Mike Ford admits he is already looking ahead to next season in a bid to rediscover the spark that saw Bath Rugby come within one game of the Aviva Premiership Rugby title.
His side went down 15-14 at Northampton Saints on Saturday, having held a 14-0 lead at the interval thanks to two Jeff Williams scores inside the opening 20 minutes.
But Northampton scored 15 unanswered points in the second period, with man-of-the-match Teimana Harrison and Mike Haywood touching down either side of Stephen Myler’s penalty, before the 31-year-old nailed a 72nd-minute conversion to steal the win.
And with Bath’s ruthless finishing of last season deserting them once again after half-time, as they missed the chance to snatch their first win at Franklin’s Gardens since 2000, a frustrated Ford admits it is time to go back to the drawing board.
“We just lost our composure where we wouldn't have done that last year. It's an issue and one we've got to get right for next season,” he said.
“We've been competitive all year, but clearly our confidence of winning those small margin games like today has been tough.
“I will rip it up and start again to put all the good pieces back in from last year and we've got to improve in every aspect really.
“We've got ourselves in a hole and we're trying all sorts of things to get out of it, but you can analyse too much and start thinking everything's wrong. At times we've made that hole deeper.
“Once we couldn't make the top six, we took a deep breath and we've played some good rugby in the past few weeks.
“It's difficult to put your finger on it and there are different factors, but I'm confident that this club will be there or thereabouts next year.”
It was Myler’s late conversion that ultimately sealed the result for Northampton, who leapfrogged Sale Sharks in the Aviva Premiership Rugby standings, but Jim Mallinder admitted he had come close to withdrawing the fly-half.
And the Saints director of rugby was relieved he didn’t, as he instead put his faith in Myler’s ability under pressure from the tee.
He said: “It was similar to the Leicester game last week, conceding two tries out of the blue. We were attacking and then we lost two tries and were suddenly 14-0 down.
“But we talked about them having a big set of forwards and tiring in the second half, so we wanted to keep putting them under pressure and thankfully we got the results.
“I was worried all the way through from the first minute to the last to be honest. But we've seen Myler time and time again kick goals like that.
“We were thinking about bringing JJ Hanrahan on to change things up and bring a freshness, but we always had the thought that Stephen was in the groove kicking-wise, and we did well to keep him on.”
Northampton Saints: Mallinder; K Pisi, G Pisi (Wilson 59), Burrell, North; Myler, Dickson (c) (Fotuali'i 64); A Waller (Ma'afu 59), Haywood, Brookes (Hill 44); Lawes, Day (Matfield 59); Gibson, Wood, Harrison (Nutley 72).
Replacements not used: Marshall, Hanrahan.
Bath Rugby: Watson; Williams, Joseph, Devoto, Banahan; Priestland (Ford 62), Cook (W Homer 59); Catt (Auterac 55), Webber (Dunn 62), Wilson (Lahiff 55); Ewels, Attwood (Day 57); Garvey (Houston 64), Louw (c), Denton.
Replacements not used: Clark.
Tries: Harrison, Haywood
Tries: Williams 2
Conversions: Priestland 2
Referee: Wayne Barnes
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