Bath Rugby League kicked off Round 1 of their season campaign with an away trip to last seasons Champions Swindon St George (SSG) in The West of England Pool A. The side have been preparing well in preseason with Head Coach Alex Burns taking charge and a final preseason fixture held last Tuesday against the current Army Lawson Cup Champions, the Royal Signals RL squad.
It was the home side that kicked off and gave the visitors the first attacking set of the game, SSG showed some fearsome defence in the opening contest and on their returning attacking set showcased some speedy play at the tackle to release Prop Sam Collins who crashed over with Captain Conner Tomley adding the extras.
Bath kicked off well and were soon pressing deep into the home sides half with strong carries from Prop Elliott Bowler and Captain Stevan Randall and were able to shift the ball wide through the hands of Mike Harrison and Morgan Lewis to put new signing Kieran Harvey over in the corner, Leigh Wheatley adding the kick.
Swindon St George always looked dangerous on the ball and threatened across the park, and began to find gaps in the Bath defence which had held strongly. Swindon scored a few tries in quick succession catching the visitors napping with Hooker Stewart Hannah and centre Florin Palcau crossing over. The whistle went for half time and Bath would go into the break 20-6 behind.
Half Time: Swindon St George RL 20 – 6
After a talk from the Head Coach Bath started the better of the two teams in the second half and continued to press into the SSG half, Fullback Ciaran Chester caused constant headaches for the home side as he ran from deep and broke multiple tackles gaining some much needed territory. From the resulting plays and speed of the ball Prop Brandon Ball found a gap to sprint over for Bath’s second try of the day, Wheatley adding the extras.
Bath continued to look dangerous and carried well into the oppositions half but when SSG were given the opportunity they showcased why they were the current Champions and wasn’t long until Fullback Josh Williams broke the defence to cross over. However the visitors continued to apply the pressure and with Fullback Chester breaking the line once again he was able to put Jamie Hall through the gap and the Centre stepped the last defender to score near the posts, Leigh Wheatley adding the kick.
In the last 10mins of the game Swindon St George looked for another score but would be held up against a strong Bath defence, however Bath were penalised and SSG took the opportunity for a kick at the sticks and take the score further from Bath’s reach. In the dying minutes Bath were desperately looking to find a break for another score but time had run out and the final whistle was blown.
Full Time: Swindon St George RL 26 -18 Bath RL
Head Coach Alex Burns commented “Hugely proud of our performance against what we know is one of the best sides in the South West. In an immensely physical and demanding game, we fronted up throughout and with Ball in hand showed the danger we have right across the park. It’s a testament to where we want to be that we were disappointed after the game knowing we let a chance of a victory slip by. Credit to Swindon St George RL though as their class and groundwork through pre-season told. This group of players for Bath RL has great potential going forward and the awareness to know where we need to improve if we want to be fighting for silverware come the end of the season. As a club we are aiming to build something special and sustainable over the coming years and for us this was a massive leap forward in the right direction”
On Saturday Bath RL will welcome Somerset Vikings RL to their home ground (based at Melksham RFC) in Round 2 of the West of England Pool A, kick off 2.30pm.
Bath Rugby League Squad 1: Chester 2: Wildman 3: Harrison 4: Sully 5: Warnock 6: Wheatley 7: Lewis 8: Bowler 9:Talbot 10: Ball 11: Taylor 12: Harvey 13: Randall (C) Subs: Noott, MacPherson, Dare, Culshaw, Hall.