brought with him a totally new playing style, one that probably doesn't match the thoughts of a lot of the players in the squad. But those players know that it is a style of rugby that wins, the reason we haven't been winning is because it's our first season playing it and we haven't been able to have any continuity in selection.
Do I agree with the way we are playing? No. I think we should be speeding things up, playing more of an offloading game. But I think Meehan rugby only works when the ground is firm. Hence why we always lose in the first half of the season and pretty much go unbeaten for the second half of the season. So there is a definite need to be able to play more than one brand of rugby.
I don't imagine the squad thought we'd be in the position we are now, but it's important to remember that we actually should have won at Wasps, and also we were robbed of a win at home (and away) to Saracens. I'd say we're at least 6 points down on what we deserve to be.
This squad is a very closely knit squad, they see the potential but realise it will take 1-2 more seasons before we start challenging for titles. If only some of our "fans" could just realise this.
I know Stu, he really has had no luck! Story of our season really. Let's hope that Atters is fit for the Exeter game. Although with Fearns coming back to fitness, I wouldn't mind seeing:
6. Fearns (although I think he wants to play 7)
Every club is on the receiving end of bad judgement calls. Wasps are incensed over two late decisions that could have cost them wins in the last couple of weeks. It all balances out, and whinging about being 'robbed' does you no favours.
Attwood and Wilson aren't first choice. It was our first choice XV minus 2-3 players. Other clubs are far worse off.
Agree with most of what you say.
However to continue playing Banners at 13 is hugely frustrating.
I have consistently posted that I am a huge fan of Banners, but he never was, is not now, and never will be, a proficient 13.
He could be an outstanding winger, and has the ability, if applied, to create absolute havoc with opposing defences. He does not have that freedom at 13.
Okay, his defensive skills have to be improved as a winger, but that will only come by acceptance that wing is his best position, and he is played there on a regular basis.
IMHO, Carraro should always be the first name penned in at 13.
Agree with your views of SIM. I am not a huge fan! Your comment regarding a "closely knit squad" depends on with whom within the squad you are conversing.
Terrace, I very much agree with you on Banahan - I too would have him on the wing. When he's on the wing he is so much more of a threat, he holds the opposition defence and stops the early drift, because they know that he could get the ball at any time, but they don't know when. Yet when he's in the centres it's so much more obvious. From the wing he makes Claassens' life easier, Claassy likes to take those couple of steps before a pass. When Banners is on the wing he often takes an inside flick from Claassy.
I'd go with Williams at 13 and Carraro on the wing.
admittedly, judging on Perenise's vein of form he is now on par with Davey for the starting berth and they should alternate.
As a fan I love watching Perenise, he is one of those players who is a massive presence, makes something from nothing and is just generally exciting to watch which is what i came here do. He does have his cons but this makes it up for me.
I am a "fan" of Banners but at the moment i'd have Carraro at 13 plus, if are to persist with this stratagy of kicking away most of our possession ( a la Saffercans - except they do it to good effect!), we need to have Ollie & Biggs both on the field as they seem to be the only players capable of chasing kicked balls.
Great report Marshie and good to have you back on ERE!! Agree with you about Williams if he stays fit he is a talent and can do a good job at 12 or 13. I have heard through the grapevine that that a couple of premership teams have made offers for him, but also read in the Chronicle that he was staying at Bath, not heard anything yet!!
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