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Departing Lion praised: 'It just shows what a quality player he is'

By PA
Taulupe Faletau of Bath Rugby, who will join Cardiff Rugby next season, parades the pitch with his family whilst interacting with the crowd after the final whistle of their final home game for Bath Rugby after the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Bath Rugby and London Irish at The Recreation Ground on May 21, 2022 in Bath, England. (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images)

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Bath head coach Neal Hatley had fulsome praise for Taulupe Faletau on his farewell to a packed Recreation Ground with two match-winning moments against London Irish.

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Faletau made a stunning break from a restart, creating a try for Ben Spencer, and made a try-saving tackle three minutes from time to secure Bath – who trailed by 10 points in the second half – a 27-24 comeback victory.

The Wales and British and Irish Lions number eight, who will join Cardiff during the summer, still has one last outing for his current club at Worcester, now propping up the Gallagher Premiership instead of Bath.

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Hatley said: “Whether players were leaving or not, that was the result we wanted. It was special for Roko (Semesa Rokoduguni) and Toby (Faletau) and for Val Morozov and Max Clark.

“You see Toby make a 60-metre break for Ben’s try and then, with three minutes to go, make a tackle he’s no right to make. It just shows what a quality player he is and how much he puts in.”

London Irish were in control for much of the first half, as Hatley conceded: “We got a little loose in the first 25 minutes. We had talked all week about playing a much more structured game – and we didn’t.

“But I thought the leadership from Charlie (Ewels), Ben Spencer and Orlando Bailey to pull that back and to play the game we wanted to play and end up with the result, I’m really pleased.”

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Hatley is confident that fly-half Bailey can make his mark in the 36-man England squad announced this week by Eddie Jones, who was at the game.

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“I’m not surprised Orlando is in the squad. He’s such a young man but he’s someone we trust implicitly. His understanding of how to manage a team and his forward pack, he’s getting better and better. In a tough season there have been few bright sparks and he’s been one of them.

“We’re over the moon for him that he’s potentially got an opportunity to go to Australia with England.”

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Reflecting on a difficult season, Hatley added: “There have been lots of issues around injuries and little bits of tactical coaching. Belief is hard when you’ve lost six or seven. I’m not saying it doesn’t play a part – it definitely does.

“But we need to carry that into our game against Worcester. Whatever momentum and belief we can build into this group moving into next season is important.”

“It’s a relentless league and some guys will get five weeks off, which they need to enjoy, clear their heads and then we’re into pre-season.”

London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney refused to point to any hangover from their loss to Worcester in the Premiership Cup final on Tuesday.

“A missed tackle and failing to deal with a loose ball gave them 14 points and a lot of impetus. And in the second half they took their opportunities, so all credit to Bath. We knew they’d come out strong for a number of different reasons,” he said.

“It’s been a busy week for us obviously, but we’re making no excuses. It was frustrating, that’s all.

“Massive credit to all our performance team to have the boys in such good shape, but then it was a squad effort right through the week. We just came up short on both counts.”

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