Fan favourite glad to play out re­turn

Bath Chronicle - - SPORT - Daniel Evans Head of Sport @daniel­e­vans28 | 01225 322300 daniel.evans@reach­

He en­joyed it in the end, but Matt Bana­han is glad his re­turn to the Rec is “done and dusted”. The ex­pe­ri­enced winger ad­mits he woke up on match­day anx­ious as he pre­pared to face Bath Rugby – his club of 12 sea­sons – with West Coun­try ri­vals Glouces­ter. His Bath fam­ily and friends had their al­le­giances tested but, in the end, his 78th minute try, which earned the Cherry and Whites a 31-31 draw, meant everyone could be happy to some de­gree. “I think it’s just a case of thank God it’s over,” said Banas af­ter the dra­matic derby. “I was never dread­ing it but my wife’s fam­ily are from Bath, all our friends are from Bath, all week I’ve had peo­ple mes­sag­ing me say­ing: ‘I want you to play well but I want Bath to win.’ “I don’t nor­mally get too ner­vous for games, but this morn­ing I woke up pretty anx­ious. It was a dif­fer­ent chang­ing room, dif­fer­ent side of the pitch to warm up. “I didn’t know how the fans would take me. It was nice to get out there and play, and we’ll come out of that game think­ing we could have got more, but it’s only round two [of the Premier­ship] and there were a lot of pos­i­tives. “The ma­jor­ity of my fam­ily had to be neu­tral be­cause most of them are from Bath and I’m play­ing for Glouces­ter. “Scor­ing un­der­neath my fa­therin-law’s box with my wife go­ing potty be­cause it was my first try for Glouces­ter was an­other good feel­ing. “She prob­a­bly is a Bath fan but she has to be my fan first. As a winger you’re paid to score. Luck­ily that was my op­por­tu­nity and I took it.” As well as latch­ing on to a Ja­son Wood­ward pass to cross for that cru­cial score in front of the Novia Stand, Bana­han carved out the op­por­tu­nity in the first place with a su­perb restart take. Glouces­ter were 31-24 down thanks to El­liott Stooke’s con­verted try and run­ning out of time. The vis­i­tors kicked right and Bana­han out-jumped Joe Cokanasiga to lay the plat­form. By that point Bana­han was on the right, hav­ing started on the left, in a head-to-head with his old mate Semesa Roko­duguni. The 31-year-old added: “It was a kick to one of the other boys, but I just thought I could get there so I got in front. “I took it, plus Rocco had taken one ear­lier. He’d also scored a try so I had to do the same as him. He’s a class act. I’ve al­ways raved about him. “I thought he was go­ing to do me a cou­ple of times but, lucky enough, I held my feet. I think I’ll call a 1-0 win be­cause I got a good fend on him and pushed him away.” Bana­han, wife Becky and their three chil­dren still live in Lans­down. As well as those fa­mil­iar faces in the stands, he had time for chats with the Bath back­room staff and sub­sti­tutes when the game was stopped for Char­lie Sharples to be treated for a head in­jury in the sec­ond half. With three league points and a try in the bag, the man who scored 100 tries for the Blue, Black and White can look back on his re­turn with re­lief and pride. “I can’t thank both sets of sup­port­ers enough for mak­ing me feel wel­come,” he said. “You don’t know what’s go­ing to come. “I en­joyed the game on the whole. I made a few mis­takes. Maybe I put a bit of pres­sure on my­self, which I didn’t have to do but it’s only round two. “It came a lit­tle bit sooner than I thought, but it’s done and dusted now.”

Among those fac­ing for­mer clubs at the Rec on Satur­day were Fred­die Burns, above, and El­liott Stooke, pic­tured left cel­e­brat­ing his try

Matt Bana­han fends off a Semesa Roko­duguni tackle

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