‘No complaints’ – Sam Underhill hails Bath season despite agonising Premiership final loss

James While
Bath's Sam Underhill look on during the Premiership final against Northampton.

Bath's Sam Underhill look on during the Premiership final against Northampton.

Sam Underhill insists he has no regrets after Bath went down to a 25-21 defeat to Northampton Saints in the Premiership final at Twickenham on Saturday.

Underhill was full of pride for his Bath side after their efforts and in the club as a whole, which has radically transformed under head of rugby Johann van Graan over the last couple of seasons.

Fair play

The Red Rose man also took time to praise the match officials and the competitiveness of the Premiership as he spoke with Planet Rugby’s James While after the defeat.

“I’m very proud of the team – and that’s my overriding emotion. No complaints from us today either – I think Christophe’s (Ridley) team did a brilliant job and it was one of the best refereed games I’ve seen or played in for a while. I don’t think there can be any gripes about that or the card. We had an opportunity right at the end to win it and sometimes you get there and sometimes you don’t,” Underhill reflected.

“It feels weird to say but it’s obviously not the end of the world. We’re very proud of the group and very proud of everyone in the club, especially the people that aren’t here today and that didn’t manage to get on the pitch today or couldn’t attend – like top to bottom. The club’s been an amazing place to be this year.

“The whole sport has been incredible this season and today is proof of that. The Northampton fans as much of the Bath fans – the support has been outstanding. It’s been one of the best years I’ve had – and yes, I would say that because we got to the final but it has been one of the best years I can think of from a Premiership point of view in terms of competitiveness.”

More good than bad

With Bath ultimately falling at the final hurdle, Underhill believes that the season’s positives far outweigh its negatives, but he agrees that there’s a need to consolidate where they have gotten to and to build upon their improvement.

“I guess where we are as a club will depend on how we do from now,” he continued. “You want to have something tangible that’s more than just a good year or a good performance. But we’ve built something that’s based upon habits and based upon consistency, which is the sort of thing Johann’s tried to get across to us all season. But congratulations to Saints – they’ve been consistently very good all year.

“I’d love to have won it, but to see guys like Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam and guys that have done a lot for English rugby go out on a high is nice to see from the other side. About Courtney, well I have to be nice in case I have to play against him again, but yeah, he’s world class – I can’t think of many better back-rowers I’ve played with – the guy’s got it all and he’s a legend in the game.”

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England set to call?

Underhill put in a devastating performance on Saturday and was a key component of Bath’s defensive effort, smashing 22 crushing tackles as well as notching up a couple of steals. With his outstanding form this year he now looks forward to an England tour to New Zealand with Steve Borthwick and England.

“I guess it’s always a team game and I know that is really a cliché! But we played well and still came last. But your own form is really down to everyone around you. Everyone consistently contributes to that strength and depth. A lot of guys have stepped up – guys like Ted Hill and Alfie Barbeary have been consistently brilliant. Myles Reed and Josh Bayliss have been brilliant all year too and that makes your job so much easier having those quality players around you,” he praised.

“So anyone playing well is really a measure of a team playing well from my perspective, but I enjoyed it and it was fun. It’s weird to say that having lost but sometimes you can lose a bit easier knowing that you took the chances in front of you and that you don’t have any regrets.

“Regarding the summer tour we’ll find out I think tomorrow (Sunday) morning and my fingers are crossed. A New Zealand tour is obviously a great test for anyone playing and I’d love to find out anything – I’m not holding out on you either!”

The leader of men

Back to Bath and Underhill pinpointed Van Graan’s ability to create a winning yet challenging environment – one that offers consistency but allows abrasion at times – as being crucial to their rise.

”It’s not quite that happy clappy thing as people make out when they say one big family. It’s always a little bit more. There are always tensions in professional sport; there are always going to be and that’s ultimately what it’s about – it’s inevitable when most of what you do is being aligned in the same direction,” he said.

“We still challenge each other. It’s still a competitive place to be but I think the one thing Johann has probably brought is stability – he’s so level headed. Win or lose, amazing game or poor game, he brings a level of consistency and when your boss is that level headed, then you can get better and you can improve and build that stability.

“When you have a turbulent environment then that’s harder to grow in. I think that there’s a lot of latent learning that has gone on, but it’s really been facilitated by him being so consistent.”

READ MORE: Premiership Team of the Season: Nick Easter singles out ‘world class’ Courtney Lawes as five Northampton Saints selected