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For the second year, Wasps’ St George’s Day party was spoiled by a rampant performance from the men from The Rec. Bath had only managed 26 tries in their first 19 Aviva Premiership games, but they took control from the start, and produced some devastating rugby to sweep Wasps aside and keep alive their chances of sneaking in to the playoffs. Man of the Match Tom Biggs led the way, completing a superb hat-trick just before halftime, to give his side a commanding 29-3 lead.
Bath went ahead in the fourth minute, after Matt Carraro had cut inside the Wasps defence, to take play deep into their 22. They kept the ball alive well, and quick passing enabled Nick Abendanon to produce a slick offload for Tom Biggs, who came in from the left wing and dashed through a large hole to go over between the posts. Sam Vesty converted.
Wasps came close to a try, when Joe Simpson sent a chip to the left corner, but the bounce eluded the chasing Tom Varndell. Bath swept to the other end of the field, and came close to a second try, when Simon Taylor forced his way over the line, only for the TMO to rule that he had not grounded the ball.
Bath continued to press, and should have scored a second try, but Michael Claasens ignored his support, and went for the line, but knocked on. Their next meaningful attack was launched by a superb counterattacking run by Nick Abendanon. The ball was moved out to the left, where Biggs again threatened, but Richard Haughton just managed to get back in time to gather his chip and carry the ball over, for Bath scrum, which resulted in a penalty to Wasps, and the welcome chance to relieve the pressure.
The first sustained period of Wasps possession saw Elliot Daly coming in to the line effectively, but a promising movement ended with a knockon near halfway. This was the pattern for the next few minutes, with Wasps winning plenty of possession, including a stolen lineout on the ten metre line, but handling errors were a constant problem – never more so than when Tom Lindsay burst away from a maul, but Simon Shaw could not hold his pass.
Another incisive run by Abendanon, down the right, set the alarm bells ringing, and Bath piled on the pressure, again being stopped on the line, but Wasps were penalised and Vesty stretched the lead, with another simple kick, to make it 10-0, after 24 minutes.
With the sky darkening, and the ominous rumble of thunder becoming louder, things became blacker for Wasps two minutes later, after Bath counterattacked, following a turnover on their 22. They had numbers on the left, and the ball was spun out to Biggs, who raced away for his second try of the game. Vesty’s conversion made it 17-0.
A long kick to the corner by Joe Simpson gave Wasps their best position since the early stages of the game. They were unable to win the Bath lineout, but ther finally put points on the board when Dave Walder landed a 40-metre penalty, nine minutes before the break.
Four minutes later, Bath added their third try, when Classens sliced through the defence, following a lineout in Wasps territory. He found Matt Banahan in support, and the centre had a simple run-in fror the . Vesty’s conversion stretched Bath’s lead to 24-3.
Another superb attack by Bath saw Biggs complete his hat-trick, two minutes before the break. It again came from a turnover, and the ball was spun out to the left, where Biggs accelerate round Richard Haughton, then cut inside Elliot Daly and outpaced Haughton and Ben Jacobs, to go over for a memorable score. Vesty was unable to convert, but the whistle blew, with Bath in complete control, and the bonus point already under their belt.
During the interval, a series of lightning flashes brought a dramatic addition to the halftime entertainment. The opening minutes of the second half belonged to Wasps. They turned down a two kickable penalties, and opted for a tap, a few metres out. Billy Vunipola tried to force his way over, but lost control of the ball, as he stretched for the line.
Thirteen minutes into the half, Biggs produced another devastating crossfield burst, to take play deep into the Wasps half. The defence just managed to stop him, but Bath were awarded a penalty, which Vesty missed, from 40 metres.
Vesty then split the Wasps defence, before lifting a perfectly placed chip, which bounced into Banahan’s hands, and he forced his way over the line, although it took the TMO some time to confirm the try. Vesty added the conversion, to make the score 36-3.
Wasps came close to a try, following a powerful run by Billy Vunipola. He fed Riki Flutey, with a delicate offload, but the centre could not combine with Richard Haughton.
Wasps made a series of replacements, with Lindsay, Varndell and Walder making way for Joe Ward, Josh Lewsey and Mark Van Gisbergen. Vunipola was involved in a move which ended with Elliot Daly chipping ahead, but just failing to reach the ball before it went dead.
Wasps supporters were finally given something to cheer about, when Joe Simpson showed the Twickenham crowd his blistering pace to race half the length of the field for a magnificent solo try, which he converted with a quick drop kick, to make it 36-10, with 18 minutes left.
John Hart, Zak Taulafo and Vunipola then made way for Richard Birkett, Charlie Beech and Serge Betsen. They were soon followed by Nic Berry, who replaced Joe Simpson.
Betsen and Lewsey both came close, as Wasps sought to salvage some pride, before they made their final replacement, with Bob Baker coming on for Ben Broster. Another desperate attack brought Lewsey into the action again, but the pass to him was forward, and he was called back as he made another charge for the line.
Biggs then turned creator, when, millimetres from the touchline, he sent a chip towards the Wasps line. The ball bounced perfectly for Matt Carraro, who went over for Bath’s sixth try, which Vesty again converted, to make the score a painful 43-10.
Vesty was replaced by Paul Roberts, who missed a straightforward penalty. Bath spent the last few minutes going for another score, before the final whistle went, to end a painful afternoon for the Men in Black and Gold.
Wasps play their final Aviva Premiership game of the season on Saturday, May the 7th, when they visit Exeter Chiefs.
15 Elliot Daly 14 Richard Haughton 13 Ben Jacobs 12 Riki Flutey 11 Tom Varndell 10 Dave Walder 9 Joe Simpson 1 Zak Taulafo 2 Tom Lindsay 3 Ben Broster 4 Simon Shaw 5 Joe Launchbury 6 John Hart (c) 7 Dan Ward-Smith 8 Billy Vunipola
16 Joe Ward 17 Charlie Beech 18 Bob Baker 19 Richard Birkett 20 Serge Betsen 21 Nic Berry 22 Mark Van Gisbergen 23 Josh Lewsey
15 Nick Abendanon 14 Jacques Boussuge 13 Matt Carraro 12 Matt Banahan 11 Tom Biggs 10 Sam Vesty 9 Michael Claasens (c) 1 David Flatman 2 Lee Mears 3 David Wilson 4 Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe 5 Danny Grewcock 6 Ben Skirving 7 Lewis Moody 8 Simon Taylor
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon 17 Nathan Catt 18 Duncan Bell 19 Josh Ovens 20 Guy Mercer 21 Mark McMillan 22 Paul Roberts 23 Nick Scott