Bath Rugby Director of Rugby Stuart Hooper believes there are positives to take after his sides 25-19 defeat to Harlequins on Friday night at The Rec.
This was their sixth form loss in the competition stretching back to last season.
A performance full of heart from Bath Rugby tonight as the Blue, Black and White come up just short in a pulsating second-half. pic.twitter.com/Dg5GqQZegg
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) January 10, 2020
The sides took up 3rd and 4th place in Pool Three of the Heineken Champions Cup but were both out of contention for a Quarter Final spot.
Tries from James Chisholm, Gabriel Ibitoye and Alex Dombrandt saw Paul Gustard’s side see off a young Bath side with 14 changes.
Jack Walker, Gabe Hamer-Webb and Jackson Willison scored for the home side but the boot of Quins’ Brett Herron proved the difference.
“Opportunity taken” according to Stuart Hooper
Hooper’s much-changed side showed a good account of themselves but a number of mistakes cost them when they got into crucial areas. One particular area that cost Bath was their lineout as they lost seven of their own throws.
However, Hooper saw positives from his sides performance and spoke after the match, saying:
“It’s an opportunity taken with regards to some of the things we got out of tonight. We tried some different combinations. I thought Jackson and Max in midfield were very lively tonight and caused problems for the opposition, particularly keeping the ball alive off the floor at times which was good to see.
“It’s good to get some young boys out there, some debuts from Tom De Glanville and Nahum Merigan. Those are positives. It’s a missed opportunity to win a game at home and at the end we had opportunities to score but we didn’t take them so it’s a missed opportunity in that regard.”
Bath injury woes
One area of concern not only for Hooper but also for Eddie Jones, who was in attendance on Friday, with Bath fullback Anthony Watson being taken off the field due to injury.
Hooper gave an update on Watson’s state, saying: “He feels alright. We were just making sure we looked after him and make sure we get him through. I’ll check up on him but I think he’s alright.”
Watson has had injury issues over the past few seasons, in particular recently when he injured his knee in the reverse of this fixture in November which resulted in him being out for a month. Jones will keep in contact with Watson as he is set to announce England’s Six Nations squad on Monday 20 January.
Stuart Hooper revealed the reason behind withdrawing Watson in the 51st minute, saying: “It’s not his knee, He just came off, he pulled up a bit tight so we just brought him off but it’s not his knee.”
Scrum-half Max Green started the game brightly but also game off through injury with Hooper commenting on the injury.
“He’s obviously injured, he came off pretty sore, he tried to carry on but came off pretty sore. I thought he started the game really brightly. We talked about getting the speed of the ball in the middle third and I thought he delivered that for us so disappointed to see him go off and he’ll be gutted. We’ll see if we can get on top of it straight away and see what’s wrong with it,” said Hooper.
Battle of English Youngsters
With Jones watching on in the stands there was plenty of English talent on show. Dombrandt staked his claim to a call-up with a strong carrying performance with a try to add to it, Watson made 77 metres and Kyle Sinckler made a return from injury.
However, it was the head-to-head between two young English wingers that offered an interesting watch. Quins’ Ibitoye and Bath’s Hamer-Webb are both exciting prospects that showed glimpses of their potential.
Ibitoye has been a star for Quins so far this season and showed he could be a future England international. Whenever he had the ball in hand he looked like a danger with his jinxing footwork and power. He also showed his a awareness being in the right place at the right time. He could well be a wild card choice for Jones’ squad come Monday 20 January.
Hamer-Webb is a less well known prospect. He signed a senior academy contract at the start of the season but has made 10 appearances for the first team this season scoring his first try vs Ulster in the Champions Cup earlier this season.
His European debut try was his first touch of the ball and a stunning finishing in the corner after beating his opposite man. He proved a danger to the defence who managed to contain him until his good finish in the corner after a lovely miss pass from Freddie Burns. This was his second try in as many European appearances.
Bath now travel to Ulster next week whilst Harlequins face Clermont Auvergne at the Stoop.
Main image credit : Embed from Getty Images