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Wasps played their full part in a thrilling match at The Rec, but ended up on the wrong end of a 32-25 scoreline. They scored three of the game’s seven tries, but were unable to add the score that could have brought them the draw and a try bonus point.
Bath were ahead inside two minutes, after Wasps failed to gather Tom Heathcote’s kick off. It bounced back into Bath hands, and the home side were immediately on the attack. They went wide on the left, before coming back across field. After a series of phases, Bath were awarded a penalty right in front of the posts and Heathcote had the simplest of kicks to give his side the lead.
Wasps responded positively, after winning a lineout near Bath’s right corner. They moved the ball wide out to the left, with Will Helu’s entry, from the right wing, giving them an extra man. He was stopped just short, James Haskell and Andrea Masi both went close, before play came back infield and Tom Lindsay drove for the line, only for Wasps to be penalised for not releasing.
Bath’s penalty set up a lineout near halfway, from which their forwards drove downfield, forcing a penalty on the Wasps 10-metre line. Heathcote went for the posts, but his kick drifted wide to the left.
With Bath pressing for the line, Wasps stole a turnover, but Nick Abendanon gathered the clearance, just inside his own half, before dancing through the defence and linking with Kyle Eastmond, inside the Wasps 22. The centre’s long pass found number 8 Leroy Houston in space on the right, but he was unable to get round the defence.
The Wasps defence final broke after 11 minutes, when Bath won a scrum, in the shadow of the posts. They attacked to the right, and Eastmond fed Anthony Watson, who spun out of the tackle, to go over in the corner. Heathcote missed the conversion.
Four minutes later, after Wasps had won a turnover, just inside their own half, they attacked down the right, and Bath were penalised at the breakdown, 35 metres out. Joe Carlisle’s kick narrowed the gap to 8-3.
Wasps were lucky not to concede a second try straight from the restart. Wasps misjudged Heathcote’s kick, and the ball was fed to Ollie Devoto, who went through two tackles, before being stopped just short. Bath then moved the ball out to the left, but the final pass went astray and Elliot Daly was able to gather and clear downfield. Will Helu’s excellent chase put pressure on the defence, and Wasps won quick ball. They had space on the right, but took too long to move the ball, and possession was lost, a few metres from the Bath line.
Quick passing in the Wasps backs then brought Elliot Daly into the line. He slipped one tackle, before being stopped near the left corner. Bath were penalised and Joe Carlisle made no mistake with an excellent kick, to narrow the gap to 8-6, with 23 minutes gone.
An alleged illegal tackle by Andrea Masi, on halfway, then gave Bath the chance to kick to the corner. They won possession, and drove infield, where Ashley Johnson was penalised at the breakdown, giving Heathcote another straightforward kick, to take the score to 11-6.
Wasps were then dealt a hammer blow, from a position where they seemed set to score in the left corner. Ashley Johnson burst through the middle of the Bath defence, to take play deep into the their 22. When the ball came back, Wasps had a huge overlap on the left, but the cut-out pass was intercepted by Anthony Watson. He almost knocked on, but juggled the ball to retain possession and race away for his second try, beneath the posts. Heathcote added the extra points, to give his side an 18-6 lead, 11 minutes before the break.
Four minutes later, Davies quick thinking with a quick, 15 metres from the Bath line, gave Wasps their next points. The ball found Ashley Johnson, whose quick pass sent Nathan Hughes over in the corner. Carlisle’s touchline conversion brought the score back to 18-13.
Yet again, Wasps made a complete hash of the restart. This time Wasps knocked on under no pressure. Bath snapped it up and Abendanon came in at pace, to go over near the right corner. Heathcote stretched the lead to 25-13.
Needing a score to get back into the game, Wasps produced their most sustained attack of the half, following an excellent turnover by James Haskell. Forwards and backs combined well, with James Cannon featuring several times, before Bath were penalised, a few metres from the corner. With time up, Carlisle went for goal, from the right touchline, but his kick went wide, leaving Wasps 12 points adrift at the break.
Wasps made a positive start to the second half, with the scrum going well and excellent work at the breakdown. After six minutes spent mainly in the Bath 22, they won a penalty, a few metres in from the left touchline, but Carlisle was unable to find the target. Almost immediately, excellent work by Elliot Daly started another attack, which ended with Andrea Masi sending Will Helu over in the corner. Carlisle made up for his previous miss with a magnificent touchline conversion, to bring Wasps right back into contention at 25-20.
They then produced a glorious attack from their own 22, to go the length of the field and set up a superb position at the other end, before conceding a penalty at the breakdown. It turned out to be a crucial penalty, as Bath responded with a glorious counterattack of their own, with Ollie Devoto and Peter Stringer combining to send Kyle Eastmond in for a magnificent score, to bring up the bonus point. Heathcote added the conversion, and Bath were again 12 points up, after 15 minutes of the second half.
The game was now really opening up and it was Wasps who put together the next flowing attack, which saw James Cannon come close to a try in the right corner, before Tom Lindsay lost possession in a crunching tackle, a few metres from the line.
After James Short came close to a try in the left corner, Wasps moved back infield and a patient buildup gave Elliot Daly to go over in the opposite corner. Carlisle missed the conversion, but Wasps were back within a score, with just under 20 minutes to go.
Another breakdown penalty gave Heathcote a close-range chance to put Bath 35-25 ahead, 13 minutes from time, but he pulled his kick wide.
With just over six minutes left, Bath put in a ferocious assault on the Wasps line. They appeared to have crossed for a decisive score, but the TMO ruled that the ball had gone forward from a Bath hand. The scrum produced a penalty, which gave Wasps the chance to relieve the pressure. It was a temporary reprieve, as James Short kicked directly to touch, from just outside his 22, giving the home side another excellent position.
There was no let-up in the closing minutes, with both sides throwing everything into their efforts to secure a final score, but a dubious penalty against Guy Thompson, in a promising position, gave Bath the chance to clear into Wasps territory, and the final whistle went, after 80 minutes of exhilarating rugby.
Wasps are back at Adams Park next Saturday, when they take on Sale Sharks, in the Aviva Premiership.