PLAYING FOR PRIDE: SARACENS v BATH
Dunn: given all
By P G Tips
April 11 2018
Fresh from disappointment in the Twickenham Clash, Bath must return to London to face resurgent Saracens. The Barnet based club were in ruthless form against Saints last weekend, notching nine tries to expunge the bitter taste of their European exit. Six league positions and sixteen points separate the two clubs. The home side are in potent form, the visitors struggling, so what is there for Bath to play for? There are mathematical if slim hopes for a Top six finish and, above all, pride.
Saracens, who have suffered some uncharacteristic reverses themselves this season, can now concentrate on one competition. Trailing Exeter by two games worth of league points, they will want to prepare for the knock out phases as strongly and accurately as possible. They will expect to win all three of their remaining fixtures, home against Bath, and West Country rivals Gloucester and away at bottom based London Irish. They will hope to put all three to the scimitar in similar manner to the rout of Northampton.
There has been much talk about England’s Lions being tired this season, although Maro Itoje’s recent form seems to deny the charge. Even if it is the case for some, Saracens strength in depth is such that Brits can take over from George, Iziekwe or Skelton from Kruis, Wray from Billy Vunipola, Lozowski from Farrell and so on. Whichever team they field will be strong, and just as importantly, play to the same plan and with the same conviction. They seem on course for a titanic final against Exeter Chiefs.
Bath have lost their last three matches: against Exeter (twice) and Leicester. The defeats may be no surprise, given relative standings, but the manner of defeat has frustrated fans and seemingly coaches and players too. Blackadder spoke after the Anglo Welsh Final defeat of players not executing properly, then fly half Rhys Priestland, following The Clash referred to “a couple of people going off script.” Both may sound like recrimination and finger pointing, yet for over 70 minutes at Twickenham the spirit, unity and energy of the team were evident. With only seven minutes to go Bath were within a point of Tigers, but the dam wall finally burst as it had threatened to for the whole second half, Tigers breaching an exhausted defence for two late tries. Effort could not be faulted, but with only 7% of second half possession penalties would inevitably be conceded, errors were bound to come.
Surely the point both should be making is not about execution but the plan itself? Playing without the ball against teams who retain it, go through the phases and build pressure is failing. Kicking to these teams in the hope of regaining the ball in a better field position only gives away possession to put even more pressure on the defence. Saracens can be relied on to seize such infidel gifts and inflict painful defeat. If Bath are to sneak into the Top 6 and Champions Cup rugby for next season they will need to prosper while both Sale and Gloucester falter. There is no danger of relegation so why not give it a lash, go for broke and spring a few surprises?
News of the injured is mixed, with captain Garvey “touch and go” while Chris Cook is out for the season but Tom Homer is fit again. Grant, Bayliss and Clark are all in contention for Sunday after strong showings for the United. There is as yet no update though on Thomas and Perenise –both tightheads thought to be near return not long ago and now desperately needed after the pounding Bath’s scrum took at Twickenham.
Blackadder has said that Bath are “working now to try and put a performance on the track that we can be proud of, and at the moment we’re not quite doing that.” Earlier in the season there were some – including when these two sides last met. Early adventure brought an early score and when in the closing minutes of a classy contest Saracens appeared finally to have seized control, a moment of invention snatched back the lead. Forwards like Dunn, Obano, Stooke and Ellis have given their all in recent matches. Fans will want their efforts to be rewarded, hard won ball to be taken forward with brio and Bath to put their faith and their pride, in all out attack.
Obano, Dunn, Knight, Stooke, Ewels, Ellis Louw(Capt.), Faletau. Fotuali’i, Priestland. Banahan, Tapuai, Joseph, Brew. Homer.
Replacements: Noguera, Walker, Thomas, Charteris, Grant. Green, Burns, Clark
M. Vunipola, Brits, Figallo, Itoje, Kruis, Isiekwe, Cowan, Wray. Wigglesworth, Farrell. Williams, Barritt, Lozowski, Maitland. Goode.
George, Barrington, Longbottom, Day, Burger, Wigglesworth, Taylor, Earle,
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2018:04:24:18:45:17 by CoochieCoo.
If we do get decent ball Priestland needs to delay his pass and draw defenders, create gaps. If he doesn't then change to Burns earlier.
I hope the ref doesn't just pre judge every scrum drop must be Knights fault just because he saw Barnes card him on the TV.
Go down in flames, go out all guns blazing but don't just kick the ball away.
My sentiments exactly!
P G Tips
Paul Grant: my adopted Player, 2017-18.
Does that mean I'm doomed to watching replays!!
I have a real problem, when I watch them live they lose, if I don't they win!
Does that mean I'm doomed to watching replays!!
Yes - keep your distance like me. I have the same problem with WH v Stoke tomorrow