Week Two: Analysis and Round Up

EIGHT TRY BATH THRASH SORRY FALCONS

Bath’s first home game was definitely one to remember as devastating attack and powerful forward play saw Bath run in eight tries.

The scrum was on top straight away and that was how Bath got their first points with Ford converting the resultant penalty and then knocking over his third drop-goal of the season having grabbed two against Northampton.

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Semesa Rokoduguni scores one of his two tries.

The tries started to come after former Leicester winger Niki Goneva was yellow carded for deliberately pushing the ball into touch which gave Bath a penalty try.

George Ford was simply sublime, his kicking out of hand found space and touch time after time turning the Newcastle defenders. He also kicked six from eight conversions.

Rokoduguni scythed open the defence and scored a brace, Banahan plucked a Ford kick out of the air to score, the unbelievable Dave Attwood also got a brace, new recruit Stooke dotted down and local boy Kane Palma-Newport scored his first Premiership try.

Dave Attwood was sensational, his physicality is unmatchable and his carrying gave Bath front foot ball with Fotouali’i and Ford controlling the game expertly, the Samoan taking the pressure off Ford with his excellent box kicking game.

Bath are well and truly on the right track and the backs look back to their exciting best coupled with a powerful pack and youthful fearlessness, this team have exciting times ahead.

PLAYER RATINGS

1 Nick Auterac (8) 2 Ross Batty (7) 3 Kane Palma-Newport (8) 4 Luke Charteris (7) 5 Dave Attwood (9) 6 Charlie Ewels (6) 7 David Sisi (7) 8 Zach Mercer (8)

9 Kahn Fotouali’i (8) 10 George Ford (9) 11 Matt Banahan (8) 12 Max Clark (7) 13 Jonathan Joseph (7) 14 Semesa Rokoduguni (9) 15 Tom Homer (8)

16 Tom Dunn (7) 17 Beno Obano (6) 18 Max Lahiff (6) 19 Elliot Stooke (7) 20 Tom Ellis (6) 21 Chris Cook (6) 22 Rhys Priestland (6) 23 Jeff Williams (6)

ACADEMY ADDITIONS

Prior to Bath’s thumping win academy duo Will Homer and Max Clark were added to the senior squad.

Clark has made a statement in his opening two matches of the season stepping into the team as if he were a regular first team player. He is physical, abrasive and fast, he is balanced well with the electric, pacey Jonathan Joseph.

Will Homer performed admirably at the tail end of last season, he has searing pace and does the basics of a scrum-half extremely well.

HOMECOMING FOR HOUSTON

Fan favourite Leroy Houston is returning to Bath Rugby following a brief spell with Australian franchise Queensland Reds, who he joined in May in a bid to make Cheika’s Australia squad but he is yet to earn his first cap.

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Australian, number eight Leroy Houston is set for a return.

Houston will take over from David Denton due to the Scottish international having to undergo surgery which could keep him out for up to four months, so Houston should be around until Christmas at which point he will return to Queensland.

MERCER PLAYS SIGNIFICANT PART

Number eight, Zach Mercer played some excellent rugby, he carries well with power and strength.

He made some really important inroads against Newcastle, the Bath back rower is explosive and powerful and didn’t look at all out of place playing in the Premiership.

Charlie Ewels also played a large part and Kane Palma-Newport was excellent in the scrum. Levi Douglas, Beno Obano and Tom Ellis all made a contribution towards the thrashing.

With the squad rather small it is inevitable that the team will have to introduce a number of the younger and academy players into the senior team over the course of this season.

FANTASTIC FORD HAILED

After the brilliant performance of George Ford, Todd Blackadder was quick to point out the performance of his fly-half. Ford captained the team superbly and the faith Blackadder is showing in him seems to be putting the England international on this whole other level.

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George Ford has enjoyed a strong start for Bath.

Dean Richards also was full of praise for the 23 year old saying that he should have been awarded the man of the match award which instead went to Dave Attwood (who was also excellent).

POTENTIAL 23

1 Nick Auterac 2 Ross Batty 3 Kane Palma-Newport 4 Luke Charteris 5 Dave Attwood 6 Matt Garvey 7 David Sisi 8 Zach Mercer

9 Kahn Fotouali’i 10 George Ford 11 Matt Banahan 12 Max Clark 13 Jonathan Joseph 14 Semesa Rokoduguni 15 Anthony Watson

16 Tom Dunn 17 Max Lahiff 18 Henry Thomas 19 Charlie Ewels 20 Elliot Stooke 21 Chris Cook 22 Rhys Priestland 23 Jeff Williams

VERDICT

Bath by 25

Week One: Analysis and Round Up

HISTORY MADE AT THE GARDENS

Bath’s long wait to win at Franklins Gardens was ended on Saturday as the boys in blue, black and white triumphed 18-14, thanks to the boot of George Ford.

Powerful work from the front five in the scrum, led by Henry Thomas and the lineout, led by Dave Attwood deprived a powerful Northampton backline of front foot ball.

Carrying from David Denton and Dave Attwood also gave Bath momentum which George Ford converted into 18 unanswered points until Chris Cook received his marching order for not retreating ten metres.

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George Ford kicks one of four penalties against Northampton Saints.

Cook’s indiscipline was much to the delight of his opposite number Nic Groom who touched down twice on debut to earn Northampton a losing bonus point, Stephen Myler converting both of the kicks.

Kahn Fotouali’i was impressive all over the park with his physicality and game management. Equally Clark outside Ford added some much needed explosive power to the midfield.

The substitutes did not let up and Palma-Newport and Auterac continued the demolition of a shaky Northampton scrum. Tom Ellis also featured early on because of an injury to Faletau performed excellently in his recently adopted back row role.

PLAYER RATINGS

1 Nathan Catt (7) 2 Ross Batty (6) 3 Henry Thomas (8) 4 Charlie Ewels (6) 5 Dave Attwood (7) 6 Matt Garvey (6) 7 David Denton (7) 8 Taulupe Faletau (5)

9 Kahn Fotouali’i (8) 10 George Ford (9) 11 Matt Banahan (6) 12 Max Clark (7) 13 Jonathan Joseph (6) 14 Semesa Rokoduguni (7) 15 Tom Homer (6)

16 Tom Dunn (6) 17 Nick Auterac (7) 18 Kane Palma-Newport (7) 19 David Sisi (6) 20 Tom Ellis (7) 21 Chris Cook (4) 22 Rhys Priestland (6) 23 Jeff Williams (5)

BACK ROW HEADACHE

The injury to Faletau was compounded by Scotland international Denton also picking up an injury at Franklins Gardens. This means we could possibly see academy back rowers Levi Douglas or Zach Mercer feature this weekend.

The two injuries at Northampton will hurt that much more due to club captain Guy Mercer still nursing a strain picked up in training and with Springbok Francois Louw still away with the South Africa team playing in the Rugby Championship.

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Faletau lasted just 12 minutes at Franklins Gardens.

Tom Ellis performed well when called upon after Faletau went off and Garvey and Sisi are more then capable back rowers, hopefully both Faletau and Denton will return to action soon.

ACADEMY PLAY PART IN WIN

No less than six academy players finished the win over Northampton ranging from Kane Palma-Newport in the front row to Max Clark in the centre.

It looks as though that number will be bolstered by a back row inclusion this weekend and also the prospect of Scotland under 20 star Adam Hastings and young scrum-half Will Homer who both impressed as they made their senior debuts last season.

NEW PLAYERS

Bath have signed Wales international Aled Brew until the end of the season. A smart move as Bath currently only have three senior wingers in the side, Matt Banahan, Semesa Rokoduguni and Jeff Williams.

Bath are also expected to announce the capture of two centres by the end of the week, one of them largely believed to be former Crusader, Robbie Fruean. The Kiwi looks likely to join up with his former coaches Tabai Matson and Todd Blackadder later this week.

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Robbie Fruean alongside Bath DoR, Todd Blackadder.

The other could be either Toulon centre Maxime Mermoz or this mystery Australian centre. Mermoz was a potential signing over the summer but interest cooled after he announced he wanted to stay with the French giants.

The mystery Australian has been a point of speculation for Bath fans, but three names come up time and time again, those are Berrick Barnes, Ben Tapuai and Anthony Fainga’a. Any of the three would represent some shrewd business from Bath’s new coaching duo, after the departure of Kyle Eastmond (Wasps) and Ollie Devoto (Exeter).

GOOD NEWS
Luke Charteris, Dan Bowden and Anthony Watson who all missed the Northampton game with minor injuries are expected to be available for selection against the Newcastle Falcons for Bath’s first home game of the season.

Charteris a big name move over the summer and he could partner either Dave Attwood or Charlie Ewels in a strong second row also bolstered by the arrival of former Gloucester lock, Elliot Stooke.

POTENTIAL 23

1 Nathan Catt 2 Ross Batty 3 Henry Thomas 4 Luke Charteris 5 Dave Attwood 6 Matt Garvey 7 Tom Ellis 8 David Sisi

9 Kahn Fotoauli’i 10 George Ford 11 Matt Banahan 12 Max Clark 13 Jonathan Joseph 14 Semesa Rokodugnuni 15 Tom Homer

16 Michael van Vuuren 17 Nick Auterac 18 Kane Palma-Newport 19 Charlie Ewels 20 Levi Douglas 21 Will Homer 22 Rhys Priestland 23 Anthony Watson

VERDICT

Bath Rugby by 7

Rebuilding at the Rec

Bath Rugby endured a tough season and that culminated in the sacking of head coach Mike Ford among controversial circumstances off field as well as on field problems.

Bath have got a long summer ahead and with a coach expected to be announced in the coming weeks it looks as though next season could be one of rebuilding and overhauling at the west country club.

BUILD
Bath look to build this season.

The club should be strengthened by a plethora of high quality recruits including international number eight Faletau, exciting scrum-half Fotouali’i and the promising hooker Jack Walker.

The club will see this season as a time to make a team capable of consistently challenging for the top half or maybe even the top four. The play-offs is likely to be out of reach for the time being but in the future Bath may well see this season as a crucial building block in their development.

All teams that win titles do of course have to go through the building phase and this season that is the aim for Bath Rugby.

You could argue Bath are in a good place to start that process with a good crop of youngsters in Adam Hastings, Levi Douglas, Will Homer, Darren Atkins and new signing Jack Walker along with players like Denton, Faletau, Joseph and Ford plying their trade in Bath. This is a blend Saracens as a blueprint have perfected and a plan Exeter are leaning towards.

WALKER
Jack Walker is among a number of new signings.

Bruce Craig has the money to make Bath the team they want to be, now it’s down to the players and whoever the new coach may be to earn their money and do their talking on the pitch getting Bath back to where they need to be.

Potential Bath 23: 1 N Auterac 2 J Walker 3 H Thomas 4 L Charteris 5 D Attwood 6 D Denton 7 F Louw 8 T Faletau

9 K Fotouali’i 10 G Ford 11 J Williams 12 M Banahan 13 J Joseph 14 S Rokoduguni 15 A Watson

16 M van Vuuren 17 N Catt 18 D Wilson 19 E Stooke 20 M Garvey 21 C Cook 22 D Bowden 23 T Homer