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Leicester have been officially crowned English champions after London Wasps, the only club who could mathematically deprive them of the title, lost against Bath at The Rec.
The win for Bath also strengthened their hold on the runners-up spot although Wasps have two games in hand and could yet overhaul them. No matter what was going on at Leicester, these two teams were clearly playing for keeps and the first half was a tense, error-ridden affair with the only points coming from the boot of Wasps fly-half Alex King in the second minute.
A bitterly cold wind swept across the Recreation Ground making handling difficult, but there were still too many unforced mistakes for a match at this level. Bath scrum-half Jon Preston, normally the most reliable of kickers as he showed at London Irish midweek with nine kicks out of nine, missed four penalties in a row in the first half.
Bath, missing Ian Balshaw and Australian centre Shaun Berne from their back line, looked hesitant and one-dimensional in attack while Wasps controlled affairs through their back row of Lawrence Dallaglio, Joe Worsley and Paul Volley.
Preston finally found his kicking boots with two penalties early in the second half to give Bath the lead but Wasps suddenly took control of the game with a brace of tries in the 57th minute. First King put left wing Laurence Scrase in at the corner with a well-timed pass and that was quickly followed by a try from full-back Paul Sampson, taking advantage of some lax defence by Bath.
Head coach Jon Callard brought on second row Mark Gabey to try and change his side's fortunes and Preston's third penalty on 67 minutes brought them within striking range. Time appeared to be running out, however, as Bath ever more desperately threw everything into attack.
Wasps centre Frazer Waters was shown the yellow card for killing a ruck under his own post and Catt kicked for the line-out in the corner as the clock ticked into injury time.
Mark Regan's throw found Dan Lyle out front and when the ball was fed out to the backs, Catt showed the merest hint of a dummy and slipped a tackle to dive over at the post. Preston converted and Bath held out for the victory.
BATH : 16
Pens: Preston (3)
LONDON WASPS: 13
Tries: Sampson, Scrase