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......