Crisis or Comeback: Bath v Sale
By P G Tips
November 28 2018
Bath’s tie with Sale offers crisis or comeback, depending on your expectation –and of course the result. Having returned to winning ways and restored some confidence against Worcester, Bath seemed to lose control of both on the Tyne, slumping to defeat in a dull, error strewn match. Sale, by contrast squeezed out a win against fellow strugglers Saints despite wasting several chances. Can Bath find the determination – and the control -to bury their threat and chalk up a much needed win?
In last year’s Rec encounter it was Bath (uncharacteristically) who dominated territory and edged possession, but Sale nearly stole an unlikely win thanks to two individuals. The same pair made the difference last week against Northampton: De Klerk’s swift passing and coruscating breaks creating the openings for Solomona’s clinical finishing. The fact that Sharks wasted at least three scoring chances in Saints 22 through poor handling and vision should worry Blackadder and Co. The Mancunians showed they are a slicker finish away from tearing dozy defences open.
The return of Strauss and McGuigan from international duty will strengthen Sharks and Bath need to watch out for the two Du Preez brothers, Jean-Luc at No8 and Rob at standoff, both of whom appear influential surprise packages at this point in the season. Josh Beaumont too is in fine form, so Sale’s lowly 10th placing is no guarantee of weakness.
Both senior players and coaches have spoken out about Bath’s dip at Kingston Park. Jamie Roberts bemoaned a tendency to “train like Tarzan, play like Jane”, while Todd Blackadder’s blunt assessment was simply “worst performance of the season”. He has promised a backlash and stated he will prepare a “finely tuned machine.” Finely tuned it may be but who will conduct the orchestra? Both Freddie Burns and Rhys Priestland are injury doubts for the match, although thought to be nearing recovery. Third choice Alex Davies is also getting over a knock so Bath are seeking cover – rumoured in some quarters to be former Rec man Tom Heathcote. He will know the sort of game needed to put Bath back on track, but it is a big ask for someone who has not played at all this season. Perhaps Khan Fotuali’I may be asked to reprise his versatility?
Other injury news is no more hopeful – at least not for Sunday’s fixture. Tom Homer is out for two weeks, while Aled Brew and Jonathan Joseph are both expected to need a week more rehab, while Taulupe Faletau and Paul Grant are in the “not yet” group. So – with these maestros missing will the performance be a crescendo of attack or cacophony of clangers?
On the good news front, 5 front liners return from international duty “looking in fine fettle.” Sam Underhill should bring some much-needed intensity to defence, likewise Joe Cokanasiga can add momentum and deadly finishing in attack. Charlie Ewels and Elliott Stooke, underused last weekend should be raring to go and would be my lock pairing. The balance of the back row could be crucial and, given Underhill’s’ influence on his last three England games, I would be tempted to leave Francois Louw on the bench to bring his experience and turnovers to the final quarter.
These 5 can bring confidence, purpose and leadership to a squad in need of all three. This is yet another crucial match in a season full of crunch moments, a league of almost crazily claustrophobic closeness from 5th to 11th. Experience will be key. Bath must select and use all the nous at their disposal, in particular to restore solidity at the lineout and smash and grab at the breakdown. There have been signs of Girvan Dempsey’s influence on attack – a policy worth persevering with – but for now, a win, any win, by any means is a must. Bath have the men, the game and hopefully the crowd. It is time to deliver.
Catt, Dunn, Thomas, Ewels, Stooke, Garvey (Capt.), Underhill, Mercer. Chudley, Fotuali’i. Cokanasiga, Roberts, Willison, Rokodoguni. Atkins.
Replacements: V Rooyen, Batty, Perenise, Attwood, Louw. Cook, Green, Vuna,
Harrison, Webber, John, Beaumont, Phillips, Ross (Capt.), B Curry, Strauss. De Klerk, Du Preez.McGuigan, L James, O’Connor, Solomona. S James.
Replacements: Langdon, Bristow, Jones, Evans, J-L Du Preez. Cliff, Wilkinson, Odogwu.
If you do not already have an account Click here to Register.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2018:12:04:16:09:45 by CoochieCoo.
my best friend supports sale
cant have alex davies at fly half really, rubbish kicker
fotuali'i is best bet for that position
"Alex Davies has a a reputation as one of the best goal kickers in England. This is thoroughly well deserved as he is a prolific points scorer, but it is not just his goal kicking that stands out as he has an excellent all-round kicking game. Alex has achieved such a high standard of kicking through being a natural footballer, but more importantly through his attitude and work ethic."
~ Gordon Ross, 25 Scotland caps
"I got to know Alex Davies for the last twelve months in the Aviva Premiership. There was no other player who showed more dedication to his game with an outstanding strike rate and natural technique. He was a great player to work with and always last off the training field."
~ Gavin Henson, British & Irish Lion, Wales
Playing Kahn at 10 would be crazy IMO, he hasn't played there for years.
Tom Heathcote won't be joining.
[Adoptee 18/19: Man Mountain Dave Attwood, back in the BB&W and ready to smash]
Therefore, IMO, the only way we will win this game is to literally dominate possession and play the game in the Sale half. Our forward pack must get on top and reduce the Sale 8 to also rans. Similarly, we must not give away penalties within range, and we MUST take every opportunity to take points, forgetting our next to useless lineout drive. All of these needs I find hard to believe we can achieve, and fear we will go for the lineout drive option!
After last week's debacle, I am struggling to see a Bath win. Hope I am very wrong.
Sale by at least 10.
Adopted player 2018/19 Semesa Rokoduguni
The Rock that is Semesa and how he will be rocking this season.
Good news if so.