Bath Rugby's first run-out since the summer break was a hugely encouraging performance. The 72-0 scoreline speaks for itself - twelve tries racked up, and Newbury Blues prevented from troubling the scorers.
But there were other positive signs amid the tries, from more familiar names - Michael Lipman made some powerful tackles - as well as younger players: for example Mike Mangeolles belied his stature to stop their number eight after he broke upfield, limiting the damage of a lost lineout. Generally strong running, deft handling and successful interplay between forwards and backs all left the hosts struggling, but the coaches will also have seen plenty of areas to work on in the coming days and weeks.
The tone for a massive victory was set within the first 35 seconds of the match, when Rob Hawkins scored the first try after a break down the left-hand side of the pitch by Gareth Delve. David Bory followed suit, taking an inside ball from Andy Williams and scything through the defence untouched.
The next score was a catch-and-drive, Delve coming up with the ball, and his back-row colleague Lipman matched him with five minutes of the half to go, selling a dummy that wrong-footed the defence so that Mangeolles, in support on his right wing, was not needed.
As play became increasingly broken, Olly Barkley broke into the Blues' 22, and with the fullback covering looked for support. Andy Williams was on hand, and he in turn shipped the ball on to Matt Perry, who scored under the posts.
The first half closed with Bath a comfortable 29-0 up, but although Newbury had been starved of decent possession, breaks by number eight Tom Brown, as mentioned, speedy winger Liam Gibson, and stand-off Tim Walsh also gave the Bath defence something to think about. And with rotating substitutes, to use all the 28-man squad, they had to keep on their toes.
The second half began much as the first, with a try for Michael Stephenson in the first minute after Lipman pinched Newbury's lineout ball. Newbury then made their most dangerous move, thanks to David Rees, formerly of Sale, Bristol and England, who chipped over Perry for the line. But Nick Walshe got down on the ball and although Newbury retained possession, the move subsequently broke down with a knock-on.
A try for Peter Short was the result of quick thinking: a quick lineout was taken on by Perry, and Mangeolles, Mike Myerscough and Dave Ward all played their part before Mangeolles skidded to the line. He was just held up, but Short was there to finish off.
Ward featured again in the next score by Higgins, and Delve too showed a superb turn of pace down the right-hand touchline, having received the ball from Stephenson when Newbury kicked the ball away.
With the half-century achieved, three more tries were still to come. Berne had been showing some deft ball skills and footwork, and was on hand to sweep up a grubber by Chris Malone towards the line and score under the posts. Higgins scored a second, out-pacing a weary defence; and finally, Williams scorched over thanks to Stephenson, who deceived the defence with a dummy and then drew his man to leave Williams clear.
Myerscough had to leave the field with a knee injury just before the final whistle, but Acting Head Coach Steve Meehan was pleased with the performance, and he and Mark Bakewell, the Forwards Coach, can add the evidence of the day to their assessment of training so far: "Some of our skills work was paying off, and some of the little plays that may not have been obvious to people but were to us. Perhaps in the Premiership we wouldn't have gone as far as we did today. We've come with an open mind and those guys will be judged on their performances in trials and the work they've done pre-season."
Tries: Hawkins (1 min), Bory (9), Delve 2 (18, 64), Lipman (35), Perry (39), Stephenson (41), Short (54), Higgins 2 (56, 75), Berne (68), Williams (80). Cons: Barkley 3, Malone 2, Berne 1.
Scoring sequence: 0-5, 0-12, 0-17, 0-22, 0-29 (half-time); 0-36, 0-41, 0-48, 0-53, 0-58, 0-65, 0-72.
BATH: 15. Michael Stephenson; 14. Mike Mangeolles, 13. Alex Crockett, 21. Olly Barkley, 11. David Bory; 10. Chris Malone, 9. Andy Williams; 1. David Flatman, 2. Rob Hawkins, 3. Christian Loader, 4. Steve Borthwick, 5. Peter Short, 6. Chris Goodman, 7. Michael Lipman, 8. Gareth Delve.
Replacements: 16. Aaron Jarvis, 17. David Barnes, 18. Dave Ward, 19. Rob Fidler, 20 Nick Walshe, 22 Andy Higgins, 23. Shaun Berne, 24. Matt Perry, 25. Danny Grewcock, 26. Laurence Ovens, 27. Duncan Bell, 28. Zak Feaunati, 29. Mike Myerscough.
NEWBURY: 15. Nick Defty; 14. Liam Gibson, 13. David Rees, 12. Mark Ireland, 11. Kenny Bingham; 10. Tim Walsh, 9. Mark Simpson-Daniel; 1. Simon Carter, 2.Glenn Cooper, 3. Jon Dawson, 4. Gregor Haytor (capt), 5. Tom Radbourne, 6. Luke Walters, 7. Chris Morgan, 8. Tom Brown.
Replacements: 16. Mal Roberts, 17. Matt Styles, 18. Vic Frampton, 19. Kenny Dalgleish, 20. Vinnie Feausi, 21. Martin Nutt, 22. Chow Mezger, Rob Faulkner, Raynn Bruce, Ian Ashcroft-Leigh, James Doherty, Andy Tibbatts, Gary Holmes, Guthrie Denniston, Gavin Turner, Eric Brown.