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London Wasps secured their fifth consecutive win with a tough workman-like performance against Bath at The Rec. The side won 16-19 and consolidated themselves at the top half of the league table.
The first try of the game came from Tom Voyce as early as the 2nd minute when the winger intercepted a wayward pass from South African Robbie Fleck. Voyce, a former Bath player, was never going to be caught and ran in from 40m out to the delight of the Wasps fans watching him run straight at them. Edd Thrower converted and Wasps led 7-nil before most people had taken their seats.
Olly Barkley struck back with a penalty in the 15th minute, which was cancelled out when Thrower added his first penalty of the afternoon. With Alex King on the bench with an eye injury, big kicker Thrower was given the responsibility of putting the ball between the sticks.
Barkley added a second penalty on the half hour mark and at 6-10; spectators were beginning to wonder if the score would remain like this, as it had done in the last two matches between the two clubs.
The first half saw both sides try and exert their superiority but some solid defending kept the score at 6-10 going into the break. The tackling from Ayoola Erinle was particularly impressive, as the centre rose to the challenge of stopping the likes of Mike Tindall and Fleck in their tracks. Together with Peter Richards, he kept the home side at bay and only twice in the second half did they breach the Wasps defence and get over the advantage line. The first time being when Barkley found some space around the ruck and the second when Tindall showed why he’s an England international by exploiting some holes.
The second half started with Thrower having two penalty opportunities but unfortunately he missed both. The game was a constant seesaw battle with James Brooks and Barkley kicking for territory. Amongst the pack Jonny O’Connor and Joe Worsley kept Wasps going forward and O’ Connor’s tackling count was once again extraordinary
Games between these two clubs are normally feisty encounters but somehow this game was rather low-key. It seemed as if Bath were told to play a more controlled approach to the game, which ultimately worked in Wasps’ favour.
Martyn Wood and Harvey Biljon had an interesting battle at scrumhalf as the once former teammates were harassing each other. After a nervous start, Biljon settled down in the second half and fed his backs with some good ball.
Thrower added a third penalty to stretch the lead to 6-13, which was followed by Barkley adding one of his own. At 9-13 it was still anyone’s game but when Thrower slotted a fourth and Brooks banged over a drop-goal, Wasps looked to have secured the win. At 9-19, Bath knew they had to run everything and eventually pierced the defence when Chris Malone dived into the corner to score the game’s second try. Barkley slotted the long-range conversion to make it 16-19.
Brooks went off with a dead leg with 5-minutes left and King’s calming influence and territorial kicking saw Wasps home for the win.
Gatland said, “I am really pleased with the performance and proud of the players. We played really smart at what is a difficult place to come and win. To win five out of seven means that we are pretty happy with that. We have got into a winning habit.