Matt Banahan has hailed his ‘little and large’ midfield partnership with Kyle Eastmond, likening their relationship to the 1988 comedy classic Twins, which starred the equally unlikely duo of Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Like ‘Big Arnie’, Banahan dwarfs his partner by a full 13 inches and nearly six stone, but Bath’s 14th midfield combination of the season seems to be working as Gary Gold’s side continue their post-Christmas surge for a place in the Premiership top six.
Fourteen tries in their last four league matches is evidence of Bath’s progress, with Eastmond and Banahan crucial to that new-found attacking intent.
“It’s been great partnering Kyle,” Banahan, 26, told The Rugby Paper. “It’s one of those partnerships that’s going to be evolving over the season, but with his knowledge of the game improving and his natural talent coming out, it’s going to be good.
“Rugby’s a game for all different shapes and sizes so he runs into spaces while I run into contact. It’s like Twins – and there’s a good bit of banter between us. We’re always at it and we have a lot of fun out there.
“We’re two totally different guys but I keep him on the straight and narrow. He gets a bit angry on the pitch but I keep him calm and get him on to the next task. Hopefully he’ll be right up there soon, challenging for international honours.”
“There’s a real difference in physique – he’s the biggest guy ever while I’m not that tall – but it’s working out well and we’re getting better,” Eastmond said.
“Playing with Banners is great and we complement each other really well. He does the hard yards and I can get off the back of that and do my stuff.
“It’s a partnership we’re working on and we’ll only get better. As you saw against Gloucester, it worked pretty well and there’s a lot more to come.”
Credit for partnering Banahan and Eastmond goes to Bath’s coaching staff, who saw the potential of moving the ex-St Helens stand-off to inside centre.
First team coach Toby Booth explained: “We have worked over a period to get Kyle closer to the ball because he makes good decisions.
“Having that No.12/13 combination going towards the edge gets him into positions he’d have found himself in in Rugby League, and because he’s so quick and has such good feet, he asks a lot of questions of defences.
“He did brilliantly for his try against Gloucester and did very well for Tom Biggs’ try as well. Kyle’s learning every week and if he continues his current rate of improvement, he’s looking good for moving up the ladder.”
Eastmond, 23, enjoyed a taste of international rugby with the Saxons last month and must be a fair shout to be on England’s June tour of Argentina.
But he admits there is still much to learn, adding: “The Saxons was a great experience and it was nice to link up with Joel Tomkins who I knew from League. That made things a bit easier and the whole experience was great for my development.
“Hopefully I can just get better now. Bath have looked after me really well and you just go about your business, work hard and hopefully you reap the rewards. I was never going to come into Union and do it all straight away because it’s a totally different game, but each day I try to be better and although there are things we need to work on as a team, I’m really enjoying myself at Bath.”
Bath’s backs have been showered with plaudits for some scintillating recent displays but fit-again flanker Carl Fearns believes the forwards deserve praise for the part they have played in Bath’s New Year revival.
Fearns, 23, said: “We’ve come on massively in attack since Christmas but it starts up front and the platform we’re setting is vastly improved. Our scrum has been unbelievable for four or five weeks now and it’s been getting us out of a lot of sticky situations.
“We’ve been working hard on the scrum and breakdown and that’s aided our attack big time.”
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