The opening month of 2017 for Bath Rugby consisted of one Aviva Premiership match, two European Challenge Cup matches and one Anglo-Welsh Cup match.
The saying start as you mean to go on is hopefully not the case for Bath this year. A visit up to Newcastle is never an easy one especially on the back of two defeats in a row but the mannerism in which Bath lost was shocking. Twice in as many weeks Bath had thrown away a good lead in the final 10 minutes of a match. This has not been the sort of Bath we’ve got used to this season, it brings back not so fond memories of last season when Bath couldn’t hold on to a lead. Three successive defeats in the Premiership is not what is expected of a side bidding for a playoff spot at the end of the season and it has enabled the teams below Bath to be within one win of taking over the boys in Blue, Black and White.
A much needed break from Premiership action came in the form of the final two pool matches in the Challenge Cup. These were exactly what Bath needed to regain some confidence and produce some fun attacking play. A 57-22 victory away to Bristol was followed up a 69-10 victory over Pau at the Rec. 18 tries in 2 games and a home quarter-final spot secured. Bath’s opponents for the quarter-finals will be Brive, so there’s only a little bit of European history between the two sides.
The final match of the month saw our nearest and not so dearest Gloucester make the short visit to the Rec. With both sides missing their internationals and both sides fielding a range of youngsters what followed was an unexpected spectacle. The game could easily have gone either way but ended up as a 17-17 draw with both sides scoring tries late on to just add to the excitement. Bath should be pleased with the result seeing as they did have more youngsters than Gloucester and also the result means that we have stopped Gloucester from being able to qualify for the semi-finals. It’s the small victories in rugby that count most sometimes.
Overall a month that started poorly ended up showing real positive signs for the remainder of the season. The youngsters are coming through and not looking out of place. Many of Bath’s long-term injuries are making their way back with David Denton expected to play a part in the opening match of February. However, Bath could be without some or all of; George Ford, Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson, Charlie Ewels, Nathan Catt, Taulupe Faletau and Luke Charteris, who have all been named in Six Nations squads for the upcoming tournament.