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

Does Banahan Fit the Bill?

Bath Rugby recently saw the departure of inside centre Kyle Eastmond as he moved north to the Ricoh Arena. This leaves Bath rather light in the centre department as Ollie Devoto has also moved on.

The question the coaches now face is who will play at 12? There are a number of options, Kiwi, Dan Bowden is able to play 12 and he offers George Ford (if he is still here come September) that second playmaker the England fly-half is used to.

There is also England under-20’s star Max Clark. Clark is a talented young player and his physical presence coupled with a surprising turn of pace make him a scintillating prospect for Bath and England fans alike.

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Matt Banahan is an option to play 12.

Another option which is viable is that of shifting Priestland to 12, again it offers Bath two playmakers in the backline which was a hallmark of Bath’s play in the successful 2014/15 season.

All of these options are open and offer slight variations on each other but all come with their pitfalls. Bath have very few outright centres as we approach the season’s beginning and the question remains will the coaches have time to draft in a new recruit to fill the void left by Eastmond and Devoto.

The final option is Matt Banahan. The 6’7” winger is a powerful carrier and he’s among the fastest in the Bath squad.

He is one of Bath’s longest serving players and at 12 would offer a crash ball option that as  a Premiership club you clearly need to get your backline moving forwards. Banahan’s crashing runs would in turn open space for the really quick men outside him, when those players include Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson, Jeff Williams, Semesa Rokoduguni and Tom Homer, that is a quite beautiful vision for Bath fans.

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Banahan is no stranger to scoring tries.

The giant wing is not just this brute either if he sees a gap he has the pace to exploit spaces left by careless defending, okay his step is not as electric as Eastmond and his tactical awareness not as precise as Devoto but he has the attributes of a Premiership standard 12 and a good one at that.

It looks as though Bath’s long summer is beginning to come together with coach announcements expected within the week. The club must accept that this season will be one of rebuilding and then we can look to what the future may hold.