Wednesday, 12 December 2012

One of Bath's idol and a legend!!

In any child's life growing up you develop a sporting hero, be a football player, tennis, golf, cricket or even athletics. Coming from Bath predominately the majority discover a love of rugby and find a player that they aspire to be like or regard them as a legend.

I grew up through the 80's and first attended the Rec in 1984 when I was a knee high five year old, for me there was one player who stood out a country mile. Not the fastest, most athletic or even the fittest but a man with passion, heart and an abundance of character........Mr Gareth 'Cooch' Chilcott!

1993 saw Cooch bow out of a 16year career playing in the Blue, Black and White where he enjoyed some of Bath rugby's most successful years, not to mention pulling on the red roses crested white shirt of England on 14 occasions.
"It wasn't a hard decision to retire. It was becoming a young man's sport. I don't miss the training but miss the camaraderie"

Even though he retired the game has not left him and through after dinner speaking and working on various rugbying tours the game hasn't lost him.
"After dinner speaking was great as it keeps me in with the sport and helps pay for the odd holiday or two!"

Now with Cooch going solo with VenaTour he's embarking on a new challenge and hitting the sports Travel full on.
"I have been in the sports travel business for over 20 years and it seemed like a natural thing to do. Still going on tours but as an expert and not as a player. Still doing your passion but in a different way to let other people enjoy the experiences."
The idea and premise behind VenaTour is to supply a unique experience for sporting fans and a personal touch, and what a great concept. Have a quick look over their page you never know there could be something that grabs you. Tours organised by somebody whose been there and done it will just enhance the whole trip, its a good touch!

Despite the all this tour organising Coochie still finds time to put his hand to a little charity work, bringing rugby to disadvantaged children. As the honorary president of Wooden spoon and an ambassador IRB kit aid is not too shabby on the charity front.
"I enjoy the charity work decided a few years ago to put my time into just a couple of charities I seemed did a fantastic job in getting kids playing rugby"

The refreshing point about Cooch is that even though he retired a 'few' years ago he is still Blue, Black and White through and through. Due to the professional era of the game now you very rarely get a player who does such a long stint at one club, and a faithful player to one team are few and far between. But this is the progression of the game and to know such a Bath rugby legend still supports the club must be embraced.
"I'm very much still a huge supporter and get there as much as I can. Bath is still my number one team and I'm Bath through and through."
As is now a career for players contracts and offers mean players move on, its the game now and money is part of it, who knows if Cooch had played pro-era perhaps he would of gone? Thank god he didn't!

One thing I think many all love about Cooch is just how damn west country he really is, listening to him do commentary is a delight. With the ex- player contingent of commentators now about I think a resurrection of Coochie Commentary is required!!
"I would love to do more commentating but pronouncing some of the Samoan name could be a bit of a problem."
Who would you rather listen to.....Healey, Dawson, laugh a minute Stuart Barnes or Cooch? I know where my choice, imagine a combo of Cooch and Moore now that would be entertaining.

There are not many characters such as Cooch in the game now and that's a shame, think the closet we've got is Flats and he's gone and retired as well.
In many avid Bath Fans book case they'll have Before and After the lemons and nestling next to that pair will be 'Cooch- Mr Chilcott to you' a fore runner in sportsmen's books. He inspired so many through his years of playing and I hope One day to see another player replicate him but then there is only one Gareth ' Cooch' Chilcott.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Inconsistent RFU

Where to start.......think The word inconsistent is probably the best way forward.

Bath against Tigers is always a fraught affair and is steeped in history. For two clubs who were so hotly contested as the biggest clubs around for a lengthy period an animosity grew and became grudge fixtures, that still is the case and always will be. The latest episode still leads us that way, as It's safe to say the game didn't go to plan. Up to the point where François Louw was issued his marching order Bath had a strong opportunity to win the fixture at Welford Road and take a large scalp on their journey back up the table. Unfortunately this did not come to pass as it appeared Louw's red card saw a collapse of what was turning out to be a good bout between two giants. The decision for Louw's red came from the touch judge as opposed to Mr wigglesworth who was officiating the tie. As we all know everybody is human and mistakes happen and every referee has a bad day at the office, to reduce the impact of these errors we now are graced with TMO to aid the officials. With a lot of regret this combination failed in this instance, where it appeared even the Leicester faithful were in charge. A game that descended into chaos leading to three red cards and three yellow in not an advert the Aviva premiership or RFU would relish.

So how do the RFU resolve this almost farcical fixture? By selecting key infringements and citing the players involved. Or picking some players and citing them, yep that's right the go for the latter!!

From Bath Louw (red) for dropping an elbow, Mears for a punch and Banahan (red) for a high dangerous tackle. Deacon (red) from tigers was pulled in for a punch. No Murphy and Kitchener from Tigers or Donald from Bath all were seen to be involved in the incidents, Donald even receiving a yellow for a punch. So stage one of the RFU's inconsistent citing committee is complete, now on for stage two.

Joining the players from the Bath v Tigers game was Chris Hala'Ufia from London Irish who also received a red for a tip tackle against their fellow exiles London Welsh. Hala'Ufia plead not guilty but gained himself a five week ban, showing this panel were in no lenient mood. Deacon was up first and plead guilty for punching Banahan after his high tackle on Allen, Deacon who already has been hit by a one week ban by Tigers was given the same punishment by the panel.

Next up it was the time for the Bath boys to stand in the dock, Que the next bout of inconsistencies. Banahan plead guilty to a high dangerous tackle and rendering Allen unconscious, an unintentionally high tackle but regardless still high, he received a three week ban. Mears also to the guilty plea for a punch and gained himself a two week ban. Louw was the more interesting as he had his card expunged and no further action to follow.

If to dissect and compare these punishments is where we really see the true inconsistent manner in which the RFU are administering their sanctions.

Mears, Deacon and Donald all landed a punch in the game. Mears two weeks, Deacon one week and Donald left just with his yellow card. Regardless of intent a punch is a punch and equal punishments should be administered, more punches obviously then harsher sanctions, but one punch all punish equally.

Banahan admitted the tackle although Allen ducked into it and Deacon left him slightly unsighted, still accepted what was to come. My issue with this comes from the punishment given to Andy Powell from his trip to the Rec with sale raise this season. Powell hit Day around the neck and earned a quick ten minutes on the naughty step, Powell wasn't so gracious on leaving the field delivering a hand gesture and expletives directed at the booing crowd. So what did Powell get punished for? He was issued no ban for the tackle or reaction to the supporters but given a £5000 fine. Powell was ordered to pay £1000 upfront and the remainder at the end of the season. Not only does a ban punish a player it punishes a club, a fine punishes the player only!!

Louw's red card many would say  was the turning point of the game, dropping a team by a player puts extra strain upon the rest of the players. With Louw having his card expunged it leads to the officials having inconclusive evidence against him therefore wrong decision was made, sadly a decision that changed the game but cannot be reversed.

My own personal view is the RFU need to have set sanctions as to administrating loosely based guidelines. A long hard look by the powers that be in the RFU is certainly required, as we all know the IRB need to do similarly regarding the All Black allegedly leniency!

Time for a shake up!!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Diplomatic immunity Kiwi style?

The citing hearing of Andrew Hore was met by many rugby fans with a cynical view due to an air of leniency surrounding the All Blacks. Sadly this cynical view became all to apparently true as his eight week ban for striking Bradley Davis from behind was reduced to five.

Hore originally was hit with the top end punishment for the cowardly crime of striking Davis, who was totally unaware of what was going on. The reduced ban was then handed out with three weeks deducted due to his- acceptance of guilt, genuine remorse, exemplary discipline record and his conduct during the hearing. There was also the fact of his daily contact with Davis taken into account.

The judicial official said "The act of foul play was inherently dangerous, being a deliberately swinging of the delivered with significant force, causing serious injury to victim who was unsighted." This was confusingly followed up by stating "the player had not intended to make contact with the players head". There is six inches difference in height with the two players so the question is- why was his hand near his head if there was no intention to strike him?

A five week ban would not be too dismissive if not for the menial matches that will be missed. Obviously the square up against England will be missed but the they go into closed season so the ban will follow onto the next domestic season. With this in mind Hore will also miss the three pre-season friendlies, so technically a meaningless ban, equating to a one match exclusion, being the England fixture. Ian Foster (New Zealand assistant coach), Hore and his legal representative stated the pre-season significances and meaningful consequences for the player in accordance with IRB regulation 17. So once again a NZ get out clause meaning they seem to be immune of a serious punishment.

So why is it we believe the All Blacks are deemed to be treated like almost untouchable gods? It is evident their playing prowess is spectacular when in full flow, yet creeping into their game seems to go past the normal brute force more to borderline thuggery. Before the Hore case the talk was of kiwi Thompson who originally received a two week suspension for raking his boot over Alasdair Stokosh's head, to see it reduced to only a week. Again that phrase they love to use was called into force 'exemplary discipline record' and there was the reduction in his punishment. Another example takes us back a few years to Keven Mealamu headbutted Lewis Moody, thus being administered with a four week ban. Mealamu and the All Blacks opted to challenge claiming he was 'clearing out a ruck'! This proceeded to a halving of the sentence to being only 2 weeks.

Earlier this season Gloucester flanker Andy Hazell unleashed a wrath of fury upon Mont-de-Marsan replacement prop Sebastien Ormaechea after he alleging he was gouging. Hazell was instantly red carded and pulled up in front of the citing committee. The punishment for Hazell was not just judged on the punches thrown but the intent by using his knee to land a blow to the head. Andy Hazell received an initial 18 week suspension reduced to 16, half a season out for punishment is a lengthy stint and a bit more of a justified ban.

Citing commissions are very sporadic on their decisions and seem very easily swayed and vote in favour of the player. A prime example of this can be shown through the Manu Tuilagi punch on Chris Ashton. The maximum ban Tuilugi could of faced from splitting Aston's eye was 52 weeks, but only received 10. There was further dispensation for Tuilagi due to his age, inexperience and those wonderful expressions 'remorse' and 'guilt'! So Tuilagi's 10 week suspension was reduced to a 5 week ban, with this calculating punishment it meant Tuilagi was free to travel to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup.

The viewing figures for these matches are in the millions, so these infringements are their for everyone to see. With the consequences been brushed to one side with lenient punishments what lesson is delivering to our children the future of the game. If anybody was to carry out any of these actions off of the field they'd be punished with a criminal record. With such large viewing figures surrounding rugby now children look up to players as if they are gods, but let's not actually give them that status or they'll become footballers.

A concern for me is the vast difference between amateur and professional standards in the punishments. For evidence of this look no further than a fixture between Keynsham RFC and Oldfield Old Boys RFC where a brawl broke out. During this scuffle a Keynsham player Jack Weston ran in and unleashed two blows to an Oldfield player Ben Staunton's jaw. Weston was awarded with a red card and Staunton received a yellow for his part in the fracas. An inspection of Staunton's and deemed to be OK so played on after his 10 minutes in the bin, later in hospital its was discovered his jaw was broken. The difference now becomes apparent between the amateur game and professional, as Jack Weston was arrested for the punches, following his arrest Weston was then sentenced for six months imprisonment. On sentencing the judge said 'It's important people realise the consequences of their violent actions'.

The punishments seem so inconsistent and almost indicate a professional player is borderline immunity for their actions, yes its a physical and powerful game but administer punishments that will deter and make players think more of their actions.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Will Lancaster re-discover his faith?

Has the day finally dawned where Bath's pocket rocket Tom Biggs gets to don the white of England and sport the Red Rose for his country?

The avid fans at Bath have been championing Biggs to take a role on the wing for England, and now with his call up to Pennyhill could see this finally come true. When Biggs joined from Falcons the Bath supporters realised Bath had signed a very talented player and have been wondering when his full English call up would come. This season especially has seen a huge turn in form from Biggs, not just his pace but showing there's more to his game than just a speedster. The best way to describe him is a well rounded wingers who punches well above his weight, no matter the shape or size he will hit a tackle with a force that would stop majority of players, many of which have been try savers.

It was Lancaster who initially spotted the talents of Biggs taking him into the academy at Leeds, and sending him on the road to the player he is now. So does he still see enough in him to release him on the international stage, and what a baptism of fire squaring up against the All blacks.

For myself and many believe he could well be a breath of fresh air in the England squad, going back to having a rugby brain not just bulk. I'm hoping Lancaster doesn't release him back to Bath and allows him the crack of the whip he deserves, although I'm still dubious that Lancaster will continue with the same personnel. When looking at the big picture and not wishing to isolate a player (but I am) what really is Ashton at the moment bringing to the table other than a reputation?

Lancaster had faith once let's hope he has it again!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Is the Blue, Black and White Fortress back??

Back in Bath's hay day the Rec was seen as a fortress, all clubs feared to play the mighty Blue Black and White as it was nearly impossible to gain a win.

Under the control of Gary Gold's regime it would seem it's once again gaining that prowess. The spirit and passion displayed by Bath including the United boys has been empowering this season. The only loss conceded under Gold at the Rec has been against Saints, and let's be honest the game was there for the taking on that occasion.

Against Quins they defended and chased down every kick administering and absorbing pressure. The likening to a fortress was even more apparent as due to the flooding it even had its own moat! It was a scrappy yet dogged performance and Bath were the worthy victors. From every home game this season the majority of supports have felt hope and belief back in their hearts that Bath will soon be back amongst the big boys and deemed as a force in the premiership.

Positivity is rife on a home fixture and we now hope That Gary Gold can transpire that into the away matches. For some reason at the moment Bath have a slight Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde about them. The spark seen at the Rec seems to be absent when on the road. From watching the home games it is evident the move forward in which Gold is taking Bath and that will surly soon filter through to all games as opposed to just at home.

I have personally been quite negative in Bath's away losses, but this leads from the frustration of the heart shown at home. Performances such as Agen, Exeter and Quins shows the type of performances they can potentially play, this is why so many pull their hair out after games like London Welsh.

By turning the Rec back to the fortress it once was shows we must stick by Mr Gold and take the occasional loss and revel in the victories, hoping the later becomes more prevalent.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Does size really matter?

Now I know where most of you may of thought I was going with the title but minds out of the gutter now, the question is about the English rugby team!

Aswell as an avid Bath fan I'm also a passionate Englishman and the general rule that to play for England you must be 6'+,built like a brick outhouse and run like Usain Bolt worries me we're becoming a one directional team.

Where has the little jinky runs to find space gone? Its all crash ball running straight trying to puncture the opponent's defence. English rugby is almost starting to resemble a glorified variant of rugby league, take the tackle recycle and continue, only you get more than five tackles but eventually kick the ball away!

It's wrong to compare the two but I'm going to anyway but amateur and professional rugby are almost two different sports. The brilliance of rugby was regardless of your shape and size there was a place on the park for you. Slightly rotund you were a prop, small guy punchy slight mental disposition your a hooker (Brian Moore), big old lofty one second row, short a*** who can run through others legs was a scrum half and so on but you get the point. Whereas now normally lining up in the White shirt bearing the proud Red Rose the only one prominently still with that prowess is the scrum half.

Yes having big ball carriers is good a two man tackle draws space, if the ball is quick, but somebody with quick feet to back that up surely is a bonus. Different varieties of players makes it harder to defend against. Looking at this as a size comparative exercise would the likes of Jason Robinson, Jeremy Guscott, Phil DeGlanville or even the Underwoods get into the current line up. Yes OK different era's but they are huge English stars and to many hero's. They had talent in abundance, so why in this day and age do we depict you have to be a big lad over talent to get picked? What is this teaching our future players in minis and juniors rugby?

Sharples was possibly the only squad member who went with the Michael Flatley dancing feet but has now been released back to his club. A baffling thought I've struggled with, and I've mentioned it before, why isn't somebody of Tom Biggs ilk in the squad? Somebody with pace to burn, can turn and track back but also tackle anything that moves. Biggs is a guy who punches way above his weight and plays with passion, can we say the same about Chris Ashton? But due to Biggs size he is again and again overlooked.

For my own worry that talented children will look at the English team (hopefully not in purple) and think 'I'm not big enough to represent my country' and lose interest in taking the game to the next level. We could lose a generation of talent and see rugby turn into an elitist sport rather than the welcoming game it is.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Are we losing the respect in rugby?

Over the last few months of rugby I have started noticing a change in the atmosphere surrounding rugby, my personal view is I don't like it.

As a child I was introduced to a fantastic sport which I grew to love and adore........Rugby. A sport in which I was always told "Football is a gentleman's game played by ruffians, and rugby is a ruffian's game played by gentlemen." Obviously a little exaggerated but the general ethos is there. A game in which respect was imperative amongst players and spectators.
For players they adhere to the referees word, do not argue with him and call him sir. They clap each other from the field of play and regardless of what occurs in the game itself you'll sit and chew the fat over a pint with your opponent.
Whereas supporters would applaud players from both sides on and off the field. When a team would have a kick at the posts silence would be observed as a respect for the kicker. Applause was also granted even when the opposition scored a try or performed a well executed tackle.

Are these un-written rules of rugby still observed.......sadly No!!

A bold statement may be other than integrating of supporters the crowd is now leaning towards a footballesque audience. A prime example was displayed in the Scotland v New Zealand fixture where Dan Carter wad berated with boo's every time he had a kick at goal. It becoming an all to present occurrence in many fixtures now, including a vocal presence of trying to influence the referees decision. I would love to say even Bath are exempt from such behaviour but even the rec faithful have displayed such animosity. Andy Powell received a yellow card for a high tackle and received a torrent if boo's then released a hand gesture directed to the Bath fans earning himself a ban, I'm not justifying his behaviour but players are only human after all and can only take a certain amount of abuse. And I believe with the crowds continuing to react in the manner they are we may see more slip up from players.

Creeping into to the game now is more disagreement of the referees decision from the players, with the trial of the new TMO system earlier this season there were many players asking the ref to go up stairs and check with the video ref. It has always been that the captain and player who is being addressed by the referee are the only one to be able to talk to him.
I did see a tweet over the weekend where somebody was  watching a u13's fixture being refereed by a female ref, one of the boys apparently was not very happy by her decisions and called her a 'cheating f***ing b*tch'! Are we allowing our youth to confuse a footballers respect for a ref as opposed to the traditional respect demanded in rugby.

In short is there a shift of the polite Ethos of rugby now were well into the professional era, I for one hope we can make it back to the good old days or am I becoming slightly deluded and need to accept the new dimension of the sport.?

Friday, 9 November 2012

Bold Gold for LV

An intriguing and possibly an exciting line up announced for Bath's fixture against Newport and Gwent Dragons in the LV cup.
A bold eclectic mix of youth, experience, new and returning personnel will line up against the Dragons, and I for one really like the look of the team.

After the united fixture on bonfire night a lot of fans were hoping to see some of them feature in the LV, and Gary Gold did not disappoint. LV cup is predominantly seen as a good tournament to aid the experience of young players and help them prove their worth as a future rugbying star.

The decision to mix seasoned players is a good decision, to allow youth and enthusiasm to be steered in the direction of victory. To see Banahan and Hipkiss lining up in a centre partnering shows Bath aim to run hard and hit attacking rugby. The hype for Roko getting his first top flight start has arrived with the pairing up of Woodburn on the opposing wing, joining Heathcote, Devoto and McMillan in quite a dynamic back line.

An inclusion of one name upon the team sheet that has helped raise hopes of so many Bath fans is the return of Ryan Caldwell. Such a tenacious player and never prepared to take a backward step, a player who's presence has been a miss this campaign. Let's hope to see him get back out on the park and do what he does best and drive Bath on.

The pack is a mix of some young but already seasoned players accompanied by some Blue, Black and White stalwart. Captain Hopper and Taylor to control, direct and lead by example.

Throughout the squad I must admit to being a little excited to see if they can carry the dogged attitude to the LV campaign!!

15 Ollie Devoto
14 Olly Woodburn
13 Dan Hipkiss
12 Matt Banahan
11 Semesa Rokoduguni
10 Tom Heathcote
9 Mark McMillan
1 Charlie Beech
2 Brett Sharman
3 Anthony Perenise
4 Stuart Hooper (c)
5 Will Spencer
6 Josh Ovens
7 Guy Mercer
8 Simon Taylor
16 Will Tanner
17 Ken Dowding
18 Kane Palma-Newport
19 Ryan Caldwell
20 Will Skuse
21 Chris Cook
22 Luke Adamson
23 Richard Lane

Monday, 5 November 2012

The indifferent Bath.

It's safe to say the positivity amongst the Bath fans took a huge knock from the London Welsh game.

Off the back of chiefs and Agen games the Blue, Black and White faithful shared a belief that there was a strong passion and determination within the team. So what went wrong against Welsh? Bath had some good attacking phases but just seemed to lack some of the clinical prowess they had displayed of recent times. Just as they looked like scoring on several occasions an infringement would occur or Welsh would win a turnover.

For me it appeared that Bath went out with an intent to defend heavily, draw the exiles forward then kick down field to catch them on the break. An intriguing game plan, perhaps not having total faith in the team due to injury absentees. A noticeable missing link was Louw whose driven the pack on in recent fixtures, but one man should not make such a difference. For the first time this season the forwards just seemed under powered and below par.

Missing more than anything in the exchange with Welsh was the character, pride and passion that had been displayed against Chiefs. Perhaps its slightly wrong of me to carry on comparing the two games but the diverse change in beyond blatant for anybody to see. For the United fixture against Quins we were treated to some more of that dogged determination we'd been tempted with against Agen and chiefs. I had it pointed out to me by Mr Gary Gold himself they are one squad and one team, the will to win flows from the top to bottom. So the question still lends itself to what went wrong against Welsh.......complacency, Injuries, wrong game plan or it was just one of those days??? Either way It's safe to say consistency seems to be a sight miss at the moment.

Whatever didn't happen against London Welsh we've seen the light still burns bright in the heart of Bath rugby and regardless of the disappointment the belief will still be rife amongst the supporters. Bring on The LV cup and Newport and Gwent Dragons to show the rugbying world how Bath can bounce back and shed the disappointment.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Moving in the right direction.

I sense the positivity is returning to the stands of the Rec. The game against Agen and Chiefs are to thank for this.

With the forwards playing as such a tight unit and powerful,  winning ball enabling the backs to spread it wide and release the fast duo on the wings. It now feels to many as Gary Gold's plans he spoke of are now starting to fall into place. I'm not saying that Bath have become the polished complete package, but its now evident how far forward they've moved on from the early few rounds of the Aviva Premiership.

The second half against Agen showed the move forward in development of the squad and how they have become a 'team' not a squad of individuals. To grind out an away win in France, which in no mean feat, showed heart and character in the team.

The first half against Exeter especially the first 20 minutes was so clinical and relentless tearing the Chiefs apart. The second half saw Bath rocked back on the back foot but defensively saw them withstand a pounding making over 100 tackles in the second half. A half that goes on for 54 minutes seeing two teams who just know the importance of the bonus points showed true character and what this fixture meant to them, basically what a true epic battle from both tribes.
Exeter are know as a team not full of individuals but a team who play together and I felt Bath were on a par with them in those steaks, plus the added bonus of the individuals flair.

Now for the part where I may play devils advocate and propose a suggestion why Baths game play has changed, why the game plan is finally coming off. This may annoy or even upset a few but I believe its due to the exit of one Mr Olly Barkley. It was evident from the early part of the season his choices of kicks were not executed in the intended manor, at times the decisions he also made often were not the right one. Who at the early stages wished for the ball to be passed along the line and not aimlessly punted down the field. I'm not dispelling the factor that he was a true stalwart for Bath but it felt as he was leaving earlier fixtures were forgotten and he was elevated to a god like status. The questions how can we go on without Olly, well for me I think Donald hasn't done a bad job and the return of Heathcote Bath will march on for the better. I don't wish to discredit his legacy at Bath as he was a fantastic servant for the club and aided Bath through his two stints in the Blue, Black and White colours, sometimes a lot was rested upon his shoulders. The point I'm trying to make is not to slate him just to point out there seems to of been a shift in the teams game style since his departure.

Bath are an ever evolving side and now it seems the early trepidation seems to fizzling out and the supporters are looking forward to some epic bouts and believe they can be victorious.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Are Bath becoming rugby's version of Liverpool?

Growing up as a Bath supporter I was gifted to watch what can only be described at their 'glory years'. This as a fan was a superb time for me and other followers. Through the 80's and early 90's Bath were simply the dominant force in England. Between 1984 and 1996 only '88 and '91 eluded a clean sweep of John player/Pilkington cup victories, backed up by league champions of the league six times between 1988/89 and 1995/96. The strongest year was 1993/94 when league, cup and Middlesex sevens victory saw them to be the ultimate team.
With Bath being run ultimately as a professional team in an amateur era saw their dominance shine, as the man who masterminded their success Jack Rowell leave to take on the England job it signalled the start of the end of Bath's superiority. Rowell left in 1995 and the sport turned fully professional in 1996, the rest of the chasing pack suddenly were catching them up. The 1995/96 season saw Bath's last double and the 1997/98 saw them become the first British club to become European champions beating Brive 19-18 winning the Heineken cup.

Bath just didn't seem to be able to compete with the professional game and started a fall from grace, reaching their darkest hour when relegation was borderline only scrapping ahead of local rivals Bristol.

Bath managed after 10 years in 2008 to win the European challenge cup, a return to some silverware. Slowly Bath managed to get back to the top end of the table getting up to fourth in 2009/10 season, dropping back to fifth and last season finishing eighth.

As with Liverpool FC who were so dominant in the 1970's and 80's Both teams have dwelt on their past glories.
I'm going to play devils advocate with this......but Is it time we moved on from the past and looked to the future. Because both sides have enjoyed such superiority in their sport is it hard to accept they do not have a divine right to be champions. For Bath I've supported my whole life and always will, but the time has come to accept Bath are no longer the side of days of yore. I always want to see a Blue, Black and White victory, but now I've realised we must support and understand they are a side developing and one day will regain the top spot. At the moment it's time to acknowledge they are now a top six team, but have faith they'll improve.

It's time to judge them on the here and now not on the history that shrouds the club, champion their success and look for positives in loses. Let's build a positive club and avoid a negative club who rue the days gone by.

Friday, 19 October 2012

It was never my ambition to become a Hooker!

I've recently been asked to read and review a book, an honour for me to do as what a book it was as well.

Neil Clark's ' It was never my ambition to become a Hooker' was actually quiet an enlightening piece of scripture, and also quite a gripping tale......its Not all just about rugby. The book runs through the Hookers time at Exeter, Bristol, Bath and Cornish All Blacks then once again back to Exeter and now celebrating his testimonial year with the Cheifs.

A very frank, open and very honest account of his life. A forward for the book written by another renowned Hooker Mark Regan gives a tiny insight into Neil's life but not a scratch on his own version.

The book begins with the players perspective of the second fixture of the Exeter v Bristol championship promotion final. We're given a behind the scenes view of the fixture- before, during and the celebrations of their victorious promotion.

Once the opening chapter is done the book flips back to his childhood. This for me was the truly gritty part as its somebodies childhood who shapes the man they become, and what a topsy-turvey time he had.
A long move when young to the parental issues that can only be described as unbelievable. What he witnessed and went through as a child would of broken many a child's spirit. Luckily through the passage of his story he was gifted with meeting some people who saw good in this tearaway. For all of his wrong doings and mistermeaners there was people who saw good and helped him turn his life around.

He was a late comer to rugby but eventually came to the realisation this was the pathway for him, turning his back on his beloved surfing.
As the book progresses we hear of his physical and personal development. He met some fantastic connections in the game and became passionate to make it his life.

During the season of promotion Neil gives a very detailed description of each fixture which he continues through seasons one and two of premiership status. It's not just a rendition of the way the games went but inside the reactions of the players, how they felt and their general physique.

To hear a players views on pre-season training, the turmoil of injuries show the intensity of the modern game. From the highs and lows of victories and losses, even through the sense of rejection of clubs. Even to the point of the skill needed to fulfil the Hooker's role, and the slightly touched mentality needed. This book truly covers all those points and so much more.

All in all if you're going to get a sporting book to read this year grab this little ditty and you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Amlin part 1- It may not be the Heineken but let's win this baby!!

Quite noticeably the fixture list for Bath Rugby this season will be missing the Heineken cup, a loss that will sadden many a supporter.......but At least there's the Amlin Challenge Cup. It may not be top flight European rugby but it still means the Blue, Black and White roaming army can flit off to foreign climes for hope of some European victory.

So who will Bath be facing in this fresh challenge- Agen, Bucharest Wolves and Cammi Rubgy Calvisano.

After a loss to local rivals Gloucester in the premiership Bath wanted to return to winning ways and show what they are really about this season. A two week premiership break lay ahead in which they were going to have a little European wander.
Their first fixture sees them off for a nifty little jaunt of 1730miles to Bucharest in Romania to play their team the Wolves. A little bit of an unknown quantity, so how much resistance will they show Bath?
Vesty honoured with the duties of the boot started the ball rolling in the first minute, starting how he meant to go on by taking an early three points. A show of dominant play ensued for Bath and Vesty added a further three to the board 12 minutes in.
Ollie Devoto gifted with his first start to Bath nailed a penalty kick into touch well into Wolves territory putting Bath firmly on the front foot. A well taken lineout saw the ball swiftly distributed through the hands (it can be done) finally ending in the hand of young Will Spencer who obliged in scoring Bath's first try. With Vesty adding the extra two points Bath were 0-13 to the good 23 minutes in to the game.

The referee eventually lost his patience with the Wolves prop's undisciplined behaviour and dispatched him to 10 minutes in the sin bin. Vesty took another three points to the away teams increasing score.
As Bucharest became a man down Bath got the bit between the teeth a certainly wanted to make the advanced count.
Nathan Catt turned the ball over flipped an offload to Cuthbert, who released Biggs and as he drew the defence slipped an offload into the hands of Ross Batty enabling him to score another Bath try. Once again the increasingly confident boot of Vesty nudged Bath up to a 23 point lead after 35 minutes on the clock.

Bucharest found their time just before half-time to finally make their appearance on the score board. A good kick deep into the Bath's 22 saw them with a well placed line out. Resulting in the strong position their scrum half saw a break in the defence and darted through to make the score, with the conversion made the teams made their way back to the changing rooms. A strong half from the travelling team seeing them 7-23 in front.

Bath came back out with all guns blazing determined to go for the bonus point. A rampaging Guy Mercer made up a large chunk of ground. As young Ollie Devote received the ball he eyed a strong overlap spun the ball out to Cuthbert, who took his turn to draw the defence this time he gave the offload to vesty after nipping in at the corner converted his own try.

Bucharest got back on the scoreboard again this time only a penalty and seeing them hit double figures. With 10 minutes left of the 80 an interesting move of bringing the flying winger Kyle Eastmond on at fly half. This seemed to be an inspirational move and helped demonstrate there's more to his game other than just running. A superbly executed long floated pass out to Devoto leaving him to dart through the defence scoring his first try for Bath, the fixture now seeming dead and buddies with the score line hitting 10-35.

Bucharest had a little left in reserve and pushed for more points, an attempt to rescue some respectability. Six minutes left their captain crossed the line leaving their fly half to take the extras.

With a little altercation off the ball both sides were reduced down to 14 men as Mercer and the Wolves hooker got to see the end of the tie from the naughty step.

Bonus point in the bag Bath still wanted more, and more they would collect. Abendanon had come on to replace Devoto and took a nice kick down well into Bucharest territory. With the resulting line out Bath hit a powerful driving maul and Kane Palma-Newport crashed over to give Bath their first win of of the Amlin Challenge cup, and quite a comprehensive one 17-40.

A strong performance and proof that if the ball gets passed out and they play I little more running rugby the tries and bonus points will come, although a weaker than normal opposition a good move forward!!

Next stop south west France to Agen......

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Bath victory as Barkley sets Sale for France

After the poor performance from Bath last week against London Irish everybody was hoping for a good win against Sale, especially to give Olly Barkley a farewell to remember.

Many will disagree with me but I left the Rec feeling positive about Bath's performance. There was signs that intention of the game plan was starting to take shape.
Yes some kicks were fruitless and poorly executed, but quite a few were lofted high giving the players to Chase down and add pressure. In the first half Biggs executed this brilliantly nearly forcing the player into touch he inturn threw the ball wildly back in field to bobble into the hands of an oncoming Donald, sadly Sale managed to halt his progress.

At times there was an air of frustration when Bath's back line took the ball and on several occasions instead of releasing either Biggs or Eastmond opted to dink through for them to Chase. In that situation isn't ball in hand in more secure than chasing an oval bobbling ball? I understand when facing a flat heavy defence it could be a good option, but a one-on-one with the dancing feet of Kyle 'Michael Flatly' Eastmond I know where my money would lying.

Yes the game was at times a little scrappy but a fan I saw the improvements were there to be seen. For some they require perfection and the point Sale are yet to win a fixture could be passed, I'm pretty sure as a fan a 21 point victory regardless of who it is is a positive step to take away from the game?

Hipkiss tackled like a man possessed even if he was seeming mildly concussed at one period, one concern was the huge hit he did make may see him up against the citing committee again. He may of received his man of the match award but me personally saw a man with a stronger performance and he scored! Stand up and take the plaudits Davey Wilson. Every breakdown he was there and on the ball he was like a rampaging bull, which is what lead to his try, a move he started and finished.
As all Bath fans may wonder and pose the question......why is Biggs not in the English set up? Between him and Wade there is only one victor. Rugbying abilities its hands down Tom Biggs all the way. When he unleashed a tackle that made everybody in the Rec's bones crack its true proof this guy is more than just a speedster. To take a lose pass From Barkley and chip and Chase down the wing taking Play 60/70m down the park and force Sale into conceding a penalty is another display of his insight on how to read the game move it forward when you as an individual aren't receiving much ball. So Mr Lancaster please take note get Biggs sporting the Red Rose on his chest.

Everybody knew it would be an emotional send off for Barks and this would be the case. He played with his normal kicking continuity and even passed a lot more than kicked. And what a dream finish it must of been by scoring the last kick if the match and his last appearance in the Blue, Black and white colours.His heartfelt speech at the end showed he's not just a Bath player but also a Bath supporter. You could sense the teams loss with the unified lap of honour finishing with the squad bringing him home with a guard of honour clapping through the tunnel. Mr Barkley you may be gone but won't be forgotten!

I am a firm believer that a win is a win, a cliche some will definitely state but I'd rather take four points over no points regardless of the style and prowess the team plays with. I'm also a firm believer of respecting the referee.....sadly yesterday I could not follow through with this respect. Certain decisions made by Mr Davey yesterday seemed slightly obscure. To signal a forward pass by Bath when Sale were in possession was unique luckily the Novia stand were on hand to correct his misjudgement. I'm pretty sure a few of his hand signals were closely linked to the Hokey Cokey rather than rugbying signals. It is fair to criticise an official especially with lack of TMO, although why just televised matches allowed it surely all but that's a bigger discussion at another time. The Sale try seemed to be a double movement and Perenise appeared to have downward pressure on the ball as he put the ball on the line but was judged to knock it forward. My problem with Davey was he seemed to a little influenced by the crowd, there was obviously the forward pass which was correct but then came the Powell yellow card. Powell hit the tackle starting at the chest but his arm went up to the neck, I do feel the chants of 'off off off' helped his decision to sin bin Powell (I may be wrong but this why my perception, please correct me if I'm wrong). Sadly a player I rate highly who plays with power and aggression allowed himself to demonstrate his frustration. Unfortunately telling the crowd to politely 'to away' wasn't the wisest of choices, but there was worse to come from him. While leaving the pitch to make his way to the changing rooms a large group from the terraces opted to show their disapproval of his actions started to 'boo' him, this behaviour from fans I personally don't condone but nor do I accept Powell throwing his empty water bottle into the crowd. It may of been a gingerly thrown bottle as to show his anger but attempt not to get in any extra trouble, unfortunately he still did the act regardless of the force.

I would much rather see Bath take four points over nothing at all! Progress seems to be on the up and with players returning from injury I left the ground feeling a lot more positive.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

An invitation I couldn't refuse!

Every now and again you get an invitation that you would be foolish to refuse.

After the Warriors game I wrote a tweet about what I believed to be aimless kicking by Bath. In the tweet I mentioned Gary Gold. What came next I truly didn't expect......a Direct message from the man himself! After a small discussion via direct messaging I had a better view of the tactics deployed in the match. From this original discussion I was invited to join him for a coffee at Farleigh House and have a relaxed chat. I later received a confirming invite from a certain Mr Flatman to meet the two of them. My eldest son was hugely jealous, as an aspiring prop he has huge admiration for Flats and I was off to meet him and Gary Gold. Well who would turn that offer down?

As I pulled up in front of Farleigh house it suddenly dawned on me how lucky and honoured for such an invitation, as walking to reception just scanning across the field and seeing the Squad in training mode in truly stunning surroundings. I waited in reception to be greeted by Flats who then progressed to walk me through to make ME a coffee! A guy I'd watched and supported for his nine years at the Rec making a coffee for me, instantly I realised just how relaxed and friendly the whole set up is at Farleigh.

For a period of time I sat in a room almost chewing the fat with Flats while Gary Gold finished up on the training field. From talking to Flats his passion for the club has continued off the field after his retirement and you can tell his friendship with the squad is still just as strong. Whilst in the conversation I was informed of quite nasty messages delivered to him and others in regarding the way the Barkley situation was handled. From talking to him he made total sense stating 'until all of the facts were in place why do any form of press releases, how would that help'. Olly Barkley made his final decision and shortly after they announced that it was going to happen, Bath don't wish to speculate or add to rumours and believe the fans are entitled to the entire story.

Upon Gary Gold's arrival Flats left us to it. The one thing I took from talking to GG was his intensity and passion as a coach, he is here to get Bath back in the map and playing clever and strategic rugby. His knowledge of statistics, facts and the working of the game is phenomenal. From watching relentless hours of rugby researching endless statistics is how the Bath game plan has come to light. It's not a plan he has conjured up its a plan that the 'facts' have developed. The issue that he raised was that the plan isn't the issue it's the execution of the plan.

From all of the statistics he told me the most frightening one, through all matches across the board there is only an average of three and a half phases played before a penalty is conceded. So much research has been put into this and with so much potential for an infringement playing to much ball in you're own territory could spell danger, playing too much rugby and going nowhere is far too dangerous and leave you having to defend rather than you pressuring up in their half. Possibly this could be the change of laws and rules now on trial in the premiership this season in which the players and officials have to adapt to. For the referees it must be even harder, for example Wayne Barnes refereed a fixture in the Championship tournament going on at the moment, where they are using the cadence 'crouch, touch, pause and set'. Then he has to officiate an Aviva Premiership game where the new cadence is 'crouch, touch and set' is in place. So for international players and Refs its a confusing time hopefully when the trial is over we will see a global ruling as in which other sport has different laws in different countries?

After a small time sat talking to him he invited me to his office where he had video clips to show me and help explain the theory behind the plan. Bath have been accused by many people (including myself) of relentlessly kicking the ball away, I was proved wrong! In the clips I viewed showed that Quins and Super 15 champions Chiefs, who are considered the most running rugbying teams, kick from hand more than you would believe. The problem is Bath get spotted as the kicks aren't going to the destination required whereas Quins and Chiefs execute theirs well. If a ball is kicked over a flat line into space to put them under pressure to potentially knock, make a mistake or even rush a short kick into touch that would be well executed. If you punt it straight down the throat of the full back allowing them to either counter attack or pick a well placed kick it is wasted ball. A prime example he made for Bath was in the saints game, Biggs chip for Abendanon's try and Barkley's chip through at the end. Biggs chip was barely mentioned as it was the right choice and worked. Barkley's chip through was far from the right choice and went dead. It's all about making the right choice and executing it well!

He said in regards to Barkley it wouldn't be fair as a coach to stop him from moving on, its a deal many would not say no to. With Donald, Heathcote, Banahan and Williams plus young Olly Devoto coming through as an exciting prospect at 10 Bath have a good depth in 10's and 12's. Barkley has been a good servant of the club and everybody supports his decision to move on and wishes him nothing but good luck.

Another little issue I asked about was regarding Bret Sharman. Because of his Twitter discrepancies he has become far from liked player in England, so why would Bath want him? Bath need to have four hookers listed for ERC competition, with Webber out they're one short. It's only a short term loan and as Sharman is very remorseful for his actions and is hungry to play and show he demonstrate his ability. So Bath really have nothing to lose, a hungry, talented and wanting to prove his worth as a player filling a space in the squad surely that's a positive move.

There was many other topics discussed ranging from the Rec, Rugby World Cup, Bath rugby history, Dewi Morris and Stuart Barnes. For me it was a very enlightening meeting and learnt a great deal.

I felt lucky to meet a Bath legend and I believe a future Bath legend. All Bath rugby fans want nothing more than to see them run out victorious and with GG at the helm I truly believe that is possible. I have learnt and hope many others will look at the bigger picture rather than the short term.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Exiles catch Bath napping

Every player in rugby has an off day and who can blame them they are only human.
With Bath lining up against the biggest sieve defensively London Irish what myself and most Bath fans didn't expect was a whole team whose minds seem to be AWOL. We as fans can understand a players off day but all of them??

A tentative beginning with Bath breaking the deadlock from an Olly Barkley penalty. A little tit-for-tat on the penalty count with both teams trying to open the game up, but mostly Irish seemed to have the bit between the teeth. Nearing the half an hour mark a fantastic move from the Bath backline had the travelling fans to their feet. A good interaction between the backs saw Donald float a pass to Eastmond after looping from behind him, he then released Abendanon who tore off down the pitch with Biggs and Eastmond in support. Abendanon in turn passed back to Eastmond who picked up his second try of the season, Barkley happily took the extras. With Bath in the lead 9-13 it seemed they were ready to take a firm grasp on the fixture and march on to victory.

Sadly this wasn't the case.

Another penalty followed for the exiles taking them within one point. Then just before the stroke of halftime they themselves ran in a try and Shingler converted taking Irish to a 19-13 halftime lead.
Infringements and lack of passion seemed to be making Bath their own worse enemies.
Unfortunately the second half continued this trend, Bath leaking points through penalties and silly mistakes. Bath managed to get into some strong positions but sadly either knocked on or failed to release the ball. It wasn't to be their day!
Another try and Shingler penalties saw the exiles run out victorious 29-22 gaining their first win of the season and Bath lose their second successive fixture.

So what went wrong? Lack of the fundamental skills, lose of concentration or just complacency? Were they just thinking we'll turn up and breeze it who knows.
One thing is certain the worst critic of a player is the player themselves, and I'm sure there is a squad tearing themselves to pieces.
A bad loss but sometimes a bad loss can give players a kick up the rear end and help motivate. It's only game four and too early to judge a long way to go and I for one believe this will only help to move Bath forward.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Exiles up next for The boys in Blue, Black and White

The next challenge for Bath Rugby is the 'old boy' exiles- London Irish.

Off the back of last weeks disappointing defeat to Saints how does this fixture fare for the boys in Blue, Black and White?
Yes this bout brings Bath up against Irish at the majeski stadium but the exiles are having potentially a worst season than the 'new boy' exiles London Welsh.
Irish's defence is likened to a sieve, conceding 40+ points a game in their first three games. Any team with this defensive tag line would now be in some major defence training.

Could Bath be meeting Irish at the right or wrong time? That's a tough one.

Bath I'm sure will be out to prove a point after the Saints game. Bath had the potential to beat Northampton but it was not to be and I'm sure the coaching staff have a few wrongs tactically to right this week. Hopefully for Bath the execution of the plans will implemented in the correct fashion. As Irish have leaked so many points to Sarries, Gloucester and Wasps Bath surely now have to bring the wings into action and let Biggs and Eastmond run at them.

The downside of the fixture for Bath is in Irish's only home fixture this season may of seen Gloucester out 40 points past them but they also got 31 in return. This is a sign that Irish will be a big challenge at home so Bath need to show their defensive qualities in full strength. Also the distraction of one Mr Barkley leaving the Blue, Black and White force for the sunnier climes of Paris.

Let's truly hope we get to use the back line and show the league what fire power Bath have got and over the next few weeks let Olly see what he's losing.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Saints learning curve

I think it is safe to say the Bath against Saints game wasn't exactly the game we'd all hoped it would be.

I could sit here and and dissect the game and give a damming review. After watching the game again you could say there was lot's of bad points but also some positives that are emerging.

The main issue that came from the fixture was the impetuous kicking and inability to spread the ball out wide. It appeared that was plan A but there didn't seem to be a plan B.
There was very few times the ball went along the back line or went past Barkley before being punted down field. The theory of such a plan is to gain territory and put pressure upon the full back and either turn over or force a penalty. Unfortunately for Bath they chose Ben Foden, the current England full back, and opted to kick too deep allowing Saints to clear their line or counter attack.

With Nick Abendanon going over in the first minute after a chip through from Biggs expectations for the win went through the roof. Unfortunately that was the one and only try of the game. Penalties from either side filled the rest if the points in the 14-18 loss at the rec.
There was a few notable flashes from Bath-

- Abendanon had a a strong game. Obviously a try, a few little 'Bendy' runs and a kick from the tightest of angles in the corner to clear the line with good distance.
- The forwards are in my opinion starting to look a strong and solid unit, so much more of an improvement on the previous seasons.
- Defensively stronger than against Wasps, countless tackles being put in and being under that much pressure sadly infringements will occur.

For me the biggest proof it was an off day at the Rec came at the end. Finally a Bath attacking move with good pressure, four points down so nothing to lose as losing bonus point was basically in the bag. As the ball was about to go along the line in Saints 22 Bath were gifted a four player overlap, guaranteed try if passed along and Biggs would of only had to walk over, Barkley opted not to use the players and chip through but it went too far over and went dead. You could see Biggs frustration as he thrust his hand aloft in anguish knowing the win was there. Barkley may not of known the full circumstances so made a choice he thought was right these things can happen and I'm sure they do in all teams.

Many said the ref was poor on the breakdown Bath's continuous kicking led to the loss either way sadly it was a loss, and the first at home this season. But not many teams can go an entire season undefeated, we must remember this is a new coaching regime and building a new structure and basis to the squad. Before the season began we all believed this campaign was a learning curve to climb back up the table, and the Saints game certainly was a lesson to learn from. I still believe things will only improve and get better........Allez Bath

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

BT go sky high!!

So how many rugby fans out there subscribe to certain channels just so they can see their beloved team strut their stuff in the Aviva premiership?

And now many of those subscribers appear to be facing down the barrel of yet another one!

I was the proud owner of BT vision in Bath which is fed from the Bathampton transmitter, therefore I was paying for many channels I could not view. BT works as a glorified freeview box with Internet connection for the interactive extras. I subscribed to ESPN but couldn't actually watch it, genius. BT's response was I should get it therefore I had to honour a year's subscription, thank you so much BT.
Now with Virgin I have sky and ESPN and I'm a happy rugby viewer.

So imagine my true delight to see BT managed to out bid sky for the premiership rights. I may aswell give up trying to watch Bath on the box as the powers that be appear more interested in the £'s not the fans.

Can we all afford another subscription fee to buy another channel to watch rugby? Probably not I know for one I can't.

I hope for the premiership this is a deal that is lucrative but also it's one that doesn't detract armchair spectators from seeing the games.
I know more us to be released on exactly which media forms and platforms the matches will be dispatched for our viewing. Let's just hope and pray the poor fans on the street aren't going to pay for the hierarchy's apparent greed!

Please just let us watch live fixtures in peace!! It would be ever so nice of you.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Home at last and pest free.

On a little patch of grass in the middle of Bath a small group of people gathered together to watch a few guys have a bit of a run about for a quiet low key game of rugby.......who am I kidding! Welcome to the Rec for round two of the Aviva premiership Bath's first home game against Wasps.

After a scrappy nip and tuck victory against Worcester last week many were hoping to see a much more open and fluid game this week. A glorious sunny afternoon on a plush green carpet of grass at the rec was certainly geared up for it. Both teams had the wings bundled up with pace and skill the expectations leant theirselves to that hope.

Apart from being the first home fixture of the new term but a celebration of the 250th appearance in Blue, Black and White for one Lee Mears. A huge accolade for any player to represent their club on so many occasions, but as such a well decorated international and lion shows how much of a legend of rugby he is not just in domestic but internationally.  Not many hookers can notch up 42 England caps and 4 lions caps and get a try for both. Regardless of the international front he's the pint sized hero to so many fans and children, a player who always plays with 100% passion and commitment, just simply Bath Rugby Legend.

Both sides started to a trepid beginning and a little bit of aerial ping pong. Barkley started of where he finished last week taking the first three pointer. A wait until the 15th minute for anymore points to grace the board when Robinson brought Wasps back to level terms.
You could sense both teams were almost sizing each other up as there was small inclines of breaks and ball starting to move about but no noticeable scoring opportunities. Eventually the half an hour mark came and one of the new boys Dominic Day gathered the ball in the line out setting up a great back line move we had been waiting to see. Barkley picked out Hipkiss who in turn slipped the ball to a rampaging Banahan who happily charged across the line, gifting Bath with the first try of the campaign. Without doubt the ever reliable Barkley took the extras. 10-3

Wasps were not there to be rolled over and passed by they had the intentions of making a game of it, but Bath had the same idea's....the game was now on. Nathan Catt put in a chip and chase but lost out to Simpson. Simpson then began the counter attack and released one of the danger men Christian Wade down the wing, a dead cert of a try seemed imminent had it not been for a true last ditch try saving tackle by Barkley.
Wasps now had their tails up and sensed there were points to be had before the interval. Bath's defense held firm to a barrage of pressure until Wasps earned themselves a penalty and Robinson gratefully accepted taking it to 10-6 at half time.

Bath came back to the party with the bit between the teeth,a Gary Gold half time team talk seemed to fire them up. Some strong scrummaging From Bath saw Wasps get penalised, step up Barkley and thank you for three more on the tally.
Over the next few minutes a mix of errors and lack of concentration would see an influx of points. Bath were able to capitalise on a rogue pass by Simpson which the pinged off Palmer's back landing in the path of an on coming Biggs enabling him to kick the ball on heading a one on one race to the line with Wade, Biggs becoming the victorious winger and holding out the race to collect and score the try. Biggs at his best. Once again Barkley slots the conversion giving the home side a 20-6 lead and looking good.

A little problem that's still floating around from the last few seasons is Bath inability to deal with the re-start. Once again they lost possession and within minutes of the Bath try Wasps had one in return, a cross field kick from Wentzel collected by Vardell dropping over for the score. With Robinson converting Wasps were back within seven.

Bath undeterred by their try Bath seemed more eager to prove the critics wrong and show they're on the way back to their best.
Like a rampaging rhinoceros Carl Fearns charged towards the line and look almost certain as he looked to offload to either Biggs or Claasens rather than go for gold himself Wasps managed to stop him and also clear their lines.
What was to follow could be one of the best passages of play we've witnessed from Bath produced for many a season. Matt Banahan demonstrating another skill in his repertoire with a kick from almost 22 to 22 giving a huge territorial gain. From the lineout the ball got passed about as Bath made inroads towards the Wasps line, Abendanon flipped the ball to Barkley who in turn released Kyle Eastmond on the edge of the 22, the run from Eastmond would if not left a single Bath fan seated, carving through seven attempts to tackle him he moved his feet and shimmied his way over for a breath taking try. The speed in which his feet moved would surely of put Michael Flatley to shame. An all round go team try finished with a moment of individual genius. Ball back to Barkley who once again popped in another two points.

Another wave of Bath pressure followed and as Banahan took the ball into contact received an injury to his knee and being turned over by Wasps. The ball suddenly found itself in the hands of an ever dangerous looking Wade who was met by Mears in the wing rather than his major foe for the afternoon Tom Biggs. Once the legs of Wade were opened there was only one place the ball was going, a chasing Barkley could reenact his earlier tackle leaving the ball to be dabbed under the post allowing Robinson the simple task of the conversion.

The fixture was drawing to a close as Barkley again converted another penalty taking Bath up to 30-20 removing Wasps bonus point, as the final whistle beckoned an infringement by Bath gave Robinson a chance to gain the visitors the bonus point back, he rightfully did so ending the game at 30-23.

All in all a much more fluent performance by Bath well balanced tactics- kicking from danger and gaining territory but spreading the ball out to the wings and creating good ground when in good positions. Very patient in build up and no rash desperation running if yesteryears.
Man of the match going to a much deserved Claasens who played a clever game linking forwards and backs, comfortably keeping Simpson out of the game. From the whole team a solid performance, just a shame the two tries came from lacking in concentration but I'm sure this is something Gary Gold will address this week in training. Biggs coverage of Wade must also be commended to almost contain a handful for the game is no mean feat.
Hoping Banahan isn't to badly injured as his display at 12 is ever improving and along side Hipkiss a good partnership is brewing.

If this is the future of Bath Rugby under the Gold regime I can only say hallelujah.

Next up Saints.....

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Anyone for pest control!!

Game one done. Bath took the win of a scrappy nip and tuck fixture against Warriors, and as they say four points are better than none. A win is a win and as I have had pointed out to me running rugby hasn't been overly successful for Bath, which is true I would rather they win ugly rather than lose pretty.

Next step is the rejuvenated Wasps. They struggled to stay in the premiership last season taking to the wire with Falcons on the last day. A few new members of personnel and the returning Haskell saw them play what can only be an epic match against last years champions Quins at Twickenham on Saturday. After losing a 27 point lead to lose 42-40 Wasps will be up to prove they're ready to put last year behind them. The game against Quins controversially came down to two decisions by the new TMO system and seemed to affect their game. Against Bath they will want to right their wrongs.

Similarly Bath had a slightly exuberant Ref who became a little to swift to blow up and not allow the game to flow. Luckily for Bath the Boot of Barkley managed to take more of an advantage of the frequent penalties than Andy Goode could. The first game of any campaign is always a tricky undertaking and to come out victorious will always aid the path through the season.

So what can we expect from a fixture between Bath and Wasps? If the game is allowed to flow all I can say is fireworks.
Lining up opposed to each other is four of the most explosive wingers in the league. Bath have Biggs and Eastmond and Wasps are armed with Varndell and Wade, so if the ball goes wide in the right territory of the park we may be treated with some pacey tries.
Claasens will have his work cut out squaring up against Simpson as both have the integral role of linking the pack and back line potentially releasing either set of wingers or allowing the two packs to drive it forward.
Bath's pack against Worcester was the strongest and showed the most stability I have seen for a long time. Louw may be toasting the bench for south Africa this weekend but one thing Bath have is a good depth in back row. Although the pack may be strong a certain few of the Wasps boys aren't to shabby either, enter messers Haskell and Palmer. Haskell since his little globe trotting experience tour has returned in good form and looks very powerful. Palmer has and is always Mr consistent and a handful for any forward.

We could be faced with firecracker of a fixture and hoping the Blue, Black and White faithful are there to lift the boys at the Rec and turn it back to the Fotress it once was. Regardless of the way in which the tactics may go, be it kicking or passing, I hope to see Bath 2/2 at the end of the weekend. So everyone practice for Saturdays encounter all together......'COME ON BATH'

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Bath Barks back!

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.....

Saturday, 1 September 2012

It's game time!!!

It's finally here!! After all the waiting laced with hope and expectations the Aviva Premiership 2012/13 season is ready for our viewing.

All pieces of the Bath Rugby jigsaw are now slotted in to place and the picture looks good.
-The coaching team have taken hold of the squad, tweaked and trained them within an inch of their lives.
-Stuart Hooper is ready to don the captainship for a second term. With a season peppered with injuries and time on the sidelines he's out to prove this season Bath will be back as a contending force.
-The boys in Blue, Black and White took three from three in the pre-season fixtures. Some good looking rugby was played, although it was hard to gauge how the full power of the team will displayed with so many changes of personnel during the matches.
-Now the Bath faithful have a new spanking shirt to parade around the stands. What we received was traditionally known as a 'marmite' shirt. The purist and traditionalist believe is pulling too far from the old school hoops, losing a sense of history. For some the rugby league appearing shirt is new and stepping forward as opposed to looking back. Either way puff your chest and parade your plumage like a proud peacock!

Sadly during the opening pre-season Bath were hit with the injury of Tom Heathcote which will be a big loss, as he was a huge part of last season and a potential top drawer player of the future. Let's hope to see him role out on the pitch as soon as possible.

Step forward Worcester warriors for game one. A trip to Sixways last year was not a successful outing lets hope for a domineering start and get the season rolling. Gary Gold is lining up a strong side filled with power, pace, skill and natural talent.

15. Nick Abendanon

14. Tom Biggs

13. Dan Hipkiss

12. Matt Banahan

11. Kyle Eastmond

10. Olly Barkley

9. Michael Claassens

1. Paul James

2. Lee Mears

3. David Wilson

4. Stuart Hooper ( c )

5. Dominic Day

6. Carl Fearns

7. Francois Louw

8. Ben Skirving


16. Ross Batty

17. Nathan Catt

18. Kane Palma-Newport

19. Dave Attwood

20. Will Skuse

21. Mark McMillan

22. Ollie Devoto

23. Jack Cuthbert

The anticipating times are nearly over and it's in the players hands to bring us the jubilation!! Good luck to all Bath Rugby boys and let's make it an awesome year!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

TMO....Close but no cigar?

Due to all of the television coverage and camera accessibility to so many games, we are now at one with the TMO- television match official. This technology is a huge advantage for referees and teams to decipher whether a try can be awarded or disallowed cutting down on chances of a controversial and pivotal moments in the game
This is one big advantage rugby officials have over football referees. The reasoning behind the delay in football is they say it should cross all levels of football. If it's to be used in the premiership then it should be in the 'half cocked egg and spoon league'. Playing equality though all levels but also costing a bucket load of cash. It's a fair point that nobody should be treated differently, but with all the cameras at premiership games why not at least start there. The decision is now in heavy discussion within FIFA and potentially in 2013 goal line technology could well be introduced.

With rugby it still seems to be almost but not quite. I feel if you are going to use the TMO in premiership matches then it should be ALL premiership matches. Within this day and age continuity is crucial in the aim of fair play.
A prime example in which the old rules and lack of camera's were called into question on one weekend in the Aviva Premiership last season. Bath had a game against Sale Sharks at the rec (No TMO available). It appeared that Matt Banahan had crossed the line, but the official was not in a good enough position to see if it was grounded. So on the evidence he had the try was not awarded and a scrum 5m out was awarded. If the try had been given Bath would of had their blushes saved after being 10-0 up at half time, and potentially winning the game. The game eventually ended 13-16 to Sale Sharks. Obviously Bath lost the fixture due to letting Sale back into the game not because of the lacking in TMO but highlights the importance that in a televised fixture the try would of been awarded.
On the same weekend a controversial moment occurred but the new TMO rules would eradicate such issues. During the Tigers v Saints match in which  Tigers won 30-25. Agulla ran in a 50m try to score the winning points. The score at the time was 23-25 in Saints favour. As the move began Geordan Murphy was down receiving treatment. As the moved progressed Murphy sprang to life, sprinted across the pitch into Ben Foden taking him clean out! Allowing the try to be ran in and the game to be won. As it was one phase of play it was part of the try scoring move now the TMO could be called into action and deem Murphy's action illegal.

The TMO is a brilliant advance on the game and with the new rules added to the system will aid the fairness and cut back on infringements but equality of use and a review of its uses surely in need to be looked at.

Yes now the track back on the last phase is potentially a step un the right direction but I feel not quite complete. For a few the track back will lead to more stop-start happening although I can only see it adding a possibility of a few seconds to the already time delay.

While enquiring with the premiership over full TMO in all fixtures theese are the responses I received.

BB '@premrugby will the TMO be standard at all prem fixtures or just televised matches??? Surely even across the board for a true representation'

AV '@BathBytes There is only a TMO in place at live matches'

BB '@premrugby does that really show equality in fixtures? Surely should be one rule for all?'

AV ' @BathBytes Well, there has never been a TMO at non-live matches in any League in the world'

Another Twitter user also posed a question.

ST ' @BathBytes @premrugby Cameras are at all grounds for highlights so why can't TMO be employed? Surely it's a help for ref/fans not viewers?'  Simon Trenchard (@simontrenchard)

AV '@simontrenchard @BathBytes Four cameras are sent to every game for highlights/analysts which are not enough for TMO'

BB' @premrugby @simontrenchard how many cameras are needed to secure TMO?'

From this no response was given. I am of the understanding more camera's would be required for more angles, but when clubs such as Bath have a large screen and the crowd are able to see if it's or try or not then surely the officials can aswell.

A statement I was sent seems to sum the TMO system up perfectly.
'Makes the TMO a by product of TV coverage, rather than a requirement to give correct decisions at all fixtures.' (@simontrenchard)
This seems just to highlight unless there is money being earned in a match then the full treatment of premiership standards are denied. Leaning towards the question is money completely engulfing rugby? Perhaps I'll leave that debate for another day!!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Learning curve or reality check?

The first piece of silverware was delivered to London Irish in the form of the JP Morgan's 7's tournament. The exiles managed to come back from a 23 point deficit in a last second resurrection to snatch the trophy.

Bath showed in their group stage a Kingsholm the potential with a band if Blue, Black and White brother's to demonstrate their worth.
The first two pool matches went much to plan with Bath running out victorious, showing dynamism and strong running. Slick offloading, powerful running and accurate kicking saw them as the only side to win back-to-back wins in the entire contest. When the final bout came against Gloucester positivity was high, but for any team to face the Cherry and Whites in their own coliseum of Kingsholm would be a mighty challenge. This sadly was to become apparent as Bath ran out of legs and Gloucester proved a dominant force running out the victors leading on to the final at the Rec.

Bath with a home advantage seemed the time to show the world they were back ready for a new beginning and prove they are prepared to mix it with the big boys.
Gloucester on the other side of draw with Sarries and Sale to contend with so if Bath wanted to exact revenge the only place would be a final show down. Bath's side left them with the Exile pairing of Welsh and Irish to do battle with.
For Gloucester the superiority of the week before continued sweeping sale to one side, although a tougher harder game ensued Sarries also could not defeat the Cherries.
For Bath the first up fixture against Welsh saw a superb display of what we hope to see continue in the 15's this season. After Welsh had defeated Irish a west country derby seemed on the cards only the Irish contingent of London could halt it......and That they did. By coming out hard fast and clinical they were three tries to the good before Bath had barely touched the ball. Salvation seemed possible by Biggs running in a brace before half time and hope for the fight back in the second half was still in grasp. Irish had other plans hitting in another three tries unanswered lining themselves up against Gloucester and ending the Blue, Black and White dream of early silverware to role into the oncoming season.
A consolation for many Bath fans was to see Gloucester lose at the death and for Bath to of lost to the J.P. Morgan's 7's champions.

On display for Bath were some bright young talent aswell as some seasoned player's. Banahan, Biggs, Heathcote, Mercer, Cook and Woodburn all showed what we can expect from them in a brand new campaign, and let's hope it was a learning curve and not just a reality check!

Onwards and upwards and bring on the pre-season ties when we can see if the new coaching regime can live up to the fans hopes and the players can execute the instructed plans. So close now to that unmistakable blast on the whistle for kick off.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The final piece of the jigsaw

It's nearly here!! Pre-season friendlies eeking ever closer ready to wet our appetites for the Avia Premiership and a new beginning for the Blue, Black and White.

London Welsh showing they're ready for the offing after demonstrating a powerful display in the JP Morgan 7's qualifying round. So the anticipation of their arrival as a fully fledged top flight team is now building. The game lined up for the 11th August the day after the release of the new strip so bring on the band of Blue, Black and white peacocks proudly displaying their new plumage.

New coaching regime- check, new kit- check, pre-season fixtures- check, pre-season training- check now just one more announcement remaining........ Who will be captain fantastic to lead the army marching to an impending glory?

There must of been an air of disappointment for last year's club captain Stuart Hooper who due to a list of injuries only managed 13 performances for Bath. A strong force on and off the field Hoops led by example by always putting his body on the line, sadly this led to the injuries and having to watch the majority of the season from the sidelines. A strong contender for a second and hopefully more successful term as captain. Could Hooper prove himself to Gary Gold and demonstrate he's a worthy candidate?

The strong favourite amongst the pundits and supporters is one of Bath's stand out players of last season Mr François Louw. Louw who acted as Hooper's stand in during his absentees displayed his true leadership quality. Since joining Bath Louw has worked his way into the hearts of the fans with his ability and passion he's projects on the field.

Another potential applicant for the captaincy is another of Hooper's stand ins, a firm favourite with the supporters- Lee Mears. Mearsy considered as a legend of the Rec potentially could be in the running. Now his international boots have been hung up aims to concentrate on aiding Bath in earning some silverware. No international call ups to contend with means 100% dedication to lead the squad and discover their potential. A downside for the appointment of Mearsy is with the newly signed Webber who has now taken up Mearsy's role in the EPS. With Webber's introduction to the squad would hamper Mears from a list of first team stars for the season.

But who else could be in the line up......Abendanon, Claasens, Banahan or even Barkley? I'm sure over the next week or so we will find out and with the announcement the final piece of the jigsaw will be pushed into place and realising the anticipation for the new campaign is nearly at a climax.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

It's nearly game time!!

As it's edging ever closer to dusting of the hip flask, scarf, hat and mittens today we saw the release of the Aviva Premiership 2012/13 season.

A release of new fixtures always aides the pundits within us all and begin the speculations of how the campaign will pan out. Bath fans expectations are riding high as always, a crowd with an immense sense of belief. With the new coaching regime the support for the club is rife. Bath are stepping into unknown this season and the hope is to hit the ground running and build up morale so the momentum continues to flow.

Hard fought pre-season fixtures will ensure a good bond for the players and coaching staff. Hopefully developing a strong platform to lead them into a season that primarily could see a return to the dizzy heights of the upper quadrant of the table.

London Welsh now confirmed as a premiership side will try to demonstrate their right to be there. A good spring board for Bath Rugby to lead into the Welsh pairing of the Osprays and Cardiff Blues. Two strong welsh sides who would give any premiership side a hard fought battle. The pre-season fixtures are always important but seem so much more poignant this year, more the discovery of a team rather than an exhibition of rugby.

Bring forth August 31st and it's game time, the dawn of the new season and a trip up to Worcester for Bath. Last season's trip to Sixways was a performance the majority of fans wish to forget. Potentially one of Bath's worse displays for some time going down 16-7. The saving grace of the fixture was the TMO awarded try for Charlie Beech, allowing at least something on the board. Warriors finished up in 10th two places beneath Bath so potentially a good baptism fixture for Bath's campaign, as long as they don't repeat last season.

The first outing on the Rec for the Blue, Black and white is game two. Pitting their wits against the only just surviving London Wasps. Wasps managed by the skin of their teeth to salvage their top flight status by narrowly pipping Falcons to the penultimate side in the league, eventually seeing Falcons becoming a championship side. A few significant signings going Wasps way may see them have a stronger season and dig theirselves out of the bottom of the pile.

With two of what people may consider to be easier fixtures (but do not underestimate) out of the way then enter the arena.... Saints. Bath's last premiership encounter with Northampton at the Rec was not of the prettiest scoreline, Bath going down to the sound of a 6-26 defeat. Saints finished the quartet of sides in the playoffs although being eight points adrift or third place Sarries. If the two opening fixtures see Bath taking the the victories it could see them in good stead for the Saints bout.

What has become very apparent through all the fixture list for Bath is the end of the season will be no easy running. To face Quins away, Tigers at home then the finale against Sarries away is no mean feat to say the least. The last three premiership champions back-to-back will take a huge effort from any team, hopefully by then Bath should of done enough to ensure at least a top four Finnish.

The expectations are their for the new beginning let's hope the reality is aswell.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Thanks to the Heroes

In the 2011/12 season we regrettably bid adieu to some old friends through retirement.

Regrettably Lewis Moody was forced to retire due to a string of injuries and felt he could no longer punish his body anymore. The inclement injury downfall at bath began when a knee ligament injury was sustained during the Bath fixture against Aironi, where Bath ran out victorious winning 56-16. Moody was ever hopeful he would be fit to run out for England in the 2011 six nations unfortunately this was not to be and missed the entire tournament.
While gaining fitness Martin Johnson stated if fit he would still represent England as captain at the world cup. Selected Moody travelled with the band of Roses down to New Zealand, much to the surprise of many. Following the world cup he announced his retirements from international rugby.
An injury peppered season for Bath followed and on march 6th 2012 he signed off from all rugby with immediate effect. Sadly leaving only small memories of genius in only his 15 appearances for Bath and the realisation that we never saw the true class of Moody grace the turf at the Rec.
A true legend with a glittering career including 223 caps for Tigers scoring 165pts, 15 caps for Bath and 5pts, 110 caps for England with 45pts also 5 lions capsgetting 5pts. Not to mention captaining his country and gaining a world cup winners and runners up medal. Not a bad little career.

Andy Beattie or Beastie as he's fondly know as also had to call it a day on his rugbying days after he failed to recover from an ankle injury. Unfortunately Beastie received a nasty knock while playing against Glasgow during a Heineken cup match in January.
13 days after Moody hung up his boots Beastie followed suit and announced his retirement from the game.
Beastie joined Bath in 2001 after four years at Exeter during his uni years. Since joining the Blue, Black and White he managed to become a double centurion turning out over 200 performances for Bath notching up 85 points to his credit.
Misfortune hit Beastie's career with injuries. In 2005 while playing for England A against France A down at the Rec Beattie suffered a broken leg and missed half of the remaining season returning to take his place in the 2005/06 campaign. A true servant of the club and a huge fan favourite a big loss to the game.

Possibly the 'biggest' of the fans favourite who comes in the shape of Duncan 'Belly' Bell was the third of the retirees to announce the end was nigh! Unlike the other retiring clan Belly made the decision that this was to be his last season and was to bow out but not due to injury. After his announcement to quit at the end of the season Belly unleashed a candid revelation that for the past decade he'd been suffering from heavy depression. It was a very open and frank admission and earned the 19 stone prop more respect amongst the rigging world.
On April 12th Belly got the chance to have his last run out at the Rec in front of his adoring fans soaking up the adoration and calling an end to a nine year run for Bath. Started as a Bath mini had moved about a little before making the return to the Rec. His Pro career began Ebbw Vale for a season before a good four year spell at sale running out 78 times, also racking up 68 caps to Pontypridd.
Belly was turned down by the IRB for eligibility to play for Wales and subsequently in 2005 received the call up for England in the six nations taking his first cap against Italy, following it up with cap two opposing Scotland, all in all Belly scooped five caps for England.
Let's hope we still get to see him down the Rec supporting the team who's fans cherished him as a player.

After the season was done and the new coaching regime in place we had the news that a young sprightly David Flatman was also having to say farewell to the game, also as Moody and Beastie did due to injury. Just as Bath's pre-season training was about to begin Flats revealed it was he time to finish participating in the sport, unusually for a prop having to retire from a hand injury as opposed to a neck or shoulder injury.
A promising young prop representing England schools and moving on to the colts started his professional era with a five year stint at Sarries before the move to Bath. Flats picked 8 picked up eight caps for England and hadn't it been for injuries would of easily picked up more. In the nine years he graced the turf at the rec from 2003-12 he mustered up over 160 caps for Bath. What was to be Flats last season he managed to execute a sublime pirouette landing gracefully over the line for his first try for Bath, much to the jubilation of the crowd.
With Flats remaining as a backroom participant of the Bath team I'm sure we'll still be graced with plenty of his journalistic skills and banterous tweets. Another legend of the Rec lost but nit forgotten.

As a few of the old guard are departing the field of play there's only but a handful left teaching the young guns how to play the game.
One of these such players is Bath, England and Lions hooker Lee Mears. Since joining Bath's academy back in 1997 he's pledged is allegiance to adorning the Blue, Black and White colours of Bath. Waiting until 2004-05 season to really stamp down his first team place and becoming the reliable hooker that saw him to an England call up. His call up led to 45 international caps and his one lions cap, even getting a try for the Roses. The dawn of a new era starting next season will see Mearsy still in place nestled in the middle of the front row for Bath. The following season will also see Mearsy become a double centurion as his tally is now sat on 197 caps.
With his announcement this week he is to hang up his international boots and concentrate on club rugby it's a stark reminder we may not be graced with mearsy's passion and spirit in the field of play. The past few seasons has seen him fighting off a recurring bicep injury but we can hope to see him tread the pitch for a few more years to come.

The sign that these guys are retiring in there early to mid 30's just indicates the strain the pile upon their bodies for the love of the game. For this reason alone we must admire, salute and thank for the pleasure their pain has delivered!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Can this Tiger bite back?

The news that Agulla has signed from Leicester Tigers brings the question -can this Tiger live up to the hope and expectations rather than the disappointment of the other ex-Tigers?

It is safe to say that the trio of Tigers players who were drafted in over the last couple of years failed to live up to the hype and expectations and led to a sense of disappointment. The signing of Moody, Vesty and Hipkiss came with so much hope that they could help strengthen the squad returning Bath back to the dominant force then once were, unfortunately as we are all too aware this failed to live up to its billing I do not doubt the calibre of the trio of Tigers ex-pats, they do not get the accolades and respect for nothing. The feeling amongst The Bath Rugby Fans was that they were no longer required by Tigers as opposed to 'looking for a new Challenge'.

For Bath to snare the captain of England and to see him pull on the Blue, Black and White jersey was for some a monumental signing. Lewis Moody a huge stalwart in The England team, a World cup winner and now captaining his country, is a man who is passionate about the game and shows it with the way he throws his self into the game playing with 100% commitment. Sadly it seemed Tigers were being quite savvy by cutting Moody loose, due to his passion and commitment he’d become prone to injury as Bath soon discovered. In the little under two years he spent in the Bath colours he only managed to muster up 15 appearances and managed to score a try in one of those fixtures. By the time he arrived at the Rec his body had taken so much punishment that it was only a matter of time before it could do no more. He will always be a true hero and inspiration on and off the field to so many, old or young. A sad occasion when he had to hang up his boots and a travesty we never saw the 'true' Lewis Moody perform at the Rec!

Following Moody down from Welford road was Sam Vesty, both starting at the beginning of the 2010/11 season. There was much surprise and trepidation to Vesty's move as he has what you consider to have Tiger blood running through his veins. A fourth generation Tiger following his father's, grandfather's and great grandfather's footsteps, working his way up through the ranks from academy to the first 15. Vesty also holds a handful of English caps to his name, but with the introduction of Toby Flood he soon began to slip down the pecking order. So for first team rugby becoming harder to obtain an option to join Moody in the move seemed a wise choice. While at the Rec so far it’s fair to say he has had quite an indifferent time. Saving Bath's blushes on several occasions with boot and tries, but has not had a regular run and struggled with form. Fighting for a place and kicking duties with the likes of of Barkley, Heathcote and Donald (when fit) at times he's failed to make his mark.

The next Tiger player to hit the hallowed turf of Bath was Dan Hipkiss following his fellow band member Sam Vesty. Hipkiss was a true stalwart at Leicester being the player who had scored the winning try for Tigers against Sarries in the 2010 Aviva premiership final Potentially a strong signing with 150 points in 130 appearances for Tigers, representing England at all levels from U18 to gaining 15 first team caps. So could Bath be getting a dynamic and slick centre? Answer-sadly not fulfilled that calling. With his first season completed but only 13 showings for Bath and just the one try, the potential class signing has fallen short and delivered very little. With new players entering the frame and him not shining the way we know he can will he get much of a shout next season?

Now enter Horacio Agulla! The 27 year old Argentine has spent the last two season impressing with his pace, skill and strength, using it to administer some bullocking runs resulting on him gaining the 'fans player of the season'. He's represented Argentina in the past two world cups, gaining two third place medals. Leicester has decided due to work permit and him not being available until October to release Agulla to Bath. Leicester opted due to his commitments to Argentina for the four nations and missing pre-season it would be a big undertaking to keep him at Welford road. Gary Gold feels confident that playing the likes of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa will make him stronger and more prepared to enter Bath's season campaign. With 34 caps and 20 points for the Puma's and competing against the world’s best in the four nations we can only hope he can come to Bath and demonstrate his skills and convert it into points as he did at Tigers.

So have Bath finally made a top signing from Leicester ? Let's certainly hope so!