Opposition Viewpoint - Bath look ahead with more than just hope
31 December 2002 18:33pm
A bleak year for Bath by their standards. The six times former league champions have struggled in the Zurich Premiership of late but with many of their internationals returning to fitness, Bath go into 2003 on the up and looking to pull away from the bottom third of the table in the coming months.
"It was a major step forward," said former Australian international Mike Foley, one of the West country club's co-coaches, following his sides 23-9 victory over NEC Harlequins last Saturday (28th December 2002).
"I thought there was some great attacking stuff early in the match and I thought if we had controlled possession a little bit better in the first half we could have ended up with more tries."
"But generally we had a great attack, which is more about what happens off the ball. I think the support to the ball was very good. It gave us an opportunity to play off-loads and it gave us an opportunity to play quick ball from the breakdown and that was pleasing."
"That win there was based a lot on defence. Richard Graham (Bath's Skills and Defence coach) talked about making ground in defence, and certainly each time we defended today we drove Harlequins back, which not only has a tangible effect on the game at the time but a big psychological boost for you."
NEC Harlequins boss Mark Evans thought that the game was won and lost in the tackle area, a feeling that Foley agreed with.
"That aspect of our game comes down to how much work is done off the ball," he said.
"With players working off the ball then they are going to be there to receive off-loads or be very effective at the breakdown and that is what we did well today."
Whilst most eyes were on the performances of the England pair Iain Balshaw and, later in the game, Matt Perry, the home side had a number of stand-out performances to enthuse over. Their back row, with Nathan Thomas to the fore, played well but there was a real spark at half back where both performers looked like something special, and regularly found space for the backs to run into.
"I thought that (Gareth) Cooper's service was outstanding today," said Bath's other co-coach Brian Smith.
"If you look at the first time we ran possession today, we ran a ten or 12 phase play and Coops covered a lot of territory. His service was excellent and I thought that Olly Barkley played quite well."
"Interestingly our kicking game (and Barkley engineered most of it) had a hand in our two tries. There was a chip over the top involved for our second try and in our first try there was a cross-kick involved in that."
"I thought that generally speaking our kicking game was pretty sound. Olly certainly off the boot from the place kickers was outstanding. The first 20 minutes were outstanding and a few of us might have thought that we were the Harlem Globetrotters at times, but we turned over too much possession and that is an area that we will have to improve upon."
"We turned over a lot of ball there, created a lot of chances but we didn't get quite the same amount of possession in the second half, but I think the defence in that last five or ten minutes at times was probably as good a defensive effort as we have had all year."
Harlequins fan Ed Atkin won the Etihad Airways 'Up and Under' competition at the Northampton Saints game. As a result, he and a friend have won a holiday to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.