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With two games left, they know that two wins should secure them a place in the quarterfinals. After missing some crucial kicks last week, Nick Robinson had a 100% record, kicking five penalties and the conversion of Sam Jones’s early try.
Wasps started strongly, and came close to a try after little more than a minute. Nick Robinson hoisted a high kick which the Bayonne defence failed to control. The ball bounced into the arms of John Hart, who powered his way into the 22. The ball was moved out wide to the right, then back across the field, where Ed O’Donoghue fed Hart, who powered his way towards the line. He was stopped just short, but appeared to get the ball over the line. The TMO was consulted, and he ruled no try.
Wasps stayed camped in the Bayonne 22, and chose to run a free-kick awarded from a scrum. After another surge by John Hart, Sam Jones gathered the ball and forced his way over. The TMO was again consulted, and this time, he ruled that the try had been scored, with just over two minutes gone. Nick Robinson added the extra points, to give Wasps the perfect start and Jones an extra birthday present, on the day he turned 20.
Wasps kept up the pressure, with Robinson’s raking kicks to the corner setting up excellent attacking positions. From one lineout, they forced Bayonne in to touch, to win a throw of their own. They were looking threatening, when Ed O’Donoghue charged for the line, but Wasps were penalised for obstruction, giving the visitors the chance to lift the siege.
After several minutes of further Wasps domination, which included a fine arcing run by Elliot Daly, the home side suffered a cruel blow when Hart limped off the field, after several minutes of treatment. Joe Burton took his place, with less than quarter of a hour played.
Robinson immediately stretched the lead to 10-0, with a penalty from 40 metres. Almost from the restart, Wasps were penalised at the breakdown, and Benjamin Boyet opened his side’s account with a simple kick from in front of the posts, just outside the 22.
An off-the-ball challenge, following a Bayonne clearance kick, gave Robinson another penalty chance, from 40 metres, and he was again on target, to take the score to 13-3, after 23 minutes.
Six minutes later, a rare Bayonne foray into the Wasps 22, led to Riki Flutey being shown a yellow card, for not rolling away, and Boyet’s second easy penalty brought the score back to 13-6.
Christian Wade then set the crowd roaring, with a thrilling piece of running, after he gathered the ball under extreme pressure, in the shadow of his posts. He spun round and evaded a pack of chasers, before accelerating downfield. He made 40 metres before being brought down, having veered away from his support.
As halftime approached, Bayonne began to take advantage of their numerical superiority, establishing a firm foothold in the Wasps 22. After a series of scrums near the Wasps line, the pressure told, when a powerful shove enabled Sione Lauaki to pick up at the back, and muscle his way over in the corner. Boyet missed the difficult conversion, and the half ended, with Wasps just two points ahead, and their quarterfinal chances still hanging in the balance.
Wasps began the second half with Flutey back on the field, and Charlie Davies replacing Joe Simpson. Inside the first minute, the home support was angered when Nick Robinson failed to gather a kick ahead, clearly flicked the ball backwards, but was adjudged to have knocked on, giving Bayonne a five-metre scrum. The roar of anger was followed by a roar of relief, when the pack forced a penalty.
With the rain, as forecast, the first few minutes produced a series of handling errors from both sides. After seven minutes, Wasps were awarded a penalty near the left touchline, a few metres inside their own half. Ellliot Daly stepped up and thumped a monster kick between the posts, to make the score 16-11.
After a fine run by Davies took play deep into the visitors’ 22, another Robinson kick, this time a well-directed grubber, bisected the Bayonne centres, and Daly’s excellent chase forced Marvin O’Connor to carry the ball over his own line. After a reset , the scrum went through 90 degrees, and Bayonne were awarded the put-in. They cleared upfield, but were immediately penalised at the breakdown, and Robinson slotted an excellent penalty, to give Wasps that vital eight-point margin.
After Zak Taulafo replaced Tim Payne, Bayonne hooker David Roumieu was then shown a yellow card, for an offence just inside his 22, and Robinson added another penalty, to make the score 22-11, with 18 minutes left to play. Bob Baker then joined the fray as a blood replacement for Jeremy Castex.
A blindside dart by Charlie Davies then sent Richard Haughton racing away down the left. The winger delivered an inside pass back to Davies, who veered infield. Although brought down by a last-ditch tackle, he managed to pop the ball up for Sam Jones, but the pass was just too high, and the flanker was unable to hang on. Several forward charges came close to stretching the lead, before Bayonne conceded a penalty on their 22, in midfield, and Robinson’s fifth penalty extended the lead to a secure looking 25-11.
Realising that things were slipping away from them, Bayonne stepped up their efforts, and stole a Wasps scrum, to set up an excellent position in the home 22. After turning down a kickable penalty, in front of the posts, they opted for another scrum, but conceded a free kick, which Robinson cleared to halfway.
Castex came back on for Baker, and James Harris then replaced Sam Jones, with just under four minutes left. Despite a few late alarms, Wasps hung on for a welcome and crucial victory.
Wasps return to Premiership action on Boxing Day, when they travel to Kingsholm, to face Gloucester. Their next game at Adams Park is on New Year’s Day, when Worcester are the visitors.
15 Hugo Southwell 14 Richard Haughton 13 Elliot Daly 12 Riki Flutey 11 Christian Wade 10 Nick Robinson 9 Joe Simpson 1 Tim Payne 2 Rob Webber 3 Jeremy Castex 4 Ed O’Donoghue 5 Marco Wentzel 6 Richard Birkett 7 Sam Jones 8 John Hart (c)
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay 17 Zac Taulafo 18 Jeremy Castex 19 Joe Burton 20 James Harris 21 Charlie Davies 22 Ryan Davis 23 Dom Waldouck
15 Cedric Heymans 14 Marvin O’Connor 13 Thibault Lacroix 12 Lionel Mazars 11 Joe Rokocoko 10 Benjamin Boyet 9 Cedric Garcia 1 Aretz Iguiniz 2 David Roumieu 3 Neemia Tialata 4 Robin Linde (c) 5 Abdellatif Boutaty 6 Jean-Jo Marmouyet 7 Julien Puricelli 8 Sione Lauaki
Replacements: 16 Francois Da Ros 17 Vitolio Manukula 18 Denis Avril 19 Troy F lavell 20 Marc Baget 21 Mike Phillips 22 Sam Gerber 23 Clement Otazo