Adam Hastings not only impressed a record crowd at The Rec as he led Bath Rugby to a West Country derby win over local rivals Bristol Rugby, but his boss too.
The 20-year-old fly-half came on as a 21st-minute replacement for the injured Rhys Priestland, and guided his side to a 16-9 win and the West Country bragging rights.
Tom Homer’s two penalties may have been outdone by Billy Searle’s three for Bristol Rugby, but Jack Wilson’s first-half try, converted by the Bath full-back, sealed the win for the home side.
The win moved Bath to the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table, but director of rugby Todd Blackadder conceded his side had not been at their best.
“Losing Rhys disrupted things a little bit,” admitted Blackadder. “But I thought Adam really stepped up and did well, if anything we could’ve probably kicked for the corners a little bit more than what we did.
“The breakdown was really messy, so we’ve only really got ourselves to blame there and we really didn’t get the best ball to Adam, so for a young man he did very well.
“Certain things within that game we won’t be pleased with tonight.
“Especially at the breakdown and I thought our lineout really struggled to get going. We just couldn’t buy a trick in the opposition breakdown.
“We couldn’t get a turnover but I’m just really pleased our boys held out at the end.
“We’re not kidding ourselves, we know that we’ve been gutsing some wins out and sort of winning ugly, but we know it’s not going to be good enough going forwards.
“While you can be quite happy with the result, we know that the performance wasn’t right.”
Blackadder’s side travel to West London in Roung 9 to face Harlequins, and with Priestland limping off, and fellow co-captain Matt Garvey playing on having seemingly injured his knee, the Kiwi knows they face a tough challenge.
“We seem to be mounting a few injuries at the moment, but we gutsed it out and got what we needed,” he added.
“Matt Garvey looks like he tweaked a medial knee ligament but it just shows how tough he is, and what a leader he is, that he played on.
“We’ll just keep working hard on trying to get the performance right.”
The bonus-point loss for Bristol meant they moved on to three points from their eight games, with that point proving crucial as next best side Worcester Warriors also picked up a bonus point of their own in losing to Northampton Saints.
— Bristol Rugby (@Bristol_RFC) November 18, 2016
Bristol’s acting head coach, Mark Tainton, was heartened by his side’s performance at The Rec, but knows there is still work to do in order to get that first win on the board.
“We came here to win, I can’t fault the players, they gave us a massive effort. We were just a little bit inaccurate in certain areas of the field,” he admitted.
“There were a couple of line-outs that were caught for crossing, giving penalties away at crucial times.
“And our breakdown, at times, was a little bit inaccurate, it allowed them to get men over the ball and slow our ball down.
“It’s not a lack of confidence, the guys have worked very hard, we just need to understand the level and up the tempo a bit when we get into the opposition 22, and stretch them a bit more and try to shorten the line.
“We’ve got to look at the teams above us. But we’ve got another game next weekend at Ashton Gate, against a strong Leicester side and we’ll look forward to that.
“We had tremendous support tonight from the fans who travelled over, and hopefully with the way the boys performed this evening a lot more people will come to Ashton Gate to support them.
“Hopefully it’s a step forwards, time will tell. I just said to the guys now, ‘you tried your hardest, let’s relax on Saturday, do a bit of reviewing on Sunday, then get back on the horse on Monday’.”
Bristol Rugby: Williams J (Wallace 69), Edwards, Woodward, Hurrell, Tovey, Searle, Williams R (Cliff 55), Traynor (Bevington 55), Jones (Hawkins 55), Ford-Robinson (Cortes 48), Evans (Phillips 62), Sorenson, Eadie, Robinson (Fenton-Wells 65), Crane
Replacements not used: Jarvis
Bath Rugby: Homer, Atkins, Clark, Banahan, Wilson, Priestland (Hastings 21), Allinson, Catt (Obano 70), Batty (Dunn 69), Palma-Newport (Lahiff 58), Stooke, Garvey, Ellis, Mercer G (Mercer Z 58), Faletau (Grant 58)
Replacements not used: Homer, Tapuai
Penalties: Searle 3
Penalties: Homer 2
Referee: Ian Tempest