Bath director of rugby Johann van Graan believes the changes made to the pitch at the Recreation Ground allowed his forwards to lay a strong foundation in the side’s 37-14 Champions Cup win over Ulster.

The pitch at the home of Bath had previously been ripped up too easily during games, making conditions difficult for scrummaging.

The last straw for Van Graan was a late loss against Leicester Tigers in October where a scrum collapse handed the visitors the victory.

Effective changes

The coach approached the owners to request changes in the pitch who decided to get the surface stitched to provide extra support.

This has proved to be a massive success for Bath and Van Graan praised the owner’s openness to making change after his side scrummed very well against Ulster.

He said: “The changes we made to the pitch two weeks ago have done wonders. We stitched the pitch after that Leicester game. We knew we needed to do something. The pitch gave us a platform to scrum from today.

“We are very grateful to (Bath owner) Bruce Craig and the board. I went to them after a few weeks and said we needed to change. It took about 10 days to stitch the whole pitch. It’s a Desso pitch now as a result of that short-term work.”

The surface will be appreciated by all the front-rowers in the squad with England star Will Stuart earning praise from his coach for how he fronted up to double Rugby World Cup winner Steven Kitshoff.

“Will’s getting better every week. I think it was a bit personal for him as well. He’s come up against ‘Kitzy’ a few times and I thought he’s played very well for the last few weeks. How brilliant is it to have two tightheads like Will and Thomas (du Toit)?

“From that perspective we made a real impact today. There was no drop-off. In fact the intensity went up when our bench came on.”

He added: “We have made multiple changes across the weeks. We might keep the same team for next week (at Cardiff) – or I might make 15 changes. It doesn’t matter who we put out, I trust the squad. We are trying to get better every single week.

“This is the Champions Cup and I want us to perform in this competition. We came through a mental battle today. We created multiple opportunities and then gave away two soft tries. We kept calm, concentrated on getting field position, making sure we stay excited and positive. The last 20 minutes was a joy to watch.”

Too many errors

Meanwhile, Ulster boss Dan McFarland believes his side at times were their own worst enemy and rued the number of errors made.

“It was a combination of that – and the number of scrum penalties we gave away. We had some physical intensity in our game and urgency too,” McFarland said.

“Those were things we really asked of ourselves. At this level you need to be accurate. I felt that apart from a period in the game, created opportunities.

“Fair play to them, I thought they took their chances and they got on top of us. They put the squeeze on us, got their points.

“I don’t think our heads went down but again we made errors, gave them opportunities to get field position. They were on a roll then.”

READ MORE: Steven Kitshoff unable to stall Bath’s scrum as Ulster fall to heavy Champions Cup defeat

2023-12-10T11:09:45Z dg43tfdfdgfd