Can Bath handle the altitude?

Sun, 22 Dec 2013 09:10
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Bath will get the chance to prove they belong at the top of the table with their next three games against Premiership title contenders.
 

Bath will get the chance to prove they belong at the top of the table with their next three games against Premiership title contenders.

After a convincing win over Harlequins coach Toby Booth believes it's no coincidence his side are tussling near the top of the Premiership after beating Harlequins 14-3 - but is eyeing more big games before any Christmas cheer can truly start.

George Ford - the newly-crowned November Premiership Player of the Month - drilled through three penalties before Jonathan Joseph wowed The Rec with a stunning second-half try.

And Quins' backs were well and truly blunted as a solitary Nick Evans penalty was all Conor O'Shea's men had to show for their efforts.

Booth issued a note of caution as trips to Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers lie in wait, but he insists Bath are no imposters to the Premiership's top four.

"Look at the consistent top four performers - we've got three in three weeks," he said. "We'll have a better idea after that of our progress. But we aren't where we are in the table by accident.

"We are in a good position but we're in a situation where we are still speaking about the player empowerment side and the culture - we haven't really spoken about outcomes.

"Everyone knows about how Harlequins play the game and to keep them to three points is impressive.

"But the defence, along with a bit of forward domination, paved the way for the victory.

"We drove well and we scrummed exceptionally well - and we got control of the game.

"The quality of this league is that, unless someone is having a particularly bad day, you're not going to see the fruits of your effort until 50 minutes in, really.

"And often it's a softening up process and eventually your quality tells."

Defeat means Quins lose ground on the top three and with both Leicester and Exeter Chiefs, who saw off Newcastle Falcons on Saturday, are entrenched in a battle for fourth place.

And director of rugby O'Shea admits the battle may have been lost in the first five minutes after his team's sluggish opening.

"We gave them an easy six-point start," said O'Shea. "And the try they scored from a set piece from 50 metres was off a line-out when we were down to 14 men.

"Our guys stuck at it right to the end, but probably didn't get the reward they deserved. It was a pretty tight game and every little thing went their way as opposed to ours.

"It was a very tightly balanced game. I didn't see them getting another try. We spent a lot of time on the opposition line in both halves but came away with nothing.

"You have to be fairly philosophical but we have to look at where and how we let the game get away from us."

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