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PLAYING FOR PRIDE: SARACENS v BATH
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.
CRITICAL CLASH: BATH V LEICESTER
Bath face a critical “Clash” against Leicester Tigers at Twickenham this weekend. The big cats from Welford Road have clawed their way up the table from a disappointing start and are braced for a cataclysmic collision. Bath, beset by injury, seemingly low on confidence and short of attacking invention look like easy prey. Tigers have won their last 4 Premiership matches while Bath have stuttered in two competitions. Will Bath find celebration, crisis or catastrophe?
SECOND TIME LUCKY? ANGLO WELSH FINAL
Bath Rugby will be hoping for “second time lucky” in Friday’s Anglo Welsh Cup Final. The rearranged contest gives them the chance of a longed for piece of silverware and an opportunity to correct the result of last Friday’s frustrating “oh so nearly” defeat by the same opponents. Injuries look likely to restrict Bath’s choice of squad (a view seemingly confirmed by Monday’s United selection), while Exeter will have a chance to refresh theirs. Will it be continuity or fresh legs that triumph?
Best in the West? Bath v Exeter
Will the “Beast from the East” abate in time to permit a contest for “best of the West”? Exeter Chiefs, Bath’s Premiership visitors on Friday evening, used the tagline last season “The West Country’s Premier Rugby Club” much to the annoyance of longer established Premiership rivals. This season though, their claim is indisputable as Champions and current leaders of the table by 7 points. They will arrive hopeful and confident: can Bath’s depleted squad summon up a shock result and reclaim bragging rights?
Travel in Hope: Anglo Welsh Final
Bath squad and fans will travel in hope but perhaps not expectation to Sunday’s Anglo Welsh Cup Final. Premiership Table topping opponents Exeter have notched up 25 tries in the Cup so far. With a settled squad and enviable depth, they seem to be in form just at the right time. Meanwhile Bath, six Premiership places behind, are enduring a frustratingly inconsistent season. The odds must favour Chiefs but in Cup Finals anything is possible. Is such a truism enough grounds for hope?
Sinners v Saints: Bath v Northampton
It will be a case of “sinners” hosts Saints in Bath’s Anglo Welsh Cup Semi Final on Friday. Todd Blackadder attributed Bath’s poor showing against Quins last Sunday to ill discipline, 15 penalties handing free “get outs” to the home team. He added sins of omission to those of commission – players not listening, failure to do the simple things well and to grasp opportunities. The team now face a short turnaround to try to turn fortunes around. Will that be enough time to atone?
PATCHED UP? HARLEQUINS v BATH
Both teams will have a “patched up” look about them when Harlequins host Bath on Friday evening. Injuries have hit both squads hard this season, as have international calls. Unsurprisingly both clubs have found their performance and results impacted. Quins season has been as chequered as their traditional shirts while Bath have struggled to build consistent form and style. Bath’s patchwork backline did snatch a win last weekend, while Quins lost, but is that a reliable omen?
SAINTS RESURRECTED? BATH v NORTHAMPTON
Bath face a revitalised Northampton Saints when Premiership action resumes at the Rec on Friday. It may be too early to claim they are resurrected, but Saints have certainly come alive since Alan Gaffney took over at the turn of the year. In that short time they have shrugged off their mid –season lethargy and won four of five fixtures in all competitions, including a surprise victory over European giants Clermont. Should we therefore expect them to descend on Bath in a blaze of glory?
RARE BIRDS: OSPREYS v BATH
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.
A CHANCE TO REFRESH: BATH v FALCONS
After frustration and disappointment in Europe, Bath get a chance to refresh against Newcastle on Saturday. Clubs often use the Anglo Welsh Cup to rest key players, experiment with new combinations and develop academy talent. Bath, with a lengthy injury list, plus international absences, must be tempted to wrap fit key men in cotton wool to save them for Premiership games in the 6 Nations period. All those injuries restrict selection though and this cup could also be the best chance of silverware for Bath this season. It will be fascinating to see how the coaches balance those factors in their lineup to be announced on Friday