RARE BIRDS: OSPREYS v BATH
By P G Tips
January 30 2018
Rare birds will be the theme for Bath at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea on Friday evening. Their hosts are symbolised by the Osprey, close to extinction in Britain not long ago. Bath seek the silverware that has eluded the club for ten years. Bath’s two most recent items of silverware in captivity were gained a decade apart, the last ten years ago. Sadly those did not prove a breeding pair, but the Anglo Welsh Cup still offers, perhaps, Bath’s best chance of a trophy in ten years.
Ospreys are bottom of Pool 4, with no chance of overhauling leaders Falcons and Tigers. In addition to nine internationals, they must also lose four of their starters from defeat at Gloucester last week to the Wales U20 team in Colwyn Bay. With Wales opening their Six Nations campaign only 45 miles away the next afternoon this match takes only second billing for supporter interest. Bath cannot afford to be complacent though- this is an Anglo Welsh club fixture, the other side of the Severn bridge on an international weekend.
Ospreys were competitive for 60 minutes of of last week’s game at Kingsholm. Coach Tom Smith said, “We are very competitive animals” and pronounced himself proud of his youngsters’ efforts, despite the heavy defeat. The absence of promising youth may cause Ospreys’ coaches to turn to experience. Paul James, once of this parish, Brian Mujati and James King up front are examples. Behind them James Cook, Dan Evans and the speeding Keelan Giles are men to watch. Then there is the added spice of last season’s club captain at the Rec, Guy Mercer on loan at blindside. Whether Ospreys select for pride or continue to chose a development squad, two areas they will want to improve, and Bath equally will hope to exploit, are performance at the breakdown and number of penalties concede. The latter cost them two yellow cards a week ago and Bath have been getting practice recently of playing against reduced numbers.
Bath will probably base their squad on last Saturday’s 23, but there are good arguments for a few tweaks. Sam Nixon gave the scrum more stability and aggression in the second half, similarly Max Green provided momentum with swift passing and his box kicks caused more problems for the opposition than those of Darren Allinson. New signing Cooper Vuna might also be considered to add extra physicality to the backline, especially if Jeff Williams’ injury rules him out.
Whatever the team, some fans will find talk of “the best chance of silverware’ ironic after recent results, especially a frustrating opening fifty minutes last Saturday, seemingly lacking in accuracy, consistency and oomph. The final thirty proved brighter, the game rescued by the dogged determination of the pack, the bravado of Atkins in counter attack and the game control of Burns. Freddie’s improvement from hesitancy to man of the match showing will please many – a local lad stamping his mark on the game may be some consolation as fans contemplate the departure of long term talisman and favourite Matt Banahan at the season’s end.
Banahan himself showed the passion the team’s critics have been demanding and his telling burst down the left wing lit up the match for try number two. More of the same will be sought from him, plus the all round efforts of Grant and the energy of Bayliss. If the bench have the same impact as they did against Newcastle, Bath should win to book their semi final. Hooper and Blackadder have stated “that is our goal”. They should remember though, how Bath’s last welsh opponents profited from a poorly executed kicking game. Attack with ball in hand should win the day and please the fans. They want Bath trophies to be a realistic prospect- not an endangered species.
Possible Bath Team:
Auterac, V Vuuren, Nixon, Douglas, Charteris (Capt.), Phillips, Bayliss, Grant. Green, Burns. Jack Wilson, Tapuai, James Wilson, Banahan. Atkins.
Replacements: Vaughan, Charles, Knight, Britton, Reid. Allinson, Lewis, Vuna.
If you do not already have an account Click here to Register.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2018:02:07:08:29:25 by CoochieCoo.
The only other consideration is what corrective actions bath will take to correct the line out which did not run smoothly at all last week. Ot goimg to get mich of a bigger target than Charteris...Potentially Charles to start ahead of V Vuuren?