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Back from the abyss, Bath's revival is gathering steam

Johan van Graan has quietly set about improving every facet of the West Country club and results are starting to come

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What Worcester contingent told colleagues as they boost Bath

By PA
Ollie Lawrence of Bath Rugby looks on prior to kick off of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Bath Rugby and Leicester Tigers at the Recreation Ground on November 11, 2022 in Bath, England. (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images)

Bath head of rugby Johann van Graan paid tribute to the Worcester exiles who contributed so wholeheartedly to a last-minute 19-18 victory over Gallagher Premiership champions Leicester.

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Ex-Warriors skipper Ted Hill galloped in for a first-half try and there were top-class displays by former clubmates in centre Ollie Lawrence and full-back Jamie Shillcock, as well as hooker Niall Annett.

Van Graan said: “The Worcester lads have fitted in so well and they’ve made a lot of the players and staff realise what this game’s about and how lucky we are to have contracts and to keep playing.

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“It was a team performance tonight, but within that team the lads who came here from Worcester made a big difference.

“We spoke about it as a group before they even came to Bath. They’ve shared a few private moments with the group and fair dos to them, there’s never a bad moment about what happened to them. They said, ‘We’re now at Bath, we’re going to fit in and make a difference’. And they sure have.”

Van Graan added: “One point is the biggest and also the smallest margin in sport. You lose by a point and it’s extremely hard to take. You win by a point and it’s amazing.

“We’re obviously very happy. We came up against the defending champions, a phenomenal side, and they put us under huge pressure in that first half.

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“We started this journey by saying that we’ve got to become tough to beat and we stuck to it right to the last minute. We picked a strong bench. We started to turn the screw, got a few penalties off the scrum and it was all very satisfying.”

Van Graan was careful to manage expectations after a third win on the bounce.

“Win or lose, we’ll be consistent,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go, but I’m so glad for the players and the staff who have put in so much hard work in the 18 weeks since we started on July 18.

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“It shows we are on the right path. We are getting fitter. We understand what we have to do to be competitive. And if you are within a few points at the end of the game you’ve got a chance to win it.”

Steve Borthwick, Leicester head coach, did not hide his frustration at what he called the imbalance caused by international calls on his squad, with 10 of his best players absent.

He said: “The squad has really been tested – we haven’t played for a number of weeks. We have five players in the England squad tomorrow and others with Wales, Argentina, South Africa, Fiji, Samoa and on top of that we have a group of players who have taken bangs in the international camps.

“So, you look at the squad right now and we’re being tested. I’m delighted we produce international players. It’s one of the challenges you have when you have a season which clashes with international games.

“It was a hard-fought contest. I thought we had plenty of opportunities on the try-line. Unfortunately, we put the ball down, dropped it a few times and it clearly didn’t lead to tries. If you don’t take the opportunities you leave the opposition in the game and that’s what we did.

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RUGBYPASS+ Back from the abyss, Bath's revival is gathering steam Back from the abyss, Bath's revival is gathering steam
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