Bath look to halt Leeds' revival
January 7, 2011
Bath's Olly Barkley kicks the winning points at the end of his side's victory over London Irish last weekend © Getty Images
Bath play host to Leeds Carnegie at The Rec on Saturday with both sides looking to build on much-needed victories in the last round.
Leeds' win against Gloucester was their first of the campaign and gave life to a season that had looked destined to end in relegation. They are now back within striking range of nearest rivals Newcastle and another success could see them climb off the bottom of the table.
But they face a Bath side also on the rise, with their narrow victory over London Irish last time out snapping a woeful run of five Premiership games without a win. That success came on the road and a return home would normally offer further hope but Leeds will be all too aware that their misfiring hosts have lost three games at The Rec already this season.
Bath - Player to Watch: Matt Banahan enjoyed arguably his best game of the season against Leeds in round one. He was named in midfield on that occasion but will hope to cause similar damage from out wide this weekend.
Bath - Team News: Nick Abendanon is drafted into the back-three in the unfamiliar position of wing, replacing Australian Matt Carraro. Jack Cuthbert retains the No.15 jersey.
Leeds Carnegie - Player to Watch: Ceiron Thomas will be vital if Leeds are to stay in touch - the former Scarlet's boot will be their primary source of territory and points.
Leeds Carnegie - Team News: The Leeds coaching staff have kept faith with the same starting XV as last weekend, with only one change to the squad as Alfie To'oala replaces Danny Paul on the bench.
Key Battle: Leeds have one of the most dominant lineouts in the league and if Thomas can give them field position then the visitors will have high hopes of causing some major problems at the set-piece.
Trivia: Bath have won their last six encounters with Leeds in all competitions and Leeds have not won at The Rec since November 25, 2005.
Stats: Bath won the earlier meeting between the two sides with a 32-16 victory at Headingley on the first day of the season.
"I knew the win would come. We are too good a side to go without a win. We needed to get that first one under our belts and it is time now to cash in on that and go hard next week against Leeds." - Bath boss Steve Meehan intends to use the win over Irish as a springboard to greater things.
"We will target the game against Newcastle but we know we need wins wherever we can get them so we will go down to Bath and hopefully get in the game and keep it tight and we hope to come away with another win." - Leeds' Michael Stephenson - a Bath old boy - looks forward to taking on his former side.
Fantasy: Olly Barkley's 20-point haul for Bath against Irish helped boost his ESPNscrum's Fantasy Rugby Game tally to 62 points - time to shake up your line-up?
Prediction: The more dynamic Bath are most likely to retain the winning habit and burst Leeds' bubble. But a resurgent visiting side will make it difficult in the knowledge that a bonus will make the basement battle all the more interesting.
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