TOM BRADSHAW: New hope after year of mediocrity
However you look at it, 2012 has proved another year of mid-table mediocrity for Bath Rugby, albeit one with a bit of a wag in the tail.
If you're looking for a moment that summed it all up, then cast your mind back to a dour night in south Manchester in April and an encounter with Goldilocks.
Bath were staring down the barrel of a 16-9 loss to Sale Sharks, a defeat that effectively ended their hopes of qualifying for the current season's Heineken Cup.
Just then, a lanky bloke on a stag-do wearing a dress and a wig came cha-cha-cha-ing onto the pitch.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
After a frankly creepy drag act performance, the transvestite pitch invader mildly taunted the Bath players with a zig-zagging run. And when the Edgeley Park security staff did nothing about it, Olly Barkley took matters into his own hands.
When Barkley ran at Goldilocks and swept him/her off his/her feet before dumping him in the Stockport mud, it was a moment that captured all the simmering frustrations of a season that had seen Bath fail to live up to their early-season billing.
Prior to that match, a top- four Premiership finish was out of the question but a Heineken Cup spot – surely the club's minimum goal – was still within reach. The loss to Sale represented the failure to meet that basic target and meant Bath wouldn't feature at Europe's top table for the first since they lifted the Challenge Cup in 2008.
Frustration and exasperation were the primary themes of early 2012. Unable to provide sufficient dominance up front, Bath also lacked penetration when they actually got the ball in hand. Under Sir Ian McGeechan, the sad truth was that Bath not only lost more games than they had done under Steve Meehan but they lost while playing unattractive rugby. No wonder Goldilocks took a beating.
Another moment of clarity came when Bath lost their home LV= Cup semi-final at The Rec to a severely under- strength Leicester side. Plainly, there was still plenty of ground to make up with English rugby's most consistent big-hitters.
Inevitably, given the new coaching set-up, this season has involved some redefinition and recalibration. Results may have been mixed but November's win over reigning league champions Harlequins showed just what a one-for-all- and-all-for-one mentality head coach Gary Gold is in the process of establishing.
Bath's defence, which was impressive last year, looks to have been further reinforced and while the side's cutting edge in the Premiership needs to be sharpened, the past fortnight's try glut in the Amlin Challenge Cup will have given the club a chance to broaden its attacking horizons.
Gary Gold is still in the early stages of reinventing the club and will be showing more of his hand soon. Gradually, there are grounds for believing that the future holds gold rather than Goldilocks.