Losing, like winning, just becomes something you become accustomed to.
Teams will often know what they need to change – they need to be less naïve in defence, more prudent in attack, but somehow they can’t seem to put the thoughts into action.
Take Bath Rugby. Last season they began what their management claimed and supporters hoped would be the steady march towards the top of the table – they said after their loss in the Premiership final that it “perhaps came a year too early for them…”
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Well, what a difference a few months make!
From the eternal attacking and offloading kings of last season, we saw Bath play for 34 minutes against Wasps on Saturday, at home (in admittedly dismal conditions) before they attempted an offload out of the tackle. Wasps by this stage, had performed eight successfully.
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Whilst the hosts were obviously erring on the side of caution in their play, they were missing out on any possible benefits too – the image of the cautious gambler comes to mind where they may not lose much, but they’re not going to beat the house if they don’t raise the stakes.
Their defensive work has obviously been worked on hugely, with some terrific efforts being put in by forwards and backs alike. However, it seems that against the top sides such as Saracens and Wasps, they spend so much of their energies in defending that they aren’t nearly as potent with ball in hand and eventually when they tire, the points are leaked still.
For the supporters it must feel odd to have a sense of nostalgia for last season’s style of play – personnel have more or less stayed the same (even a certain rugby league convert’s sudden departure can no longer be pointed to as a reason for their current funk) and still the spark is lacking.
Even in the pack – their formerly dominant scrum and lineout from 2014-15 seem to have gone awol in 2015-16. It took four of their own lineouts before Bath managed to secure their own possession (to a chorus of ironic cheers from the home faithful). The scrum apparently misses the hard-nosed presence of Paul James in the front row as they break and splinter under pressure from the apparently more gnarled opposition.
The coaches, of course, will be feeling the brunt of the pressure – rumours, as always, are fuelled when a team is apparently in disarray and Mike Ford for the chop would appear to be the headline in waiting.
Some would say that if he were a coach in football’s top division, then his head would have rolled weeks ago but sport is based on such fine margins that one would hope he gets his shot at redemption.
Let us not forget that it was only a couple of seasons ago that Wasps looked on the brink of extinction – in dire financial straits, unable to attract new players and with a stadium agreement at High Wycombe unsatisfactory for the club, fans and players alike. How fantastic it is to see them having successfully navigated those hurdles and excelling from their new base at Coventry.
Bath, on the other hand, have none of those worries – financially secure with owner Bruce Craig pumping in funds to secure the services of top-class talent as well as their superb training facilities at Farleigh House, whilst retaining the small but uniquely atmospheric home ground
of the Rec in the city centre.
A penny for the thoughts of Craig – (or half a million) as he looks disconsolately down on his increasingly wobbly-looking investments.
Ultimately it will be his axe to wield when he deems time is up on Ford’s time in charge – Ford meanwhile may be hoping for a swift return of his
international players, preferably high on confidence to inject some life into the Bath cause.