FAN’S VIEW: This journey is one to look forward to
Bath Rugby supporter Glyn Edwards gives his take on events at The Rec….
When the Amlin Cup fixture lists were published back in what passed this year for the summer, the game against Agen in France was the one I looked for first as it appeared to hold the key to which team would most likely progress to the quarter-finals.
In a pool also containing the Italians of Calvisano and the Bucharest Wolves from Romania – both of which, with all the sporting respect I could muster, looked to be eminently beatable at home and away - the match in southern France stood out as the most challenging.
When the dates of the games were confirmed, Bath were considerably inconvenienced by the demands of French television arranging the first of the matches against Agen for the Thursday night following their opener in Bucharest the previous Saturday.
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I cannot recall any side being required to play two consecutive away fixtures in either of the European competitions - although it may have happened before – but to have to do so with only four clear days break between them was a particularly tall order.
Fortunately, thanks to Francois Louw's late, late try, Bath came away from the Stade Alfred Armandie with a deserved try-bonus point win - albeit one which they had made hard work of – and a ten match-point haul from their Continental expeditions.
The locals called the ferocious swirling wind which whipped around the ground "a mistral from the Sahara". The mistral is actually a strong, cold and usually dry regional wind in France, routinely accompanied by clear and fresh weather – with which the day's rain showers and prevailing mugginess sharply contrasted.
But having been rocked by an early French touchdown, and turning around into the gale still behind, the team showed considerable character and self-belief to score three tries and build a narrow lead with ten minutes remaining, despite again conceding too many kickable penalties.
Ben Williams was then ridiculously penalised by Welsh referee Neil Hennessy for not releasing – when he was still on his feet – and fly-half Raphael Lagarde's sixth successful kick threatened to de-rail Bath's second-half recovery, until Louw struck.
Toby Booth was delighted at the final whistle that the team had eventually managed to master the conditions and overcome the aggressive first half salvos from the Agennois – though Gary Gold remained critical of the overall standard of the performance, and will have ensured that feet stayed firmly on the ground this week.
But watching from the stand there is little to beat the euphoric relief of a last-gasp win – especially 'Agincourt-style' on French soil - even if Bath are "a work in progress" and clearly have some way to go yet.
This journey promises to be one to rather look forward to, though. Allez Bath!