Belief and character earns Team Bath a bonus-point win over high-flying Loughborough after brilliant BUCS Super Rugby display
Aaron James praised the belief and character of his players after Team Bath produced their best performance of the season to beat BUCS Super Rugby high-fliers Loughborough at the Sports Training Village tonight.
The Rengen-sponsored men’s 1st XV were outstanding in every aspect on a blustery evening, particularly during the second half as they turned a narrow 15-14 deficit at the break into an excellent bonus-point 33-20 victory thanks to some disciplined defending and expansive, confident attacking play.
It was the perfect response to last week’s disappointing home defeat to Leeds Beckett and James, Head of Rugby at the University of Bath, said: “I’m so proud of the boys and the character shown in attack and defence. There was a pretty strong wind and we’ve crumbled in those conditions in the past but I think our belief and the way we played will stick in our minds.
“We’ve been really disappointed with the way we’ve played recently but the boys got together on Friday and were really honest about what we had to do. We just weren’t believing in ourselves enough – creating opportunities but not taking them, giving away too many penalties. We turned that around today and that’s the most pleasing thing.
“We were down to 14 men at the start of the second half and still wanted to attack. We actually scored during that time but that’s the belief. We needed that result and it’s reward for all of the hard work. Mike Hill has done a lot of work with the forwards and our defence and set-piece tonight was outstanding.”
Loughborough went into the match sitting second in the table and took the lead within three minutes, prop Jack Bertinet – a former King Edward’s Bath pupil and son of renowned Bath-based baker Richard Bertinet – driving over from a lineout maul.
Team Bath responded immediately, though, scrum-half George Wootten diving over the line following good footwork off the back of a maul by returning lock Ed Ashcroft. Bevan Howells’ successful conversion edged the hosts into a 7-5 lead.
They doubled their advantage midway through the first half when a well-worked period of pressure on the Loughborough line ended with Tom Black being adjudged to have touched down following some careful deliberation by referee Andy Wigley. Howells again added the extras.
Back came Loughborough and while Team Bath were able to stop a charging Henri Lavin just short of the line, the ball was quickly recycled for lock David Douglas Bridge to power over. Charlie Titcombe’s conversion cut the gap to two.
The remainder of the half was a midfield battle, with both teams enjoying periods of possession but finding the opposition defence in resolute mood. However, with just seconds to go, a fumble in the Bath 22 gave Loughborough possession and as Ashcroft tried to retrieve the ball, he was penalised and yellow-carded. The visitors chose to go for the posts and Titcombe’s successful kick – the last of the half – gave them a narrow 15-14 advantage at the break.
Team Bath were still down to 14 men for the opening stages of the second half but set the tone for a fantastic 40 minutes by retaining possession superbly and patiently moving the ball around, probing for an opening.
It came in the 48th minute when number 8 Harry Breeze ran onto a smart inside pass from Rahul Patel and cut through the visiting defence for a fine try which was again converted by Howells.
Back to full strength, Team Bath were organised and disciplined as they prevented Loughborough from finding any sustained rhythm. The frustrated visitors tried to force the play and a stray pass was picked off by Cal Barrett, who produced some brilliant footwork to step past the last defender before holding the chasing pack at bay as he raced from his own half for the bonus-point try.
Howells’ conversion stretched the lead to 28-15 with an hour played but Loughborough got back into the contest in the 70th minute when Teddy Leatherbarrow touched down from a rolling maul. The conversion was missed, however, to leave Team Bath with a two-score cushion.
Some outstanding defending prevented Loughborough from taking advantage of another lineout and a turnover with three minutes to go was cheered like a winning try as Team Bath dug deep to protect their lead. There was an even bigger cheer in the closing stages as captain George Cave burrowed over from a lineout drive to seal a memorable victory.
Team Bath’s final match before the festive break sees them make the short journey to Gloucester to face local rivals Hartpury on Wednesday 15th December (6.30pm). Their next home match is against Cardiff on Wednesday 26th January (6.30pm).
Team Bath starting XV: 1 George Cave (c), 2 John Taylor, 3 Josh Cilia, 4 Ed Ashcroft, 5 Tom Black, 6 Ted Johnson, 7 Xavier Hastings, 8 Harry Breeze; 9 George Wootten, 10 Bevan Howells, 11 Alfie Garside, 12 Alex Clayton, 13 Rahul Patel, 14 Cal Barrett, 15 Iwan Price Thomas. Replacements: 16 George Holroyd, 17 Matt Mason, 18 Archie Maggs, 19 Erik Bryant, 20 Tom Williams, 21 Ellis Horgan, 22 Will Kennaugh, 23 Luca Mignot.
Tries: Wootten, Black, Breeze, Barrett, Cave.
Conversions: Howells 4.
Loughborough starting XV: 1 Bryn Davies, 2 Joe Plunkett, 3 Jack Bertinet, 4 David Douglas Bridge, 5 Dan Cuthert, 6 Henri Lavin, 7 Teddy Leatherbarrow, 8 Ben Smith; 9 Jonny Law, 10 Charlie Titcombe, 11 Dan James, 12 Josh Lewis, 13 Nathan Pope, 14 Sam Kildunne, 15 Dan Martin. Replacements: 16 Jamie Harding, 17 Seb Smith, 18 Jack Rowntree, 19 Louis Peacock, 20 Tom Bloomer, 21 James Tunney, 22 Iwan Burgwin, 23 Will Sanders.
Tries: Bertinet, Douglas Bridge, Leatherbarrow.
Referee: Andy Wigley.
Assistant referees: Brian Ravenhill, Dave Philpot.