RAGS TO RICHES? BATH V SCARLETS
By P G Tips
January 9 2018
The Rag Doll will be up for grabs in Bath’s European Cup encounter with Scarlets on Friday. The iconic mascot has been the trophy in Bath: Llanelli matches for over a century, but this week Bath will have a bigger prize in mind- a passport to the knock out rounds. Bath lead a close pool, with Scarlets third. Either side can qualify, but defeat would almost certainly end their hopes before the final pool round. The two clubs scored 13 tries between them last weekend: a great clash is promised -in a pivotal match.
Scarlets have played to a ragtime tempo all season. Syncopated and speedy, the dancing steps of their players have been matched by the tapping feet of their delighted supporters. They lead their Pro 14 Pool and gave warning of their intent last Friday with a 47 point, 7 try demolition of pool strugglers Dragons. Bath will also remember the audacious try they scored despite teeming rain in the October encounter. No matter that this is a home fixture – Scarlets pose a real threat to Bath’s progress. Danger men are speedsters like Steff Evans, Tom Prydie and Morgan Williams, the thrusting centres Jonathan Davies and Hadleigh Parkes. Leigh Halfpenny can be relied upon to kick their goals while in Gareth Davies and either Rhys Patchell or Dan Jones they boast half backs who can both dazzle and direct. With an all Wales front row of Evans, Owens and Lee and loose forwards like Shingler and Barclay they should secure adequate ball to fuel their attacking engine. If there is one cloud to their silver lining it is that their final pool fixture, albeit at home, is against Toulon who will be desperate to take the top spot. The Bath game is therefore a must win for Scarlets’ hopes.
Against this threat Bath fans will hope to see a continuation of the game plan which so devastated Worcester- and a similar result. “That is the blueprint for Bath” commented Austin Healy and it is hard to argue. A greater share of possession, ferocious rucking and counter rucking, patience and concentration to go through the phases ball in hand, enabled a style of play as deadly as it was exciting. The tackle and carry rate of the forwards, notably Phillips, Stooke, Mercer and Grant, plus the penetrative straightening of the line by Tapuai laid the foundations for a fluent attack of 18 clean breaks. Cook had his best game for some time and Anthony Watson sent a strong message to Eddie Jones about his credentials as an attacking full back. Worcester were at times cut into rags. That it was mostly forwards and a replacement halfback that scored the tries shows that Bath are capable of the fifteen man game that Blackadder promised last season.
Bath have flattered to deceive before – both this season and last, so can this control and flair be repeated against stronger opposition? There is no reason why not: Bath have taken the scalps of Leicester, Saracens, Wasps and Toulon already this season, and beaten Scarlets away, so with the right application and a supportive crowd, a win should be within their grasp. With a casualty list 18 strong the coaches will be hoping for a clean bill of health among those who triumphed at Sixways. They all deserve a vote of confidence, although if Underhill is available as rumoured, his destructive tackling may be considered as a valuable reinforcement to that squad.
Bath will look again to the drive of Phillips, swatting away tacklers like rag dolls, the dash of Watson and the midfield thrust of Tapuai. Overall, Blackadder will want a repeat of the aggression which so lit up last week’s match. A similarly aggressive “wall of sound” from the home support would be a welcome boost too. This could be the moment when Bath’s season finally takes off – or equally, another frustration after seemingly turning a corner. Will it be rags to riches for Bath, or will Scarlets impose red faces at the Rec?
Obano, Dunn, Thomas, Phillips, Stooke, Garvey (Capt.), Grant, Mercer. Cook, Priestland, Brew, Tapuai, Joseph, Jack Wilson. Watson.
Replacements: Noguera, V Vuuren, Lahiff, Charteris, Underhill. Fotuali’I, Burns. James Wilson.
Evans, Owens, Lee, Cummings, Bulbring, Shingler, Davies, Barclay. Davies, Patchell. Evans, Davies, Parkes, Prydie. Halfpenny.
Replacements: Elias, Jones, Gardiner, Rawlins, Boyde. Evans, Jones, Williams.
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2018:01:17:08:23:44 by CoochieCoo.
I have 3 tickets for sale for Friday night in the dyson H stand at FV. Please text if interested 07792935837
I thought Steff Evans was suspended at present.
Also, Jonathan Davies is out injured until at least the end of the 6N.
Plus, Tadhg Beirne is back from injury and I would imagine he'll start as he's been pulling up trees for the Scarlets.
P G Tips
Alex Davies: my adopted Player, 2018-19.
Great write up PG!! We are lucky to have you to be honest, some other clubs like Briss have articles on their site that are months out of date, so cheers again PG for your writing.