The Rec said goodbye to a Bath Rugby legend during Thursday’s win over Bristol Rugby but Todd Blackadder believes they have just the man to fill his boots.
Leroy Houston came off the bench in the 22-6 Challenge Cup success in his final home appearance of a second spell at the club.
But the man he replaced, Zach Mercer, was yet again one of the standouts for Bath, the standout moment of his display a scything break from deep through the heart of the Bristol midfield.
And Blackadder believes there is more to come from the youngster who impressed in a scrappy West Country derby.
He said: “For a young guy, he has just been outstanding. He’s been one of our best forwards so far this year and I think we’re managing him well.
“We’re managing his game time and when he plays at home he has certainly been performing, so with Leroy’s last game at home I think we’ve got a pretty able replacement in Zach.
“If you go back and look at the game last Saturday, we haven’t really had a day off in about ten days.
“Flying back on Sunday, training Monday and Tuesday, captain’s run Wednesday and then game Thursday, perhaps it was a good result, but not a great performance.
“We had certainly done our homework on Bristol defensively. We knew what their attack were going to bring and once again our defence stood up under pressure.
Bristol are still looking for a first win of the season but will have taken positives from this performance despite a number of injuries.
Defensively they were much improved, with Matt Banahan scoring the only try of the game in the final minute when the visitors were down to 14 men.
And skipper Jordan Crane believes there are positives to be taken into the upcoming Aviva Premiership Rugby clash with Sale Sharks.
“We are trying to build our way and we’ve had a tough start to the season. It’s a tough one because we know what this derby means to every Bristolian,” said Crane.
“We came to try to play with as much energy and passion as we could and I think we did that. I can’t fault the effort of any of my men, it was just our execution that let us down.
“It has been the tale of our season. We need to learn a lot quicker than we are – if we do what we practice in training then I think we will be alright. It is just a few little errors that are costing us.
“Looking on the positive side, our forwards are going well and the backs are coming more into the game. They had as many opportunities as Bath to win that game, it was just that they took their chances and were more disciplined than us.
“To come to a place like The Rec, where I’ve been humped playing for Leicester, to hold them out for so long, especially when we were down to 13 men for a few minutes, was positive. They only scored at the end from our turn over. We contributed a lot to their points, but there are plenty of positives for us.”
Penalties: Priestland 5
Penalties: Searle, Geraghty
Referee: David Wilkinson