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London Wasps have successfully defended their Zurich Premiership crown after beating Bath 10-6 at Twickenham on Saturday night. The win comes just six days after the same side was crowned European Champions. This victory means Wasps have completed the 'double' and picked up their fourth major trophy in two seasons.
The game itself was probably one of the tensest finals of all time. Both sides weren't going to surrender an inch of the field and both sides slugged it out till the bitter end. So close and so tight was the game, the score at half-time was 3-nil to Bath. Not many sides have kept Wasps from scoring any points but somehow Bath did.
The first half saw Wasps struggle with the lineouts, losing their first four in a row before managing to scramble a few back. Whether it was Trevor Leota's throwing in, the calls from forwards or even the jumping, nobody was sure what was going wrong. Bath managed to steal countless lineout balls and put Wasps under severe pressure. However, even though they had the majority of possession of the ball, they didn't do much with it besides kicking it away. One of those kicks was a penalty from Chris Malone within the first five minutes and that's what separated the two sides for the rest of the first half. Wasps had opportunities to score points in the half, but some stern defence and a few miss passes saw the ball go to ground, resulting in a loss in possession.
The players knew that the England selectors were watching and because Wasps and Bath have the majority of England players going on the various summer tours, things got heated, as they wanted to impress. Various scuffles broke out but the game itself never got out of hand.
Three nil down and with a title 40-minutes from being handed over to the West Country men, Wasps needed to do something, and fast. And that came from the captain himself. Lawrence Dallaglio laid down the platform for the rest of the side to follow and his performance in the second half dragged Wasps back into the game. His pick and drives from the No.8 position gave the side the much needed go-forward momentum and in doing so, allowed Alex King some time and space to slot a drop-goal. That score levelled the points at three-all and Wasps were on the scoreboard. However, another stolen lineout ball saw the ball being given to Malone who also landed a drop-goal, which regained the lead for his side.
Six-nil down and with the lineouts still a problem, Gatland summoned Ben Gotting to enter the game as a replacement for Leota. Gotting, who to be fair has had not a lot of game time this season, was asked to come on and scrum, throw and tackle Wasps back into the game. His first lineout was spot on and all of the next eight found their targets.
The Dallaglio go-forward momentum and with the lineouts now working, Wasps now had something to work with. It didn't take long before the only try of the game was scored. It came from pressure on the Bath backs. They tried some fancy move that went astray and between Paul Volley, Fraser Waters and Tom Voyce, Wasps managed to get the ball back, find a gap and put Stuart Abbott into space. The centre, who scored the first try of the match in the Heineken Cup final, pinned his ears back and raced away to score in the corner. That try, the resulting conversion from Mark Van Gisbergen, as well as a successful drop goal kick from Alex King gave Wasps a 10-6 lead, a lead that they would never surrender.
The final moments of the game saw Bath apply enormous amounts of pressure on Wasps and the final lineout of the game was five metres from the Wasps tryline. Gotting once again found his man and the ball was safely kicked into touch. Wasps held on for the 10-6 win; ironically it was the same score from when Gatland's side beat Bath down at The Rec.
After the game, Gatland said, " Backing up successfully from the Toulouse European final only six days ago was a pretty incredible feat. We wanted to go out and play rugby, and I thought we played some outstanding rugby in the second half".
"Bath played exactly as we expected them to. We knew they would be physical, but I thought the best team deserved the win".
Dallaglio who was named Man of the Match said, "We're very proud of what we've done-everyone as Wasps deserves a lot of credit. Last week was the cake and this week the icing on the cake. With the level of competition here and in Europe for us to do it is a big achievement, especially because we don't have the huge resources that other clubs have".
London Wasps are now English and European Club Rugby Champions.