Todd Blackadder praises George Ford as Bath start with a win
Todd Blackadder was full of praise for George Ford after the England fly-half mastered a wet Franklin's Gardens to kick Bath to an 18-14 victory at Northampton.
It meant a winning start for Blackadder as director of rugby after taking over from Ford's father Mike, who was sacked in the summer following Bath's disappointing ninth finish last term.
Multi-millionaire owner Bruce Craig is hoping Blackadder can go one better than he did in eight seasons in charge of the Canterbury Crusaders, where he was a losing finalist twice, and he could not have wished for a better start, ending a 16-year losing streak at Northampton.
Despite a late scare, when, with Chris Cook in the bin, Saints replacement Nic Groom scored two tries in the final six minutes, Ford controlled the game, kicking four penalties and two drop goals.
Blackadder said: "I am just impressed with him as a young man. He showed out there he can put all the distractions behind him and get on with his rugby.
"We haven't talked about the past and he and the squad are more focused on the future. A real focus this week was the challenge of winning here where we have not won for a long time and the players delivered on that.
"In that first half the players absorbed so much pressure and old Georgie kept the scoreboard ticking away. We still had a lot of belief at half-time and the first 20 minutes after the break was outstanding, we played some great footie.
"Our forward pack worked so hard. I told them at half-time we were winning this game because of our forward pack. We put a lot of pressure on their lineout which was one of their weapons and worked really hard defensively.
"There is a really good framework here. There is not a lot you want to change, just a few tweaks, a little bit of belief, some systems and new ideas and making sure we have the culture right."
The only downside for Bath was the sight of Taulupe Faletau limping off after 12 minutes with what Blackadder described as a "medial" injury, but the director of rugby is hoping it is "nothing major".
In the wet conditions it was a difficult game for Saints youngster Harry Mallinder, starting at fly-half for the first time, with regular 10 Stephen Myler on the bench.
The 20-year-old missed two penalties and his father, director of rugby Jim Mallinder, said: "It was difficult. He had some good touches and did a few good things, but it is always going to be tough, particularly in conditions like that. We haven't had any rain in training and it is a completely different game when it rains. We are all learning, but there were some positive aspects as well.
"We want to get our balance right between our attacking and defensive game and we will be swapping and changing throughout the season.Defensively we were very strong, generally they didn't create any chances and we were putting them under a lot of pressure, but attacking-wise we still have some things work on."