Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Bath enjoyed a fine start to the season and prior to the Wasps game on Christmas Eve, Bath had only lost two games.

Three losses later and the frustration is beginning to show, the players look to have a lack of focus, a complete loss of control.

One of the main things that has gone wrong is Bath’s tactical kicking game, Bath kick more than any other Premiership side, not necessarily a bad thing. At the start of the season George Ford was turning defences and steering his forwards around the park allowing himself to unleash the devastating strike runners in Bath’s backs.

At Newcastle and against Exeter, Bath are sending aimless long kicks downfield and what’s worse there’s no chase. You see players ambling after it, no pace, no urgency allowing the opposition time to set themselves and return the kick, often (as we saw against Newcastle) finding territory and touch.

Kicking for territory is all well and good but, you have to find touch, and I picked out George Ford but Ben Tapuai, Darren Allison, Jonathan Joseph none of them seem to be able to find touch or put enough height on the kick to allow Aled Brew or Semesa Rokoduguni to get some sort of chase on it.

The chasers though have to take some responsibility, if a kick is put long they should be busting a gut to get there and shut down the space available to the receiver. This would at least give the opposition less time to kick. One team that does the kick chase game extremely well is of course, Saracens.

Saracens execute this gameplan to perfection long kicks with two or three players in pursuit that wolfpack mentality, the desire to get there work for each other and win the ball back.

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Semesa Rokoduguni is stopped by Newcastle.

One good thing we have seen is the improvement in Bath’s discipline this season, there is no longer a barrage of penalties and nearly a yellow card every game. However there seems to be a lack of focus either in the opening stages or later stages of a game.

At Wasps, Christian Wade blitzed Bath with two tries in the opening stages, excluding those two tries the score was 26-26. The Exeter match, James Short scored two tries in the dying embers of the game before which Bath were leading 11-3. No second half points hurt Bath, no desire to kick on and kill the game.

Newcastle were certainly faster out the blocks last night, Bath looked to have dragged themselves out of a hole though only to get beaten due to a last minute Falcons rally.

Bath now have a break from the Premiership, they need to use this period to recharge and rethink. Bath have problems but they are rectifiable, they are still far better value than they were last season. They will come back and hopefully with a bang.

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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