All the hype and expectations came to a head as Bath rugby squared up against Worcester Warriors at Sixways for game one of Bath's 'new beginning' campaign.
Bath lined up with a strong pack and a back line with pace to burn, a supporters dream expecting a bounty of tries.
From the onset things didn't seem that this was going to be the dream start we'd all dreamt of. Within four minutes Bath had been pinged twice in which Andy Goode gratefully accepted.
Bath seemed to have to objective to kick and chase as every ball that reached Barkley was rapidly punted down field.
On ten minutes Bath again penalised for not rolling away at the breakdown allowing Goode his third successful kick taking Warriors 9-0 up. With Worcester starting to build a good head of steam up and starting to pass the ball about Banahan was deemed to of deliberately knocked on leading to him going off to the naughty step for a ten minute time out.
Allowing Goode scoop up his fourth kick and taking Warriors to a 12-0 lead after only 15 minutes.
Despite the deficit Bath's game plan still didn't change not stringing together more than two passes and relentlessly kicking possession away. When Hooper and Schofield exchanged handbags off the ball saw both the captain's take a seat with Banahan taking Bath down to 13 and Worcester with 14.
Finally with 25 minutes played Bath opted to start spreading the ball and tried to get the ball to Biggs who was tackled into touch, but the ball was taken back for a Worcester infringement allowing Barkley to slot home the first three points for Bath. For the remaining 15 of the half a scrappy whistle filled game continued with both teams picking up another three points a piece. With half time the supporters hoped an inspirational half time talk from Gary gold could flip the game on its head.
It seemed something had shifted in Bath's direction and it was Luke Pearce's arm. As he kept penalising Bath in the first half it was now Worcester who he would now relentlessly call up for not rolling away from the tackle. His whistling eventually saw both teams reluctant to contend at the breakdown and leaving the game on a nervous edge.
Due to the infringements Bath had three more penalties in the first ten minutes of the second half bringing the score level pegging. Something seemed to spark a change in Bath's performance and on a few occasions they began to pass the ball attempting to break the Warriors defence . Barkley even opting for a chip through for Eastmond rather than a huge boot up field. Eastmond failed to get on the end but the resulting pressure delivered Mr Barkley to let Bath nudge their nose in front at 15-18.
The restart saw the Warriors throw caution to the wind and attacked hard and inched closer to the Bath line, the defense stayed string until James Percival found a gap from close range to regain the Warriors lead and become the only try scorer of the tie. The convertion attempt was the first missed place kick of the game as Goode watched the ball ping off the upright leaving only two points separating the sides.
As this fixture had now formed an eenie-meanie-mini-mo game as Barkley took his turn to add to his personal tally. Next Goode gets another chance for warriors turn for the lead, Sixways hits silence to see Goode miss. The wait wasn't long for Goode to be gifted an identical attempt as the last which this time he makes sure.
With a minute left on the clock and warriors 23-21 to the good Bath went for broke and charged hard for the line and the pressure worked. On the death of time the immaculate boot Mr Barkley stepped up and in amongst the jeering of the home crowd the final touch of the ball flew right between the sticks delivering a 23-24 victory to the Boys in Blue, Black and White.
As the saying goes a 'win is a win' but let's be honest if this is the tactical game plan of the 'new beginning' it could be a long season. The likes of Biggs and Eastmond lining up on the wings surely their pace and skill should be used!! Set pieces on the whole were solid and Barkley hitting 8/8 shows real promise. Barkley's place kicking under pressure demonstrated his return to form and must be the main positive from the fixture. Although a big rethink of tactics is integral for next weeks opponents Wasps who narrowly missed out on victory at Twickenham yesterday against last season's champions Quins.
It may be game one if the new campaign so let's hope then can build upon it and pass the ball.....