One look at the team sheet said it all. A Bath United back line packed full of Premiership and International experience was to prove too strong for a Navy side that had a new U23 pairing in the centre, and a rejigged back row due to the late replacement of Number 8, Ian Cooper.
If Eldon Myer or Sam Davies, the young centre pairing, were in any doubt what the match was to hold then it was dispelled in the first minute. The Navy kick off was reclaimed and Bath moved the ball left; a quickly recycled ball allowed Matt Banahan to break through the midfield tackle and feed Biggs, who screamed over for the first try after 45 seconds. Heathcote converted from wide out ride and the scoreboard ticked over to 7 – 0.
The other wing, Woodburn was to score a brace in that first half along with centre Williams; whilst the Bath forwards got in on the scoring act with tries from Caldwell, Gilbert and Ewels. A half time score of 47 – 0 was a testament to the clinical play of Bath United at a pace that the Royal Navy couldn’t match.
However midway through the first half you would have got very good odds on Bath breaking the half century before half time. The reason why this didn’t happen was twofold. First the Navy were showing real character in defence and ensured that Bath had to earn their tries. However, though the first up tackle was often effective, they could not always cope with Bath’s support play, which is where much of the damage was caused.
The second reason for the Bath steamroller being held up, was through some tenacious counter punching from the Royal Navy team. When they did get their hands on the ball they showed a willingness to take the game to Bath. Again, as in defence, it was support play that often made the difference and the Bath defence, even when breeched, was always able to regroup and slow the Navy’s ball down.
Though Bath were comfortable throughout the match they did have to weather the odd moment of concern. Probably the pick of these was towards the end of the first half, when Fleckney challenged to reclaim a Pascoe box kick, and young Eldon Myer pounced on the loose ball. Some balanced running got him passed Tom Biggs before he was hauled down at the half way line and bundled in to touch. Nothing more than a half chance but it raised the spirits of the Navy supporters on an evening where otherwise they could only look on and admire Bath United’s play.
The second half carried on with the same pattern of the first. Both sides made use of all their replacements and the Royal Navy continued to scavenge for every piece of possession they could. They managed to get to within 5m of the Bath goal line on one occasion but apart from that it remained an exercise of damage limitation and tackling their hearts out. Further tries moved the score to 92 – 0 before the Referee blew for no-side.
Three hard games on the bounce have taken their toll. The team now has time to reflect on the experiences. If lessons are learned, then the three losses could yet prove a blessing in disguise. A number of players now understand the skill sets required at the highest level. They have a couple of weeks before the Devon match to ensure that they put this on to the field as they move towards the business end of the season.
Bath United: Caulfield, Woolstencroft, Palma-Newport ©, Caldwell, Ewels, Skuse, Northcote-Green, Gilbert, Roberts, Heathcote, Biggs, Williams, Banahan, Woodburn, Lane Reps: Jamieson, Vaughan-Edwards, Buckney, Ellis, Clarke, Henry, Myelase, Beer
Royal Navy: Mason *, Collins *, Beasley *, Cowley *, Cormack *, Vakalutukali *, Laird *,Harvey *, Pascoe D* ©, Huntley *, Welling *, Myer, Davies *, Fleckney *, Cadywould Reps:Priddey *, Owen *, Terry *, Pascoe E, Basher, Stephen *, Jones, Wood*