Bath sink champs to set standard Bath sink champs to set standard
"That should be the standard every week," said first-team coach Toby Booth after Bath Rugby produced a performance of cohesion, courage and class.
The River Avon was in full flood on Friday and so was the Bath defence, which proved an unbreachable human fortification against a Harlequins attack that has succeeded in sweeping many other Premiership teams aside.
If Bath can follow Booth's words and play with comparable levels of application, guts and guile in the forthcoming weeks, then it really will be a season to be jolly.
As well as all the muscle and all the graft, there was also a streetwise quality to Bath's play that has been sorely absent in recent seasons. When it was a three-point game and the champions were piling on the pressure, Bath kept their cool and ran down the clock. It was professional, it was clinical and it augurs well.
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Members of the Bath coaching staff have used the words "intensity" and "physicality" a lot over the past couple of months. At the weekend, The Rec was furnished with their true meaning.
The back-row was unrelenting in its work at the coal-face. Josh Ovens relished the contact area in his first Premiership start of the season, and while Guy Mercer and Simon Taylor gave away the odd penalty, they more than compensated for their misdemeanours by being persistent – and exceedingly prickly – thorns in Quins' side.
They tackled and rucked their hearts out, Mercer's match-securing turnover in the penultimate minute being arguably the moment that defined Bath's resolve and resilience.
It was resilience that even Leicester Tigers would have been proud of. Bath face the Tigers on Saturday – and they should step into the lair feeling emboldened.
"Part of the evolution of this team is understanding that tonight is what it's like every week," said Booth. "Going to Welford Road against the team that everyone aspires to be, you're going to get tested even further.
"This is the rebirth of the new Bath and what we are trying to get to. The things we've spoken about are character, culture and effort, and if you don't have those you don't have performances like that.
"The sport is about having mental resilience. You've got to stay on task and stay in the moment.
"Quins like to run it and they resorted to kicking the ball away, that's a result of the pressure you're putting them under.
"It was the best our kick-run decision-making had been. We showed endeavour but realised when it wasn't on and when we should kick. And Mike Ford should be very proud of what was achieved defensively."
Doubtless Bath defence coach Ford would have returned the compliment to Booth, whose lineout was immaculate. But this was not just a night for mutual congratulation, it was a night for soaking up a team performance to which goal-kicking fly-half Stephen Donald provided the icing.
His first kick from the tee was wide, but after that the Kiwi did not look back, winning the kicking duel with fellow former All Black Nick Evans.
"It was about Stephen from a scoreline point of view," said Booth. "But it was one of those really good team performances. Everyone played their part, and we should be proud."