HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: FOLLOWING BATHíS LATE SEASON FORT


TdG: potential
By PG Tips
October 13 2020

Following your club’s fortunes from a distance can be frustrating, but Bath’s late season resurgence has been exhilarating. For me, tracking results, performance and selection debate from Spain, the thrill of Bath’s late dash for the playoffs was given added spice as I gleaned most of my information from this community. The roller coaster of speculation, anticipation, rising hope and expectation seems to have enlivened the board, brought new contributors, lurkers from the shadows and new friends.

The strongest flavour has been hope. Where in October to March the atmosphere was gloom or frustration, since August the mood has been the most cheerful I can recall since mid 2015. That is not to say this is a board of Pollyanna’s, nor that the optimism has been naïve. Far from it: the cheer has mostly been tinged with a sense of realism, but an overall feeling that things are not only much better now but moving in the right direction is palpable.

 

Another key change is growing acceptance of and respect for Project Hooper. The appointment of Neal Hatley as Head Coach has much to do with this, bringing in a highly respected figure from our most successful season since 1998 and also offering fans a readily understandable coaching structure. Stuart himself has also been gaining more support, his role in planning and directing the Rugby Department’s efforts now more widely acknowledged. Of course, he still has his detractors, but if Bath can sustain this improvement through next season, they will find themselves very much in the minority.

 

Many have commented on the emergence of an identifiable style: one that Hooper announced before this season started. He has begun with forward strength, which since the season’s renewal has been the cornerstone of Bath’s successes. Commentators beyond COML have taken notice- on other boards and in the national press. Of course, many would like to see a more expansive style, but at least we now have one. In three years of Blackadder coaching the style seemed to change from month to month, succumbing eventually to a muddle. The expansive side can be bolted on in time ( as Saracens did post 2017 and as Exeter proved by adopting a confrontational driving forward game before re -introducing their original sweeping backs moves). Recruitment has already started to add fluency to midfield attack, and we await news of an additional fly half with growing hope.

 

Selection debate in the past two months has been great to read. Happily, there is now real competition in most positions and the need to rotate for squad freshness no longer rings alarm bells. The tone of debate is more balanced as a result. The overall improvement seems to have brought the best out of players like Rhys Priestland, who have divided opinion, while the recruitment of the Spencers, Redpath and Matavesi plus the surge in form of Walker, Bayliss, Reid and particularly De Glanville shows the potential of this squad.

 

The lingering aftertaste to this most enjoyable feast is respect. Not just between members of the COML community, but from visitors to the board (many most complimentary on our performance and approach), DORs and players of rival clubs and commentators in the media. Long may it remain so.

 

It is too early to make predictions for next season, but the green shoots of hope are definitely there, for both Bath Rugby and COML. From a personal point of view it has been fascinating to follow Bath’s ups and downs through the eyes of posters on here. Many thanks to Mr Frivolous and Shipwrecked for standing in as match previewers and to my fellow mods CoochieCoo and hasta.

 

pqs: qs:
HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: Comeonmylovers.co.uk (IP Logged)
Date: 13/10/2020 10:46

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Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2020:10:13:10:49:57 by P G Tips.

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: Optimist (IP Logged)
Date: 13/10/2020 23:16

Very much looking forward to the emergence of Orlando Bailey next season, alongside Redpath, Ojomoh, GHW and TdG.

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: shipwrecked (IP Logged)
Date: 13/10/2020 23:38

Have to say I'm desperate to see how the fly half dilemma is resolved in whatever way that may be. I know that Rhys Priestland has been good for us in the second half of the season and fits the Hooper game plan.
However, in the same way we accepted that Chudley was doing OK until we saw what Ben Spencer offered I think we will see a similar upgrade in the backs when we get a 10 more suited to unleashing Redpath JJ and our wings.
I do feel that JJ needs a bit of a reboot as well. Or have I got that completely wrong?

https://i.ibb.co/pZ68Lvp/Ollie-Fox.jpg

Ollie Fox - England U20 international scrum half, youngest of our four 9's. If you are good enough, you're old enough!

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: Bath Hammer (IP Logged)
Date: 14/10/2020 01:16

Well written as ever & as you say PG it is early days but pretty well everything that Hooper has said has come into being, not immediately may be but pretty swiftly in comparison with the ďexperiencedĒ DOR who preceded him. There was a lot of concern about the lack of a head coach but Hatley was there from the beginning, though had also had no previous experience as a head coach so there was some logic in delaying confirmation of that appointment. The previously somewhat criticised owner & CEO deserve some credit for how the appointment has , so far, turned out & for not slavishly following the type of appointments made by our Premiership rivals.. I also think & have done for some time that the amount of credence that is given to ďexperienceĒ in many areas of life is somewhat overblown.

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: P G Tips (IP Logged)
Date: 14/10/2020 09:47

Quote:
Bath Hammer
The previously somewhat criticised owner & CEO deserve some credit for how the appointment has , so far, turned out & for not slavishly following the type of appointments made by our Premiership rivals.. I also think & have done for some time that the amount of credence that is given to ďexperienceĒ in many areas of life is somewhat overblown.

Agreed BH. I think eyebrows were raised in similar fashion when Wasps replaced (the highly experienced) Day Young with Lee Blackett - look how that's turned out!

PG

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: TG Kesmo (IP Logged)
Date: 14/10/2020 11:34

I also think that credit should be given for attempting to build steadily on good foundations. The change to culture and ethos have been tangible. Building this way is more likely but not guaranteed to avoid the flash in the pan scenario as seen at Gloucester and Saints and dare I say during the Ford period. Many were previously blatting on about SHís lack of coaching experience and qualifications. He was never going to be head coach it is not what he does, management is a whole different skill set. Some excellent coaches are useless managers example again is Ford. Iím feeling more positive about the Bath set up than I have for a long time. I just hope we get a chance to play and watch.

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: B4thB4ck (IP Logged)
Date: 14/10/2020 12:40

Well done to the club, hope everyone has a good summers break before the new season. Oh, hang on....

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: woodpecker (IP Logged)
Date: 14/10/2020 14:17

I would like to commend Bruce, partly as he is conspicuous by his apparent absence. He seems to have changed tack, evolution rather than revolution and less churn and it seems to be working. I'm sure Exeter were doing his head in after pi$$ing away millions.

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: joethefanatic (IP Logged)
Date: 15/10/2020 00:46

Oh to be in England, now that April's there...

... IMHO, of course.

Now in Honolulu



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2020:10:15:01:25:55 by joethefanatic.

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: P G Tips (IP Logged)
Date: 15/10/2020 08:16

Well spotted Joe. Poetic licence on my part I confess: Browning was in Italy, not Spain.

PG

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: joethefanatic (IP Logged)
Date: 15/10/2020 08:22

I must admit that my inability to return to the UK physically, has left me searching out poetry to salve the need. Browning, Brooke and R S Thomas have featured heavily. I have learned, however, to avoid A E Houseman. That way lies madness!

smiling smiley



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2020:10:15:08:35:50 by joethefanatic.

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: Boldangrey (IP Logged)
Date: 15/10/2020 22:10

Quote:
woodpecker
I would like to commend Bruce, partly as he is conspicuous by his apparent absence. He seems to have changed tack, evolution rather than revolution and less churn and it seems to be working. I'm sure Exeter were doing his head in after pi$$ing away millions.

Perhaps when the team starts winning he feels less need to be so 'hands on'.

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: bardofavon (IP Logged)
Date: 16/10/2020 11:02

my view for what it is worth....
As others have stated, there have been big improvements since hatley came back. But we are still some way off top 4.
The forwards have done a great job but the backs continue to lag. It is noticeable that although we have scored more tries since lockdown, these have mostly been fat boy tries. Tries from our backs are limited to individual efforts from the likes of Spencer and Mac. We still seem unable to put the ball through the hands in any meaningful way. Our attacks are side to side, predictable and easy to defend. There is no wit or guile in them, no penetration or subtlety. We struggle to open up opposition defences or create overlaps. In the second halves of the sarries and chiefs games we scored a total of 3 points and no tries. A backline containing 6 senior internationals could not cross the chiefsí whitewash. These are sobering stats. It is hard to think of a team in the prem that has a more toothless backs attack than us.
RP has had probably his best season for Bath- ironic since he was originally shown the door. Rhys is very good at what he does but he is a kicking 10 not a running 10. Good for 9-man rugby but not for bringing his outside backs into the game.
BO has often (very often?) complained about Bath dropping the ball and stuffing up possession, ruining any attacking momentum and yielding promising territory. He is right. It happens all the time. Twice on Saturday Bath dropped the kick off which led, a phase or two later, to tries for Exeter. This happened three or four time this last season. It is a basic skill. Why do the coaches not pick up on it? The nuts and bolts of successful rugby are based round skills like these: avoiding knock ons, giving and taking a pass, creating an overlap, putting someone through a hole and doing it all under pressure. We really struggle to do it.
So in my opinion we need to do three things next season in order to push on. We need another flyhalf as a matter of urgency so we can change the plan mid game if we have to and so that we can give Rhys decent rest time. We also need cover for injury- we were lucky RP got through the last round of games without harm. Matavesi is not the man for the job. He has said he doesnít want to play 10. Is Bailey old enough and mature enough to step up so soon?
I think we need more resources at 13. JJ is the only on the field who has no one after his shirt. It is not a healthy situation for the club or for the player. JJ has a habit of going missing in games. He may also struggle to hang on to his england shirt this year. We have wright and clark but these guys are little more than journeymen with defensive weaknesses. We need better than them if we are to challenge for the top. We have Butt in the academy but is it too soon for him?
We need a skills coach. We had Matson briefly before he went back to NZ. Before him we had Edwards, who was a bit of a joke and who got his job, one feels, through the old boy Exiles network. Bath always gives the impression that it is not bothered about skills, that skills are low priority. This is why we keep messing up.
And lastly we have Dempsey. He has been bitterly disappointing. I was excited when I first heard of the appointment but he has done nothing in the two years he has been with us. I canít see any improvement in our attack. It is time to admit that, like Blackadder, Dempsey was the wrong appointment. Dempsey has another year to go I believe. Hooper needs to start looking now for a replacement. The best attack coaches are in NZ or Oz.

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: wetside (IP Logged)
Date: 16/10/2020 11:52

I agree with most of your comments Bard but with one glaring exception. No way do I accept we are A LONG WAY OFF TOP FOUR. We may be some way off Exeter but from what I've seen since lockdown we are equal to or better than all the other teams in the league. Imho of course.

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: hasta (IP Logged)
Date: 16/10/2020 12:14

It's pretty hilarious to claim we're a long way off top four when we were, you know, in the top four.

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: Rawce (IP Logged)
Date: 19/10/2020 16:21

Anyone got any stats backing up this assumption that we have the worst skills in the league or drop it the most? Do we, along with many other sets of fans, lay claim to the same title when the answer may be different?

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: Bath Hammer (IP Logged)
Date: 19/10/2020 23:39

I agree with a fair amount of Bardofavonís assessment but not all. The main thing I agree with is the underperformance of our back line & JJ to some extent. Iím not even sure we get what could justifiably expect from Watson also. This could all be tied up with the Dempsey appointment which seems to have brought nothing to the table. I donít see the personnel as the problem, except having another option at no.10. We canít have stars in all the back up positions & wouldnít write off Clark & Wright . We have plenty of youthful quality coming through. The thing is it all needs to be harnessed & thatís not happening. It is true that we make mistakes at times but have improved in that regard & Iím not sure of the merits of a skills coach. I do agree we need to look for a really creative backs coach to take over from Dempsey. Iím puzzled how the Leinster backline thrived under his guidance. It is true we probably would have ended up 5th if it hadnít been for COVID but I donít know how much better those 3 other teams are. Certainly Bristol & Wasps seem to have more effective back lines, although not better players but we may have the edge up front. I doubt if those teams would have failed to score more than 3 points in the 2nd halves against Sarries & Exeter though.

Re: HOME THOUGHTS FROM ABROAD: COML SEASON VIEW
Posted by: shipwrecked (IP Logged)
Date: 19/10/2020 23:54

Quote:
Bath Hammer
I do agree we need to look for a really creative backs coach to take over from Dempsey. Iím puzzled how the Leinster backline thrived under his guidance.

You have to give credit to Stuart Lancaster for a lot of the attacking flair I reckon.

Quote:
Bath Hammer
It is true we probably would have ended up 5th if it hadnít been for COVID but I donít know how much better those 3 other teams are. Certainly Bristol & Wasps seem to have more effective back lines, although not better players but we may have the edge up front. I doubt if those teams would have failed to score more than 3 points in the 2nd halves against Sarries & Exeter though.

I sort of agree but it was Sarries, last game, wolf pack and all that and Itoje had an absolute stormer but we need some pace and invention at 10. Leinster's fave move was the wrap around and by the time RP gets into position there is cover in place. RP has even found himself in space but can't exploit it. He also lacks the physicality to break tackles in the way that JM does, (who has also lost pace).

TDG has that spark, and Daily isn't slow either but I dot feel a young quick 10 on BS's pass would tear a few holes up the middle that JJ and AW can exploit. When we move it we are just too slow!

https://i.ibb.co/pZ68Lvp/Ollie-Fox.jpg

Ollie Fox - England U20 international scrum half, youngest of our four 9's. If you are good enough, you're old enough!

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