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The result means Wasps replace the visitors at the top of their Amlin Challenge Cup pool, and a win in France next week should all but ensure that they go through to the knockout stage.
After some early thrusts by the visitors, Wasps took the lead in the sixth minute through a Dave Walder penalty from in front of the posts, when Bayonne were caught offside.
By now, the fine weather of the morning and early afternoon had been replaced by grey skies and rain and a Wasps handling error from the restart led to a penalty for Bayonne, which scrum-half Cedric Garcia landed from 40 metres, to level the scores.
Two minutes later, an offence at the scrum gave Garcia another kick at goal, from 45 metres and he was again on target.
A superb leaping catch by Richard Birkett, from the restart, gave Joe Simpson the chance to send Steve Kefu into space. He was stopped a few metres out, and the ball was worked out wide, but Wasps were forced into touch. Another promising Wasps move was called back when Walder’s floated pass to David Lemi was rightly adjudged to have gone forward.
Wasps kept up the pressure, and were rewarded with a penalty, 45 metres out, and a fine kick from Walder levelled the scores. With 22 minutes gone, Bayonne’s number 8, Jacques Deen was shown a yellow card, and Walder’s third successful kick, from 45 metres, put Wasps back in front.
After several minutes of scrappy play, David Lemi knocked on a high kick, on his 22, and Wasps were penalised from the resultant scrum. Garcia landed a simple penalty, and the scores were again level, with 33 minutes gone, as Deen returned from the sin bin.
With four minutes of the half to play, the assistant referee spotted some foul play by Wasps. The penalty gave Garcia a great chance to put Bayonne ahead, but he hooked his 30-metre kick to the right of the posts. There were no further scoring opportunities before the break, and the teams went off all square, after a tight half, in which neither side had established a clear advantage, although Wasps had looked the more creative.
Bayonne established an early attack position, at the start of the second half, when Mark Van Gisbergen unluckily lost his footing as he gathered a bouncing ball near his own line and slipped into touch. From the lineout, substitute Manny Edmonds had a snap drop at goal, but failed to find the target. A minute later, Garcia made no mistake with his fourth successful penalty, to make it 12-9.
Wasps responded immediately, after Dom Waldouck ran on to Walder’s neat chip ahead, inside the Bayonne 22. He was stopped just short, Simpson had a dart for the line, and the forwards made several thrusts, before the ball was recycled and spun out to Tom Varndell, who went over unopposed in the corner. Walder was unable to convert.
It was Walder who then launched a counterattack which led to another penalty, after a characteristic burst from Simpson, and a controlled forward drive. Rather than go for the posts, he went for the corner, and the catch and drive saw Wasps come close, when Joe Ward was held up on the line. Wasps were awarded the put-in to the scrum, but a strong shove from the Bayonne pack forced a handling error. Bayonne immediately conceded a free kick, and Wasps opted for another scrum. They went for the line, but conceded a vital turnover, enabling Bayonne to clear to outside their 22
The visitors immediately conceded a penalty, just inside their ten metre line, and Walder landed a fine kick to stretch the lead to 17-12, with fifteen minutes of the half gone.
Wasps then made their first substitutions, with Rob Webber and Simon Shaw coming on for Joe Ward and Richard Birkett.
Bayonne’s best attack of the game, with fullback Pepito Elhorga powering his way down the left set up a penalty chance for Craig Gower – by now, Garcia had been replaced. The fly half landed an excellent kick from near the touchline, to narrow the gap to two points.
Ben Jacobs then replaced his fellow Australian Steve Kefu, and he was immediately involved in the second Wasps try, created after the forwards set up quick possession near the posts. The ball was quickly spun out to the right, and Tom Varndell went over for his second try, in the same spot where he’d scored his first. Walder could not add the extra points, with another difficult kick.
Another dangerous attack from Bayonne ended with a knock on by Gower. Wasps pounced on the loose ball and Simpson streaked away, with David Lemi in support. The scrumhalf had reached the ten metre line before sending a pass out towards the winger, but a timely interception prevented an almost certain try.
Excellent work by Simon Shaw led to another penalty chance for Walder, but his long-range kick, from the halfway line, dropped short. Varndell then left the field, to be replaced by Paul Sackey. With ten minutes left.
Five minutes later, Gower landed another penalty, to set up a tense finish. Bob Baker came on for Ben Broster, as Wasps charged down a clearance kick, to set up a final attacking position. As MOTM Joe Simpson was replaced by Mark Robinson, they stole a Bayonne lineout near the corner, and held the ball through a series of surges, before a knockon gave the visitors the chance to clear. Inside the final 30 second, Wasps ran a penalty, and launched one last attack, in search of the try which would have denied the visitors a potentially crucial bonus point, but, after controlling the ball through countless phases, they conceded a penalty, and the game ended with Wasps leading the pool, three points ahead of Bayonne.
The return game will be played in Bayonne, next Thursday night. Wasps then return to Guinness Premiership action in the Big Match at Twickenham, where they face Harlequins on Sunday, December the 27th. The following Sunday, they return to Adams Park, to take on Newcastle Falcons, KO 4.30pm.