Match preview: Bath Rugby v Newcastle Falcons

bubble bath

Saturday 15 November 2014 – 5.00pm

The Recreation Ground, Bath

Aviva Premiership #7

 

It’s time for some fun in Bath this weekend. Not ‘fun in the Bath’, as one of my in-laws thought a Facebook post said last year.

 

Bath away is always a highlight of the season. The Rec, for all the criticism its facilities get, has to be one of the most beautiful rugby grounds in the world, situated between the River Avon and below the hills just outside the city. A nice clubhouse, and plenty of decent pubs around. I still remember waiting half an hour to get served in the Saracens Head one year when there were two staff serving a few hundred punters. Fortunately England v South Africa was on a screen behind the bar.

 

We might not be in for such fun on the pitch though – Bath had an eye-catching start to the season in the Premiership, condemning Leicester to a record 45-0 league defeat at the Rec and also beating Saracens at home in a humdinger of a game. London Welsh have been put to the sword not once but twice in the old Roman city, most recently 47-7 in the LV= Cup. However, defeat at Northampton and Wasps, albeit both with bonus points, mean the Bathplugs had to be content with fourth place going into the cup break. That’s not bad though, and Mike Ford’s team look at present the most likely side to break the quadropoly of Leicester, Saracens, Harlequins and Northampton in the play-off places.

 

Europe has not been kind to Bath. The opening round of the new Champions Cup pitted the south-westerners against Glasgow up in Scotland, and the Warriors pulled off a spectacular 37-10 victory at Scotstoun, even condemning Bath to a scoreless second half. That was followed up by a narrow 19-21 loss to Toulouse at the Rec, and Montpellier lie in wait in next month’s double-header.

 

Indeed, it is surprising to see that after last week’s 18-6 LV= Cup in Exeter, Bath have actually lost four of their last five games and five of their last seven. One suspects they will have plenty of motivation tomorrow.

 

That said however, Ford will be missing several key players due to international call-ups. While Kieran Brookes benches for England at Twickenham, he will be able to chat to George Ford and Rob Webber as they watch fellow Recmen Kyle Eastmond, Anthony Watson, Dave Attwood and David Wilson taking on South Africa. Semesa Rokoduguni has been ruled out by injury after a tricky international debut against the All Blacks last week, and we can only be thankful that he won’t be in the Bath team at the Rec either. Jonathan Joseph and Henry Thomas are also in Stuart Lancaster’s squad but not tomorrow’s England 23, and Paul James has been completely dropped by Wales to allow Gethin Jenkins to lead the dragons against Fiji in Cardiff.

 

Bath are one of the Falcons’ real bogey teams. OK, so we have bad runs against a few teams at the moment, but since Martin Johnson lifted the World Cup in 2003, we have only beaten tomorrow’s hosts once. I remember it well – a bonus-point victory in October 2009, in which I jumped up and down in the Rec’s (pretty rickety) press box as Micky Young steamed the full length of the pitch to score a brilliant try. That was not lil’ Micky’s only big contribution that day, as he also made a monster tackle on giant Bath winger Jack Cuthbert that had the few visiting fans purring. Our other try-scorers were James Hudson and Charlie Amesbury (two), and of the entire squad only Rob Vickers is still playing for the Falcons.

 

Since that day, it’s been defeats all the way, now numbering seven in a row at the Rec and KP. Time to change that I reckon.

 

Young is of course now of the Rec parish, one of a number of former Falcons men there along with the aforementioned Wilson, and hooker Ross Batty, as well as Director of Rugby Ford himself who made such a contribution to our-almost Great Escape in 2012. Peter Stringer is one that might be forgotten, though his cameo for the Falcons in 2012 was memorable, while Grant Shiells’ move south just this summer was vaguely controversial but he has not yet been able to get on the field in the blue, black and white.

 

Compared to clubs like Leicester and Harlequins, whom we have been playing regularly since the middle of last century, and Gloucester and Northampton whom we met in the early years of the old national cup, Bath are a relatively new opponent, in that Gosforth (or Newcastle Gosforth at that particular time) did not play the Bathplugs until 1993, our first year in the top division. As with many games that season, it was a comprehensive defeat, though will merit at least a footnote in Bath’s history for being Gareth Chilcott’s final game for the club.

 

Falcons 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

16/09/2000 Premiership               L12-19

28/04/2001 Championship QF     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 Cup                             L6-11

07/05/2011 Premiership               L12-42

11/02/2012 Premiership               L24-30

08/02/2014 Premiership                L6-24

 

 

Sean Robinson makes his Premiership debut for the Falcons tomorrow at flanker, and is joined by fellow youngster Simon Hammersley in an attacking starting lineup. George McGuigan and Sinoti Sinoti are back from injury, and Alesana Tuilagi will hope his second Premiership start for us is more fruitful than his previous.

 

Falcons team: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Juan Pablo Socino, 9 Ruki Tipuna, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Callum Green, 5 Dom Barrow, 6 Sean Robinson, 7 Andy Saull (c), 8 Mark Wilson.

 

Replacements: 16 Alex Rogers, 17 Scott Lawson, 18 Oliver Tomasczyzk, 19 Scott MacLeod, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Mike Blair, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Alex Tait.

 

 

The hosts team up Micky Young with Gavin Henson at half-back, the Welshman seemingly having put his controversies behind him at the Rec. Jonathan Joseph and Henry Thomas are allowed back from England duty, while Leroy Houston will be looking to repeat his huge try-scoring performance in the equivalent game last season.

 

Bath team: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Micky Young, 1 Nathan Catt, 2 Ross Batty, 3 Henry Thomas, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 5 Dominic Day, 6 Charlie Ewels, 7 David Sisi, 8 Leroy Houston.

 

Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Matt Garvey, 20 Tom Ellis, 21 Max Northcote-Green, 22 Chris Cook, 23 Richard Lane.

 

 

Got a good feeling about this one (No! Really?!) with our exciting team, and some good experience on the bench to hopefully see the game out. We could be in for an interesting day tomorrow.

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

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