RUGBY: Hatley determined Bath will stay the course

Wiltshire Times: Neal Hatley Neal Hatley

MEMORIES of the LV= Cup semi-final defeat to champions Exeter Chiefs still linger at Bath Rugby, but forwards coach Neal Hatley is determined to set the record straight as the Aviva Premiership enters its final straight.

Bath may be their West Country rivals' bogey team in the Premiership – Exeter have failed to pick up a win against them since promotion in 2010 – but it was a different story in this year's edition of the LV= Cup.

The Chiefs seemingly did the impossible at The Rec two weeks ago, chopping down an early deficit and winning 22-19 before going on to put Northampton Saints to the sword in the final.

It left a bitter taste in the mouth for Mike Ford's men but with it all to play for in the Premiership, Hatley insists his players are not about to lose focus.

Bath are perched third – with Leicester Tigers, Harlequins and Sale Sharks all snapping at their heels – and the former London Irish prop is backing his side to post an immediate response.

"We said to the boys this week that it's the final push, we have worked hard for the first 30, 32 weeks of the season and we've now got to make sure it doesn't count for nothing," said Hatley.

"The LV= Cup was unbelievably frustrating, we changed personnel but we thought we had enough to get the win. But after the result I think the boys are more resolved for the rest of the season.

"I think one of the worst things about it was that we didn't have a game the week after to set things right - we had to watch Exeter pick up the trophy last weekend.

"At 16-8 we were well in control in comfortable conditions but I think two poor kicks made the difference.

"It's not often you get two missed tackles and a guy running 30, 40 metres to go under the posts.

"Some clubs have put a different emphasis on the LV Cup - some loaded the side, some are more experimental but it's a great competition and some good young players have come through this year.

"We were happy to be in and get quite far even though it was disappointing in the end."

Bath were on the end of a boost on Tuesday after veteran scrum-half Peter Stringer put pen to paper on a one-year extension at the Rec.

The 36-year-old, who has 98 caps for Ireland, arrived on a permanent deal in the summer and Hatley admits his longevity defies logic.

"It's unbelievable, he's the fittest 49-year-old I've ever seen in my life!" added Hatley.

"He's a credit to himself, he's one of the fittest blokes in the club and possesses an unbelievable amount of experience and confidence in what is still a very young back line can feed off.

"Kyle Eastmond's only in his third season of rugby union, George (Ford) is still only 20 - it's made a massive difference."

Every match in the Aviva Premiership Rugby Season is crucial, to be there to support your team buy your ticket from premiershiprugby.com/tickets

PETER STRINGER, DAVID WILSON AND NEAL HATLEY TALK TO THE WILTSHIRE TIMES. SEE FRIDAY'S EDITION

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