Saturday 11 February 2012 – 2.15pm
The Recreation Ground, Bath Spa
Aviva Premiership #14
The Falcons return to Premiership action on Saturday in Gary Gold’s first league match in charge. There is renewed hope among supporters that we can avoid the drop after the past few games but the real work starts now.
After our visit to the Rec, our attention will turn to Adams Park on Sunday where Wasps meet Saracens. Hopefully Worcester will have already been soundly beaten at Edgeley Park tomorrow evening, and we could have a four-way relegation battled opened up.
Our last visit to Bath was of course in May last year when a heavy defeat could have sent us down, but Leeds’ inability to hold on to a, well, lead in Northampton saved our Premiership status.
Bath are currently 10th in the Premiership on 24 points, a point behind Worcester and three above Wasps. We are adrift on 12 points with nine games to go but an awful lot could happen in those nine matches.
The south-westerners will no doubt be disappointed with their showing in the league so far. Our previous meeting with the Bathplugs this season was a dire 9-22 defeat at Kingston Park on the opening day back in September, but since then they have only won four other games in the Premiership – at home to Exeter in September and at home to Leicester and at Irish in October, before completing the double over the Exiles on New Years’ Day.
Yes, amazingly Bath only won once in the Premiership in the past three and a half months. However, they are currently on a three-game winning run that saw Glasgow and Northampton downed at the Rec in the Heineken and LV= Cups respectively, ahead of Sunday’s 3-31 victory at Exeter that secured Bath’s place in the LV= semi-finals.
Our record at the Rec is not good, only three wins from 18 visits, but intriguingly our last two victories have been accompanied by try bonus points.
Our record in BA2:
13/11/1993 (Division 1) L3-46
23/08/1997 (Premiership 1) W20-13
16/01/1999 (Premiership 1) L11-16
13/11/1999 (Premiership 1) L12-45
25/01/2000 (Premiership) L16-20
16/09/2000 (Premiership) L12-19
28/04/2001 (Premiership) L9-18
25/11/2001 (Premiership) L9-24
10/05/2003 (Premiership) L12-24
20/12/2003 (Premiership) L10-20
11/09/2004 (Premiership) W33-18
11/03/2006 (Premiership) L18-20
25/11/2006 (Premiership) L14-20
08/03/2008 (Premiership) L11-22
21/03/2009 (Premiership) L25-36
24/10/2009 (Premiership) W27-16
29/01/2011 (LV= Cup) L6-11
07/05/2011 (Premiership) L12-42
Bath’s squad contains a number of ex-Falcons including Tom Biggs. Biggsy had a tough time at Kingston Park in 2009/10, his try-scoring abilities wasted in Steve Bates’ narrow gameplan, but he has done slightly better in the South West and scored a hat-trick at Sandy Park on Sunday, taking home the man of the match champagne. However, prior to the Exeter game he had only scored twice in 17 appearances in 2011/12.
David Wilson came off the bench, but due to injury will not be playing on Saturday. Hooker Ross Batty has played in 18 games this season
Sir Ian McGeechan can also call on several (seemingly) former England internationals in Dan Hipkiss, Duncan Bell, Sam Vesty, David Flatman, Lee Mears and Olly Barkley, while Nick Abendanon, Matt Banahan and Dave Attwood will be looking to force their way into the Stuart Lancaster’s Six Nations squad.
We could come up against international half-backs Michael Claassens and Stephen Donald, who joined the Bathplugs with a World Cup winner’s medal in his back pocket, who can form an axis any Premiership side would be proud of with Scottish number eight Simon Taylor.
Completing the international contingent is former England captain Lewis Moody, now retired from the international game.
Whichever team Bath put out will be full of talent, so on paper they will be confident of winning and pulling away from the relegation place. We have renewed confidence, despite last Saturday’s reversal at Leicester, so there is no reason we cannot go to the Rec and give a good account of ourselves, hopefully continuing the Falcons Fightback and moving closer to the other relegation candidates.
It’s still all to play for down at the bottom of the Premiership.
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)