Posted by: fiore | July 9, 2007

I am for… Bath! (part two)

I am for… Bath – PART TWO

These are not the exact words of Sir Walter Elliot, but they are very much like it, and most of all, they suit me…

When, last January, Bath Rugby played and won the next to the last game in the qualifying pool of the European Challenge Cup, I promised myself that if they would have passed the round, and if the Quarter Final game would have taken place in Bath – no matter what – I would have gone to that game.

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March 31st, 2007 – day two

I’ve done a mess with my alarm clock and the time zone last night, and at 6,30 am I’m already awake! I can’t believe it… usually I’m such a sleepyhead! Anyway, I try to re-programme the alarm clock and sleep for another hour or so, but eventually just before 7,30 I’m awake again! Am I a bit excited for the forthcoming game? Perhaps it is so. Anyway, I have plenty of time for a shower and get ready for breakfast!

I’m not going to pull out about the fellow guests that I’ve met at breakfast – despite they are a bunch of interesting folk – , but I would say that the landlord is a Bath fan too and he’s very impressed of me going to the game…. Apparently his brother has a seasonal ticket or something similar. Lucky him!
Anyway, now I have to kill some time before the game, and nothing is better than a stroll and some window-shop…

I don’t want to go and see the game loaded with shopping bags, because I know that I’m going to spend every single pound I have in my pocket (like I did at Twickenham!). I want to be free to enjoy the game in the most relaxed way. So, the only purchase I allow myself is a Bath Rugby cap, because, despite I’m not a Bathonian, I want to show my true colours.
The streets are already crowded with tourists and shoppers, and I’m amazed to see so many people wearing Bath Rugby jerseys, scarves, caps, etc… In Italy, journalists often use the expression “a town in a scrum”, meaning a place which is deeply into Rugby (such as Rovigo or L’Aquila)… this is what I see here. Of course this is a little place, but the affection that the bathonians have for their rugby club, is great.
The kick-off is at noon, and around 11.15 I decide that it is about time to go to the Rec. I want to savour this game and the atmosphere thoroughly, so I’d rather arrive earlier. As I approach to the ground I can see Bristol Rugby is already warming up at the backs of the Rec, and people are already sipping their beers. …I really love this game!
First thing to do: buy the match programme. Danny Grewcock is on the cover, and who else? Bath supporters do really like the big guy, as I will find out later, when the two teams are announced, and Grewcock gets the loudest ovation.

When I reach the players ticket stand I wonder if they’ve noticed that I don’t really look like the actual owner of that ticket! But as I’ll find out very soon, there are no players at all in my stand, and more likely there are only people like me… except for the two leopard-dressed blondes with huge sunglasses! I’ve never put up with these women going to rugby games dressed as if they are going to a hollywood party (apparently it is a worldwide phenomenon!!). Probably it is because I’m more used to stay and work on the sideline, sunk in the mud to the ankle, rather than wearing high-heels on the grandstand.
Anyway, I’m not here for ranting about this issue, I’m here for a Rugby game! So, 15 minutes to the kick off and the Bath team has just come out on the pitch for warming up. Shaun Berne and Danny Grewcock are the last ones to leave the pitch – Grewcock is practising on high balls – before the beginning of the game.
Finally, at noon, the two teams are out on the pitch again and Donal Courtney, the referee, whistle for the kick off.

first half

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The first half is very balanced, and despite Bristol seems to be very aggressive, the first team to score is Bath, with the young talented fullback Abendanon running down the sideline and touching in the corner. From my seat it is impossible to see the try, I only have to wait for the crowd to cheer to know that Bath is leading 7-0, with Olly Barkley converting.

Bristol don’t seem to be too impressed and keep on pressing Bath in their territory, and few minutes later the visitors score with Lee Robinson. Gray fails to convert, so it is 7-5. It is a good moment for Bristol and they insist with their pressing, putting Bath defense to the test very hardly. This tactic gives some results as Danny Grewcock fails to tackle David Lemi who scores another try. Gray converts and the visitors lead 7-12.

Bristol don’t know it yet, but these are the last points they’re going to score in the whole game. The first half finishes with Olly Barkley kicking a penalty from almost 50 mts, taking Bath only 2 points down.

second half

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The second half is a totally different story. At the very start Bristol seem to be able to keep the same pace of the first half, but after just 10 minutes they collapse, and it is Bath show time: I literally lose the count of the tries scored by Bath, but I only know that they are overpowering Bristol in the lineouts with Borthwick and Grewcock (definitely my favourite pair of locks), and their backs are charging into Bristol defence like a knife in the butter (does they say it in English? Who knows!).

In the end there will be 7 more tries for Bath, 3 of them scored by Abendanon who is also awarded the man of the match. The final score is 51-12, but it could have been even more severe if Barkley and Malone would have converted all the kicks they have been allowed. A very poor day for the kickers on both sides, and a very great day for me, who have come such a long way to see a spectacular win for Bath.


EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP

Quarter Finals

BATH RUGBY v BRISTOL RUGBY 51-12

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end of part two

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