Johann van Graan singles out key difference with Bath this season after narrow win

Dylan Coetzee
Bath director of rugby Johann van Graan looks on before a game.

Bath director of rugby Johann van Graan looks on before a game.

Bath boss Johann van Graan believes the way his side managed to claim their narrow 20-19 win over Bristol at home shows growth from last season.

Magnus Bradbury crossed early for Bristol in the fifth minute, only for two quick-fire Bath tries from Ollie Lawrence and Ben Spencer in the 15th and 17th minutes to push the hosts in front.

The visitors responded with two tries in the second period through Richard Lane and Max Malins; however, a Finn Russell penalty late on was enough for Bath to hold onto.

On the right side of the result

Van Graan was delighted with how his side held on for the win after narrowly losing seven games last season. The coach feels it is a sign of growth for his developing team.

“We spoke this week about mastering the basics and in the last three minutes, we were really clinical,” Van Graan said.

“We had to defend the maul, defend the scrum, win our own ball on the scrum. We had to win a line-out, execute the kick and keep our discipline, because one penalty gives it away, so it was a real sign of growth to us.

“Last season, we lost seven games by one score. We were on the wrong end of it here against Leicester recently with a last-minute decision so I’ll take it as a real sign of growth for us as a group.”

The Bath man also praised the performance of England international Lawrence, who was brilliant on the night.

“I thought he was excellent,” Van Graan added.

“We had a good set-piece base to attack from in the first half. Obviously, we did our homework on them and they did the same to us so both teams found momentum.

“We put Ollie through a few holes and the try straight from the kick-off was a brilliant team effort.”

“Real positive”

Bristol Virimi Vakatawa was also outstanding in the clash against Bath, and Van Graan felt the match was a good showing for the Premiership.

“I coached against Vakatawa when I was with South Africa and he with France. Every time I see his name on the opposition team sheet I think: what a quality player!

“It was a real positive for the Premiership tonight, if you look at the quality on both sides and two number 13s.

“We’re not speaking about decisions or 50-50s, we’re talking about two world-class number 13s that had a real go at each other. Both were brilliant tonight.”

Meanwhile, Bristol boss Pat Lam claims the game could have gone either way but admitted there were some clear chances missed by his team.

“We started really well, scored and then gave possession away,” Lam said.

“They came at us and had a real purple patch from our own errors and missed tackles and at 17-7 they were on fire. We just had to stop their momentum.

“We then had some clear chances to score points before half-time and we blew those. We spoke about it and said we needed to score next. We had a few chances and finally got over and scored again. It could have gone anyway at the end there.”

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