AFTER starting the season as outsiders flanker Matt Garvey believes Bath Rugby have earned the right to be considered serious contenders for the Aviva Premiership title.

Garvey was one of five players sin-binned last Saturday in the fiery 18-17 victory away to West Country rivals Gloucester, who also had two men sent off and finished the game with 11 players.

Bath trailed 17-11 at the death but despite the chaos enveloping all around them Garvey insists they never lost their focus or their belief – eventually earning a penalty try that George Ford converted for the win with a minute remaining.

The victory cemented the club’s place in the top four, five points ahead of Harlequins who kept the pressure on with a vital win away to Sale Sharks.

And ahead of the visit of Worcester Warriors on Saturday, who are fighting for their lives at the bottom, Garvey believes Bath have matured into a force to be reckoned with.

“Stuart Hooper, our captain, has spoken about us being on a journey together,” said Garvey.

“We had new arrivals in the summer and other changes and we’ve been on this journey but now the journey is at an end and we’ve earned the right to push for honours and hopefully we will do that.

“The Gloucester game was a tough game, it was about keeping our heads at the end and staying calm and we managed to do that.

“It was always going to be a difficult game and we were prepared for that. There’s a great belief in the squad and there was a great belief that we could get the try we needed and we did that.”

Harlequins’ defeat of Sale knocked the north-west side back in the race for the top four and Bath’s visit to the Stoop on the last weekend of the season looks increasingly likely to decide the destination of the final play-off place.

Before then Bath play hosts to the Warriors this weekend and then face a visit from title-chasers Northampton Saints on May 2 and Garvey hopes they can wrap-up fourth spot before they head to London.

“The important thing was the win at the weekend and again this weekend because it keeps it in our hands with Quins putting a run together,” added Garvey.

“We’ve got another tough game with Worcester and then we’ve got Northampton and then the last day we’ve got Harlequins so it’s a big finish.

“Hopefully by the time we play Harlequins it will have been decided – it would be good to have got fourth place before we go down there.”

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