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The other forgotten England No.8

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The other forgotten England No.8 hailed as 'exceptional' this weekend

By PA Authors
By Online Editors

Bath boss Stuart Hooper hailed an “exceptional” performance by England international Zach Mercer on his return from injury in a 22-21 victory over Worcester.

The Bath number eight, who won two caps in 2018, had not featured since mid-November, but he quickly made up for lost time by scoring a try after just 90 seconds at Sixways.

Now fully fit following a knee ligament injury, he delivered an eye-catching display as Bath moved up to fourth in the Gallagher Premiership.

“I thought he was exceptional,” Bath rugby director Hooper said.

“He didn’t just get through the 80 minutes, I thought he was consistently dominant with his ball-carry, and he was consistent in his collision-dominance.

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“He has worked unbelievably hard.

“I know people always say that, but he has been out for three months, so for him to come back on a very fast surface and get through 80 minutes is a credit to him and the work he has put in.”

Worcester had a chance to win with the game’s final kick, but full-back Chris Pennell’s 55-metre effort drifted wide.

And although Storm Dennis did not arrive during the game, Bath’s forwards provided sufficient ferocity to knock Worcester out of their stride.

Mercer, flanker Francois Louw and lock Josh McNally all scored tries, while fly-half Rhys Priestland kicked two conversions and a penalty.

In contrast to Priestland’s accuracy, his opposite number Duncan Weir could not master the blustery conditions, missing five from nine shots at goal.

The Scotland international booted three penalties and a conversion, but tries by number eight Cornell Du Preez and wing Nick David, on his Premiership debut, could not sink Bath.

Bath have lost just one of their last five games, and Hooper added: “The hallmark of this league is that anyone can beat anyone on any given weekend.

“It makes for an exciting competition – and some nerve-racking moments at the back end of games.

“But it also presents a massive opportunity. You get yourself in the top four, and you are in with a chance of winning the competition.

“Grinding out wins like this and picking up four points here is massive in the context of the competition. If you do that a few times across the season, you give yourself a chance.

“They were very tough conditions. The first-half we were off and weren’t where we needed to be tactically or from an effort point of view.

“I am very proud of the effort they put in during the second-half, and their application to get us back in the game. We rolled our sleeves up.”

Worcester, though, were left to reflect on what might have been, with a losing bonus point proving scant consolation.

Warriors rugby director Alan Solomons said: “It is very tough. I thought we did enough to win the game, but at the end of the day, penalties told against us.

“If I look back to the games against Exeter, Wasps and this one, they are all games we should have won, but that is where you have got to be resilient.

“If you keep at it, the wheel turns, there is no doubt about that.

“Every game you play in the Premiership is of a very high standard, and the margins are fine. At the moment, we are just falling on the wrong side of those margins.

“But if we keep at it and stick at it, we will come through.”

PA

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The other forgotten England No.8 hailed as 'exceptional' this weekend
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