By P G Tips
April 11 2017
Bath will face wounded warriors when they visit Sixways on Saturday. Worcester, after a poor start to the season, are now playing fluent, attacking rugby but will be frustrated by their last two results. The Warriors first eleven games yielded only a single win and two draws and they also handed basement side Bristol their first league win. Since the arrival of Gary Gold however, they have picked up three more victories and although a lowly eleventh in the table seem destined to survive. In their last three fixtures they have racked up fifteen tries, so their pride will be dented by losing to Sale by ten points last weekend and by seven to Wasps last month in a ten try spectacular at the Ricoh. Bath, by contrast, are on a mini roll having put five tries past Brive in the Challenge Cup Quarter Final and beaten Leicester Tigers with late comeback tries in the Twickenham “Clash”. Can Bath continue this vein of form for a strong finish to the season –or will Warriors puncture complacency with a well –prepared ambush?
For many seasons Worcester were content to secure Premiership survival on a “back to basics” approach. A stubborn pack, kicking halfbacks and strong defence were the foundations for a game plan heavily reliant on attrition, territory and forcing opposition mistakes. Now, with the highly experienced Francois Hougaard to pull the strings from scrum half they are equipped to play a more creative game. The bruising physical presence of Ben Te’o gets them on the front foot, for the pacey likes of Perry Humphreys, Chris Pennell or Wynand Olivier to make ground and score the tries. With eight league points separating them from relegation favourites Bristol and from Sale one place above them, they are unlikely to change their league position in the final three matches. Their motivation will be more about finishing on a high and preparation for next season. Having scored one more try bonus point than Bath and with little to lose, they may view all out attack as their best policy for the fixture.
Bath have three games in which to edge ahead of Leicester for a playoff spot. They also have the small matter of a Challenge Cup Semi Final two Saturdays from now. Managing resources and balancing priorities for an injury-depleted squad will be exercising Todd Blackadder’s mind as he seeks progress on both fronts. He will be mindful that Leicester, with two of their remaining matches at home and a superior points difference have bot the easier run-in and a slight edge on Bath. Assuming both rivals can claim three victories, it will be bonus points that decide the placings. Fresh from the triumph and controversy of “The Clash” Bath may feel they have the game to snatch those extra points and will probably want to make a statement through early attack and scores. To do so though they must guard against the lack of concentration, which gifted Tigers two tries in the first twelve minutes – Warriors will be just as capable of pouncing on similar errors.
Pleasingly for Bath, they edged the possession battle and shared the territory at Twickenham, despite Leicester just besting them at the scrum- where neither side could gain continuous dominance. The forwards will take much heart from their driving carries into the heart of the Tigers’ defence and from several successful turnovers. Blackadder may wish to rotate one or two forwards to manage fatigue and recovery, but I expect the team to change little from last weekend. He will also know that, in ten years of Premiership meetings, Bath have seldom lost to Worcester-even at Sixways. He will not want that to change now. If Louw, Ewels, Faletau and co can repeat the feats of Twickenham, Bath have the firepower behind to wound the Warriors further. It will be close though and expect an end-to-end battle of thrills, spills and mistakes.
Catt, Batty, Palma-Newport Ewels, Stooke , Denton, Louw, Faletau.
Fotuali’I, Ford. Banahan, Tapuai, Joseph, Rokoduguni. Watson.
Replacements: Obano, Charles, Knight, Ellis, Z Mercer. Cook,
Worcester: Bower, Taufete’e, Schonert, Spencer, O’Callaghan, Barry, Lewis, Mama. Hougaard, Mills, Adams, Te’o, Willison, Humphreys, Pennell
Replacements: Bregvadze, Grant, Alo, Betty, Potgieter. Baldwin,
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017:04:18:10:12:26 by Stuart Anderton.
I truly hope Sean Knight gets a start as this Worcester pack is a big robust scrummagging unit, who embarrassed Sale and Wasps at scrum time. Hougard must be shackled and our front five getting on top, letting the back row roam and tackle him is going to be vital.
Lastly, I will be interested to see how Will Spencer plays against the club who let him go, as he has looked good on some TV highlights I have seen, and will no doubt want to prove a point or three!