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After conceding an early try and trailing at the break, Wasps produced a powerful second-half performance to leave them at the top of pool 4, after the first two rounds of the Amlin Challenge Cup. In the process, they denied Bayonne a bonus point – something which could prove crucial, come January, when the quarterfinal places are decided.
After several minutes of pressure, with their large forwards trying to batter their way through the middle of the Wasps defence, Bayonne decided to move the ball out wide, and found space for Sam Gerber to go over near the corner. Stephen Brett landed the conversion to put his side seven points up, with six minutes gone.
Two minutes later, a powerful drive from a lineout near halfway earned Wasps a penalty 8 metres inside the Bayonne half. From near the right touchline, Andy Goode sent his kick narrowly wide.A minute later, Christian Wade showed his speed and footwork to make 20 metres into the Bayonne 22. There appeared to be an overlap on the left, but Josh Bassett was unable to hold on to Joe Simpson’s long pass, 15 metres from the line.
Wasps threatened again, after Guy Thompson’s strong tackle forced Bayonne to lose possession near halfway. Kearnan Myall did well to dive on to the loose ball, which was quickly moved out to the left, where Nathan Hughes powered his way into the 22, before feeding Josh Bassett. The defence withstood that attack, and were stretched again when the forwards powered their way over the line, only for Myall to be held up. Bayonne were penalised at the resultant scrum, and Goode made no mistake from just to the right of the posts, to make the score 7-3, after 17 minutes.
After a few minutes of Bayonne pressure, Wasps found their way back to the other end of the field and Joe Simpson’s high kick forced a knock-on, deep in the Bayonne 22. From the scrum, Christian Wade came into the line from his wing, and almost sent Charlie Hayter through. He was stopped a few metres out, and Wasps were awarded a penalty. Goode again had a simple kick and Wasps were now within a point, 15 minutes from the break.
Bayonne came back immediately, with an incisive move which almost ended with Scott Spedding going over for a try near the posts. He appeared to make a double movement, but Christian Wade’s tackle then forced a knock-on as he stretched out for the line. Joe Simpson was penalised for a crooked feed to the ensuing scrum, and Bayonne launched another drive for the line which almost brought a second try. With the battering ram strength of their giant number 8 Opeti Fonua as the key weapon, they kept up the pressure and eventually forced a penalty near the posts. Brett made no mistake with a simple kick, to stretch the lead to 10-6, with eight minutes of the half to play.
In the final play of the half, Wasps won a turnover in midfield. Andy Goode fired a sharp pass out towards the left, where there was a hint of an overlap, but Chris Bell was unable to hang on to the ball, and the halftime whistle went. It was a fitting end to a frustrating half, in which a series of handling errors had prevented Wasps from making the most of several promising positions.
Four minutes into the second half, Goode brought Wasps back to within a point, with a penalty from the Bayonne 22, ten metres in from the left touchline. Wasps then made their first change, with Joe Launchbury taking the place of James Cannon.
Wasps began to step up the pace, and an improvised flick pass by Tommy Bell almost sent Christian Wade away, near the right corner. The defence kept him out, but a penalty was conceded. Wasps opted to kick for the corner. They won the lineout and a powerful drive for the line ended with Ed Jackson touching down for a try. Goode added the extra points, and Wasps were ahead for the first time, by 16 points to 10, after 54 minutes.
Two minutes later, following another lineout near the Bayonne line, the forwards set up a good position in midfield, and Joe Simpson hoisted a kick towards the left wing. Charlie Hayter was unable to gather, but knocked the ball backwards. It was gathered by Tommy Bell, who quickly fed Christian Wade. He evaded one tackle, slipped a second which sent him to the floor, without being held. He was back on his feet in an instant and produced a wonderful one-handed offload to send Josh Bassett over in the corner. Goode’s magnificent conversion stretched the lead to 23-10.
Wasps then made a series of replacements, with the loudest cheer coming for James Haskell as he came on for Guy Thompson, to make a welcome return after surgery in the close season.
Another Goode penalty stretched the lead to 26-10, with 17 minutes left to play. The game sagged in the closing quarter, until Goode’s long penalty to the corner set up a late opportunity. The flyhalf sent another well-judged kick to the left. Tommy Bell gathered, but was unable to control the ball as he crossed the line.
A final sustained attack saw Wasps keep the ball alive through a series of phases which used the full width of the pitch, but they were unable to find a way through, and the game ended with Bayonne winning a scrum penalty in their 22, and clearing to touch.
Wasps return to Premiership action next weekend, when Leicester Tigers come to Adams Park, on Sunday October the 27th. The game kicks off at 2pm.
Wasps team: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Chris Bell (captain), 12 Charlie Hayter, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Joe Simpson, 1 Matt Mullan, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 4 James Cannon, 5 Kearnan Myall, 6 Ed Jackson, 7 Guy Thompson, 8 Nathan Hughes
Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Taione Vea, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 James Haskell, 21 Jack Moates, 22 Joe Carlisle, 23 Ben Jacobs
Bayonne: Scott Spedding; Sam Gerber, Santiago Fernandez, Matthieu Ugalde, Bastien Furster; Stephen Brett, Matthieu Belie; JC Van Rensburg, David Roumieu, Gert Muller, Lisiate Fa’aoso, Mark Chisholm (captain), Jean Monribot, Jean-Jo Marmouyet, Opeti Fonua
Replacements: Gregory Arganese, Aretz Iguiniz, Nemiah Tialata, Dewald Senekal, Guillaume Rouet, Julien Puricelli, Guillaume Bernad, Abdelatif Boutaty