First things first.....is There any Bath fans not smiling at the moment? I for one am loving the Bath form of late.
It's not often your hear of Bath scoring 104 points split through three fixtures. They've scored five tries hitting 32 points in two matches and 40 points with four tries. The trip to Gloucester saw a 5-32 victory and Worcester's journey to the Rec gave them a 32-9 win backed up with London Irish being on the end of a 40-16 trip to the Rec.
A resurgence in form seems to be coming Bath's direction and the sense of seeing the Bath we've wanted to see and believed was there is becoming apparent.
Many will say lets not get carried away with a handful of victories in a row, two Amlin, Two LV=cup and now two Aviva Premiership wins to add, but even through those matches a visible improvement has shown. There has been some fixtures this season that have gone a miss from poorly executed kicks allowing teams to run at Bath, the defence can only handle so much pressure. A mixture of close games both wins and loses but also some matches that really didn't go to plan have had the naysayers compelling Bath to more of a relegation side with the occasional call of coaching changes, just a little premature don't you think!
Bath have had a very good run in the Amlin cup and marched on as the top seeds only to be drawn Stade Francais in the next round, so all hasn't been so dreadful. After the last two Amlin fixtures Bath had two LV=cup games against Chiefs and Gloucester. News of Claassens receiving an injury meant that Gary Gold drafted in Peter Stringer as a short term cover. The moment Stringer walked upon the Rec to face chiefs for me was a huge turning point in the Bath style of play and has opened the eyes of many supporters, as we saw a sparkle of the abilities of the Bath back line when allowed to play.
So many positives in the Bath squad is now building, adding to Stringers appointment there is Rob Webber finally donning the Blue, Black and White and the introduction of Mat Gilbert. From watching the Gloucester, Worcester and London Irish fixtures the flow of play from 1-15 on the park was something to behold, ferocious rucking and scrummaging to the slick hands of the backs. It seems Gary Gold has finally started to drive Bath in the direction that we all want to see them move, getting that little extra from players that we'd seen flashes of but now coming into their own. Notably one player whose improvement is so visible is Kyle Eastmond who against Warriors seems to of found his place at inside centre, in fact the whole back line seemed comfortable with their positions.
There has been an issue over Donald's kicking but his handling and general midfield play against warriors I felt was exemplary, sadly the pressures he appears to be under are taking its toll. The form he showed the week before didn't follow into the exiles game and didn't make a good start before leaving the pitch injured. The negativity surrounding Donald I would imagine to now be having a detrimental effect on him and now affecting his game play, I always believed you support the player and encourage them to encourage performance excessive criticism plants doubt and can cloud the mind. One bonus with Donald's lack of form is there is a superb little back up plan in the guise of Tom Heathcote and a cracking all round player he's becoming, place kicking, handling and a generally good rugby brain appear to be developing.
Two players who I felt have come to shine are sadly only here as cover players, Peter Stringer and Mat Gilbert. Stringer's influence is noticeable on the field and with three tries already and lit up Bath's back line. Mat Gilbert has stepped up as a quality player settled in nicely to the squad, grabbing himself a well deserved try against Gloucester. Both these players have become admired players by the Bath faithful and all supporters would love to see contracts being offered to them on a permanent basis, certainly I feel would add an extra edge to the Bath squad.
The team that lined up to start against London Irish was as close to the strongest and well accomplished side I've seen walk out in Blue, Black and White seen for a very long time. I'm sure many may make a few tweaks if they could but for me looking through the sheet there were few weaknesses, but many strengths. The front five of James, Webber, Wilson, Day and Attwood would worry any side backed up by Louw, Fearns and Skirving that is one tidy pack. Then you come to the back line of Stringer, Donald, Eastmond, Banners, Biggsy, Agulla and Bendy suddenly your looking at a very strong competitive side and playing that way. So are we moving towards the side Gary Gold is wanting or is there still more to come, either way the progression is starting to look good. I'm hoping all the anti-Gold people are now starting to get behind him, Toby Booth, Neil Hatley and Mike Ford to show the faith that many have and realise they are taking the squad forward. A sign that the squad is now working as a unit as opposed to a field full of individuals was how the bonus point was gained against Irish. Playing and adding relentless pressure until the final whistle to ensure they get the fourth try needed, then seeing the reaction from the players and supporters as Perenise dropped over the line.
The next two fixtures are almost pivotal on whether Bath can grab a top six finish and place theirselves in the Heinikan cup next season. Saints and Gloucester both nestled slightly above Bath in the table, Saints three points above and Gloucester just one above them. These are more so important with Bath final run of the season, having Quins (A), Tigers (H) and finishing of with Sarries (A) makes every point a necessity. In fact at this stage of the premiership all of the games from now on are becoming just as important. We can not forget the other two fixtures sandwiched between Gloucester and Quins, Sharks (A) and then looking for a little pay back for the loss at the Kassam London Welsh make a trip to the Rec.
It is too early to start getting over excited and predicting all things good in the Blue, Black and White camp but for a moment lets revel in the steps forward Gary Gold's men are making, if it does continue you never know we could get to see Bath get some decent air time on ITV's Premiership highlights.