By P G Tips
December 19 2017
The Christmas Market closed last week but Bath travel north on Saturday in search of a festive bargain. Two stirring performances against Toulon have sharpened their edge and buoyed their confidence, so they will be hoping for an early Christmas gift. Bath have snapped up several pedigree presents in away matches this season, but Sale are a notoriously tough nut to crack at home. So-what sort of Bath performance can we expect, absolute cracker or total turkey?
Sale have been less than the sum of their parts for a few seasons, but capable of springing shock results, especially when, like sharks, they sniff blood. Veteran campaigners like Harrison, Webber, Ostrikov and Strauss up front will give nothing away in the forward battle and in Ioane and the Curry brothers the Mancunians possess predatory loose forwards who will pounce on any errors. In the backs there are danger men aplenty – southern hemisphere imports De Klerk and O’Connor at halfback, promising English backs like James, Haley and Odogwu, not to mention the two “bad boys” on the wings: Solomona and Yarde. Bath’s task is to get so in their faces that this collection of talent is forced to play as individuals. Even then, flashes of inspiration from any of them could turn a match, so the defence on which Bath rely so heavily, hardened in the last two games, must front up once more before relaxing for the festive season.
Bath’s all round performance against Toulon last Saturday earned them 7 players named in The Times Team of the Week- 5 in the forwards. After the euphoria of that spectacular win Bath must beware complacency. It matters not that 3 of Sale’s 4 wins this season have been against sides below them in the table, or that 2 were by thin margins – any resting on laurels will see Bath suffer an early holiday hangover. The forwards have it all to do again, especially the loose trio, if the sharpness of brew, Watson, Joseph and Banahan is to be brought into play. Garvey, Grant and Louw were immense against the men from the Cote d’Azure and in the absence of Faletau (and probably Underhill-who is touch and go) will be the vital go to men again. Tom Dunn, who put in an astonishing 33 tackles last week, should compliment their efforts in the loose. His carrying and support work will be vital too.
Bath fans bemoan their team’s inconsistency, so too do those at Sale. There have been times in recent seasons when Bath could not buy a result against the north westerners – particularly the infamous “goal- line stand” game of March 2014, so this squad will want to set the record straight. To do so, they must rely on themselves and their new -found belief-not on luck – and play the whole eighty minutes. A win and no injuries at the AJ Bell would normally be considered a bargain. Has the confidence gained in the “tougheners” against Toulon given Bath the edge to fill their boots, if not their stockings? Probably, but it will be close.
Obano, Dunn, Lahiff, Ewels, ,Charteris, Garvey (Capt.). Louw, Grant. Cook, Priestland.. Brew, Tapuai, Joseph, Banahan. Watson.
Replacements: Auterac, V Vuuren, Thomas, Stooke, Mercer. Fotuali’I, Burns. Jack Wilson.
Sale: Harrison, Webber, John, Evans, Ostrikov, Ross, T Curry, Strauss. de
Klerk, O'Connor. Solomona, James, Jennings, McGuigan; Addison (Capt.).
Replacements: Jones, Flynn, Aulika, Nott, Ioane, Neild, Cliff, Haley.
A MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OUR READERS
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017:12:26:14:08:16 by CoochieCoo.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017:12:24:17:03:10 by abendanon-anon-anon.
Hate to say it, but seems we rarely get 2 great back to back performances.
But what we do get are plenty of excuses