Academy Manager Craig Lilley was proud of Bath Rugby Under-18s’ tactical adaptation in Saturday’s match against Leicester Tigers.
The young Blue, Black and Whites found themselves 28-0 down just after half-time having played into the wind in the first half but scored three second-half tries to claw their way back into the game.
George Shaw crossed on 49 minutes and Ciaran Donoghue converted before Sam Harris took over the kicking duties to convert tries from Max Jenkins and James Redman.
With three left to play following the final score, Bath’s momentum carried them forward for one last attack. However, Tigers stood firm to deny a full comeback.
“There was an element of frustration coming off the pitch,” Lilley said.
“We had opportunities against the wind in the first half to take points and we weren’t accurate enough to the point where we went 7-0 down, came back quite strongly but in the 22 threw an intercept and they went and scored. That completely changed the momentum of the game, particularly in the first half.
“There were some players, some 17-year-olds who were playing their first game at that level so they would have learned a huge amount from that first half.
“We went 28-0 down but with 30-35 minutes to go we started to come back into the game. We started understanding tactically how to use the wind in our favour and got on top of them, bringing it back to 28-21. We had an opportunity to draw the game right at the end but unfortunately, we didn’t take it.”
Lilley continued: “I thought some of the conversations that happened between the players on the pitch to tactically adapt to that were excellent. We could have let the scoreboard pressure get to us, over play and let them put us under pressure but we didn’t. We understood what we needed to do to get back into the game and we executed it. In the end we ran out of time.
“All in all, it was a good day where we learned a lot against quality opposition.”
The Under-18s have a rest week before they face Exeter Chiefs in their third game of the year next Saturday with Lilley identifying creativity and building pressure in the middle third the main work on.
“The work on for me is our ability to build pressure in the middle of the pitch through our catch-pass accuracy and possession.
“Moving the ball from edge to edge, putting the defence under pressure and having the ability to play through and around teams. I think we’ve been pretty consistent in the final third with our driving maul and what we do when we get there but I’d like to see a bit more creativity from us and moving forwards in the midfield.”
A disappointing outcome from the weekend was captain Jasper Spandler leaving the pitch on a stretcher.
The hooker dislocated his ankle and will spend a period on the sidelines rehabbing before returning to action.
“Jasper will be a huge loss for us – on the field as captain and off the field as well,” Lilley said.
“He unfortunately dislocated his ankle and has had it operated on so we’re hoping for a speedy recovery.
“We’re gutted to lose him but we’ve got some brilliant staff in our Academy who will look after him from a medical point of view and will make sure we can get him back fit and healthy to play when he’s ready.”
Bath Rugby U18 side that faced Leicester Tigers
15. Will Morris, 14. Kofi Barton-Byfield, 13. Ethan Hawtin, 12. Ciaran Donoghue, 11. Max Ashton, 10. Sam Harris, 9. Freddie Charles; 1. Kobi Joyce, 2. Jasper Spandler ©, 3. Archie Maggs, 4. George Shaw, 5. Josh Dingley, 6. Will Jeanes, 7. Tom Ahl, 8. Max Jenkins
Replacements: 16. Jac Therrien, 17. Ellis Baker, 18. JJ O’Connell-Wozniak, 19. Ben Lemos, 20. Archie McKibben, 21. Ieuan Davies, 22. James Redman, 23. Ben Adams, 24. Will Parry