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Try scorer Riki Flutey
In a narrow defeat at the hands of a hugely impressive Bath side, claiming their second successive bonus point to go to the top of the Guinness Premiership, Wasps missed out for a second time this season on home turf.
Despite the result the home crowd could pull positives from the performance which saw tries from Riki Flutey and Man of the Match, Tom Rees as well as the return of Wasps and England fly half Danny Cipriani six weeks ahead of schedule following recovery from a fracture dislocation to his ankle, picked up against the same opponents back in May.
Cipriani’s return was no fairy story however as another frustrating loss which saw some excellent set piece work was spoiled by some uncharacteristically poor tackling.
Bath’s England prop Matt Stevens was outstanding in the loose, scoring one try himself, and setting up two more, with some powerful running. The visitors scored two tries in the first fifteen minutes, before Wasps came back to take a half-time lead. After a penalty put Steve Meehan’s side back in front, Tom Rees’s try gave Wasps a late advantage, before Bath clinched the win with their fourth try.
Wasps launched the first attack, despite failing to gather Bath's kickoff. Bath recycled the ball several times, before a pass went astray and the ball went loose. John Hart fed Joe Worsley who sent Josh Lewsey through a gap but, with one man to beat, the winger stepped inside and lost his footing 35 metres out.
Danny Cipriani returns to Adams Park
It was Bath who went ahead on five minutes from the first exchange of high kicks. Cipriani’s opening salvo was gathered and returned by Butch James. Cipriani went for the high ball and failed to gather. Bath scooped up the loose ball and Stevens charged through the middle before moving the ball out to the right where scrumhalf Michael Claassens went over. James was unable to convert.
Three minutes later Wasps were awarded a penalty inside their own half but Cipriani’s touch-kick went dead. Bath immediately counter-attacked and Joe Maddock went close near the right-hand corner.
Although there was already more movement than spectators have become used to this season, Wasps were failing to make their first-up tackles enabling Bath to set up some threatening positions. They came close to a second try when James sent a grubber kick behind the Wasps defence. It bounced dangerously but the defence got back to touch down. From the scrum Bath were pushed backwards but they managed to retain possession and the ball was fed to Stevens, who crashed through a gap to touch down near the posts. James added the conversion to make it 0-12 with 15 minutes gone.
Two minutes later another powerful Wasps scrum was followed by some slick passing in midfield involving a loop move with Flutey and Cipriani, which sent Sackey away down the left. The ball was fed back infield but Simon Shaw’s loose pass failed to find a supporting player, however the Bath backs were caught offside in midfield and Cipriani made no mistake with the simple penalty.
The Wasps pack was continuing to exert pressure but another series of missed tackles saw Bath mount a powerful attack after Cuthbert cut in from the left.
There was nothing wrong with the juddering team tackle on Shaun Berne in the shadow of the posts as the centre went down like a sack of potatoes, and the ball went loose giving Wasps the chance to clear to halfway. Good lineout possession set up a chance for Lewsey to burst through in midfield, but his offload went forward and a good chance came to nothing. James Haskell came on for Joe Worsley and was immediately in to the action as Wasps took the ball against the head. The move set up another penalty chance for Cipriani, from just outside the 22. The assistant referees put their flags up but referee Sean Davey overruled them to the consternation of almost everybody in the ground.
A minute later Wasps were awarded another penalty 43 metres out. Cipriani’s kick was again struck well the flags went up again and this time the referee agreed so the gap was down to six points.
Wasps then brought the crowd to their feet, when the best move of the evening saw Cipriani linking well with Riki Flutey. Flutey’s break took play deep into the 22 where he found Tom Palmer in support. When the lock was tackled just short of the line he deftly returned the ball to Flutey who dived over for a magnificent score which Cipriani gleefully converted to give his side an unlikely lead.
In the third minute of injury time the flyhalf landed a long-range penalty to make it 16-12 at the break.
Thankfully, the first forty minutes had not featured the endless kicking which has cast a pall over the first few rounds of Premiership games. Again, this had been a patchy performance from Wasps, but the champions had shown the grit which kept them in the game at Welford Road last Friday night. Bath had the right to feel aggrieved though after setting up most of the game’s most threatening positions, but the stage was set for an exciting second half.
Bath began the second half without their captain Michael Lipman who’d suffered a slight knock to the head and been replaced by James Scaysbrook. Four minutes after the break the visitors were back in front with a try set up by another bullocking run from the highly influential Stevens. After he took play deep into the 22, the ball was moved out to the left, then back across the field, before Pieter Dixon forced his way over from close range. James missed the conversion. Seven minutes later, the flyhalf was on target with a penalty from the Wasps 22, to make it 20-16.
At this point, Cipriani left the field, to be replaced by Jeremy Staunton. The Irishman was immediately involved in a sweeping move which set up a drop goal chance just outside the 22 but his kick was charged down. Wasps then went through a series of phases with the forwards using their power to battle their way up towards the Bath line. After a scrum under the posts the pressure ended with yet another powerful forward drive near the right-hand corner. When the bodies emerged, Tom Rees was at the bottom of the pile and the referee awarded the score. Staunton made it 23-20, with a magnificent touchline conversion.
The lead lasted less than two minutes though as Bath came straight back with a try in the opposite corner, when Alex Crockett sent winger Joe Maddock clear to claim the bonus point. James was successful with the conversion to restore the four-point lead. With ten minutes of normal time left, the flyhalf missed a difficult penalty.
Wasps turned down a kickable penalty late on to go for the winning try but possession was turned over after the lineout, set up by Staunton’s kick to the corner. A long clearance then took play deep into the Wasps 22. One counter-attack failed when Haskell broke from the base of a defensive scrum but Mark Robinson dropped his pass.
With the clock running down, Wasps made a final desperate effort to break out of their own half but Simon Shaw was forced into touch and the whistle blew leaving Wasps with disappointing and frustrating record of four defeats from five games. For Bath, the revenge for three defeats last defeat was made sweeter by the fact that the win put them to the top of the table – a just reward for some enterprising rugby.
Wasps will now take a break from Premiership action and look to the two cup competitions, kicking off their EDF Energy Cup campaign with a trip to Kingsholm facing Gloucester on Saturday for their third fixture in eight days. The Heineken Cup will then get underway at Adams Park the following week with a visit from French side, Castres Olympique on the 12th October. After a slow start to the Premiership the men and black and gold will be eager to make a strong start in both competitions so as the European action takes shape in High Wycombe, be sure to secure your seat on the 12th. To book your tickts for Wasps v Castres call the Ticket Hotline on 0870 414 1515 or go online here.