Waiting for success after becoming accustomed to it can be a painful process. Just ask any Liverpool fan. After a record defeat in Dublin for Bath, their biggest losing margin and most tries conceded in the Heineken Cup, that longing pain for trophies only gets worse.
If this result had been a one off, a blip in a patch of Bath’s good form, then there would be no cause for concern. Shipping 50 points in one match might not make a side a bad team overnight, but it certainly doesn’t indicate a good one either. Saturday’s defeat was their ninth of the season in all competitions, including six in the Aviva Premiership where they currently sit 10th ahead of the games around Christmas.
Their luck has been non-existent. 16 injured bodies were missing last weekend. These are not just squad players, but influential figures in Bath’s squad; Lee Mears, Pieter Dixon, Lewis Moody, Dan Hipkiss, Tom Biggs and captain Stuart Hooper. Every side has injuries, but that number would decimate any side, just observe the way Leicester struggled during the Rugby World Cup. An emphasis on developing young English talent means that whilst Bath’s selection of players such as Ben Williams, Tom Heathcote and Guy Mercer is good for the future, right now they are struggling.
Naturally, the whispers of discontent regarding Sir Ian McGeechan’s future at the club have been gathering pace. His side though can only gel so quickly. Coping with the departures of Luke Watson, Shontayne Hape and Butch James and blooding the newcomers such as Stephen Donald and Francois Louw is a tough process. All clubs eventually go through it, London Wasps and London Irish are two this season who have seen a busy summer and are adapting, with different rates of success.
Bruce Craig has already dipped into the pocket significantly over the last few years, and Saturday will have hurt him as much of the players. The long-term project that he announced on becoming owner back in April last year is underway following the move to Farleigh House and the plans for a new stadium. The question for Bath fans is, what if year after year, Craig’s ambitious desires for Bath to win the Premiership and Heineken Cup do not come to fruition. How long will he stay for? More importantly, how much will he continue to invest?
This might seems like an instantaneous reaction after one heavy defeat, but the league table doesn’t lie. As Bath fans continue to look back on past glories longing for more, the present, despite the bright talent of the future coming through, will sting.
by Ben Coles
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images