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Wasps were denied an early score, when Mark Van Gisbergen’s 30-metre penalty hit the right-hand post, after Tom Varndell fielded a clearance kick near halfway to throw a long pass infield to Jack Wallace and launch a counter-attack.
Bath posed the first serious attacking threat, with a strong run by flanker Josh Ovens, from the back of a line-out inside the Wasps 22. He cut inside an attempted tackle and was forced into touch just short of the line.
Wasps constructed a promising attack of their own, after Tom Rees burst out of a maul, following a lineout near halfway, but it was the visitors who took the lead, after 15 minutes. Wasps were penalized for taking out Peter Short in the air, at a lineout on their own 22, and Sam Vesty landed the kick.
Three minutes later, good work by the Wasps forwards, from a lineout, drove play into the Bath 22, forcing a penalty, which Van Gisbergen stroked over, to level the scores.
After further solid driving work by the forwards, Wasps set up an excellent position inside the Bath half, but they were unable to release the ball, and Bath were awarded the put-in to the scrum. The Wasps forwards produced a powerful shove, to force another penalty, which Van Gisbergen landed from nearly 40 metres, to put the home side ahead, with just under 25 minutes gone.
Bath leveled the scores eight minutes later, after an elusive run by Tom Biggs took play into the Wasps 22. A penalty ensued, and Vesty was on target with a simple kick. Almost from the restart, Wasps were penalised for using their hands at the breakdown, a few metres inside their half, but Vesty’s kick dropped short.
Wasps came back with a wriggling run by Nic Berry, who slipped through several tackles outside his 22. He fed Ben Broster, and the prop showed a remarkable turn of speed, to thunder 20 metres downfield. The ball was recycled quickly, and moved out towards the right, but the movement was ended by a forward pass.
Another dangerous home attack came when former Wasp Mark McMillan lost possession in contact, inside the Wasps half, Varndell pounced on the loose ball and fed Dom Waldouck, whose pass found Jack Wallace entering the line at speed. He found Richard Haughton outside him, and the winger chipped ahead, but was taken out off the ball, and Van Gisbergen’s accurate penalty, from near the right touchline, gave Wasps a 9-6 halftime lead.
Joe Ward took the place of Rob Webber, at the start of the second half. Another elusive run by Biggs, who’d come in from his wing, stretched the Wasps defence, but Bath spilt the ball, deep inside the 22.
Bath kept up the pressure, but Wasps missed a great chance to break out, when Jack Cuthbert attempted an ambitious drop goal from inside his own half, The ball barely reached the 22, but, with Tom Varndell outside him, and acres of space ahead of him, Mark Van Gisbergen knocked on.
Wasps had their best chance of the half, after Dan Ward-Smith snatched lineout ball near halfway and raced deep into the Bath 22. The forwards were quickly up in support, and the ball was moved out to the backs, but Steve Kefu knocked on, a few metres out, with a possible overlap out on the right.
After 57 minutes, Bath were caught offside on the Wasps ten-metre line and Van Gisbergen’s kick just had the power to drop over the bar and make it 12-6.
Bath responded strongly, and with the referee playing advantage, almost in front of the Wasps posts, Vesty put a chip into the in-goal area, and Nick Scott just failed to touch it down before it went dead. Vesty’s penalty made it 12-9, as the game entered the final quarter.
Before the restart, Elliott Daly came on for Richard Haughton, to make his home debut. With 14 minutes of normal time to play, Van Gisbergen landed a simple penalty to restore the six-point advantage, following an offence at the breakdown, just inside the Bath 22, and in front of the posts. Six minutes later, the flyhalf was again on target, after another breakdown offence in an almost identical position, giving Wasps an 18-9 lead.
Now needing two scores to win, Bath battered away at the Wasps defence, which was finally breached, in the 78th minute, when Ben Skirving crashed over near the posts. Vesty’s conversion ensured a nailbiting finale, and Serge Betsen and Charlie Davies came on for James Cannon and Nic Berry. As Bath tried to run it from their 22, a knock-on gave Wasps a scrum. Ward-Smith controlled the ball and made ground before releasing it, but Betsen’s knock-on gave Bath one final chance. They won the scrum, and kept the ball alive through phase after phase, before Wasps conceded a penalty, just inside their half, and Jack Cuthbert stepped up to go for goal. His kick had the distance, but was just wide, leaving Wasps narrow winners of a tight game.
Wasps return to Adams Park next Sunday for the resumption of the Aviva Premiership when London Irish travel to High Wycombe at an earlier time of 2pm. Tickets are on sale now call 08442252990 or book online here.