FAN’S VIEW: Barkley’s nerve + team spirit = four points
Bath Rugby supporter Glyn Edwards gives his take on events at The Rec...
A winning start to any competition is to be welcomed, of course, but Bath left it as late as possible to deliver victory in their first Premiership match of the season at Worcester last Saturday.
Olly Barkley’s nerveless strike in the 80th minute secured the win – his eighth straight penalty success of the afternoon - with the touch judges’ raised flags being followed immediately by referee Luke Pearce’s whistle for ‘no side’.
Perhaps no-one expected a feast of running rugby from two teams who had both languished in the lower half of the league for nearly all of last season, and if that was the case then the disappointing crowd of just under 8,000 were not at all surprised.
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The main disappointment for Bath supporters on the day was undoubtedly the lack of opportunity for Tom Biggs and Kyle Eastmond to make much of a mark on the contest, as chasing high kicks was usually their best chance to shine.
Thanks to Olly Barkley’s flawless place-kicking, however, and a second-half demonstration of Bath’s outstanding team spirit and collective character, Gary Gold’s men at least had the considerable consolation of having won despite not having played at all well.
Richard Hill’s Worcester, on the other hand, managed to fall foul of the whistle in the second forty even more frequently than Bath had done in the first period, and will regard a solitary losing bonus point as scant reward for their initial dominance.
Warriors’ ex-Leicester and England fly-half Andy Goode missed the conversion of the game’s only try by second-row James Percival – and one of his two late penalties – to allow Bath the opportunity to claim their own last-minute salvation.
Francois Louw played his first and - for the time being – last game of the new season for his club before jetting off to Perth to join up with the Springboks squad in Australia. He will have been relieved not to have picked up an injury at Sixways, just as Bath will be if he returns to the Rec in similar good health in a few weeks time.
Bath will no doubt miss the contribution of the loose forward who stood-in as captain for the injured Stuart Hooper last season and was one of our most consistently effective performers in a side that frequently failed to play to its full potential.
It is a significant consolation for Gold and his crew though that, in the absence of both Stephen Donald and Tom Heathcote, the overall performance of Olly Barkley in the number ten shirt – and not just his goal-kicking – showed he is still a class fly-half.