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.

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