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A performance full of grit and determination by the young Wasps side was not quite enough to secure the win that would have guaranteed Premiership survival, but some heroic defence denied the hosts three tries, and the Men in Black and Gold were able to claim a losing bonus point, which leaves them four points clear of Newcastle, ahead of the bottom of the table shootout in two weeks’ time.
Wasps were forced to make a late change to their line-up, when Elliot Daly failed a fitness test on a niggling knee injury. Chris Mayor took his place in the starting XV, with Tom Prydie joining the replacements.
Wasps came under immediate pressure, when Olly Barkley switched the direction of the kickoff, and Tom Varndell was beaten to the ball. Wasps were penalised at the first breakdown, and Barkley chose to go for touch. Bath won the lineout and made a series of drives for the line, but the Wasps defence held firm, eventually forcing a penalty, which Nick Robinson cleared to touch, a few metres inside the Bath half.
Wasps then won the lineout, the forwards drove the Bath pack ten metres, before releasing the ball. Nick Robinson ghosted through a gap and found Chris Mayor in support. He crossed the 22, before passing to Charlie Davies, but the referee ruled that the ball had gone forward.
Christian Wade then showed his speed, after Bath moved the ball across their back, inside their own 22. They had an overlap on the left, but Wade raced in, to get his hand to the ball, but it was clearly a deliberate knock on, and Bath were able to find touch in Wasps territory.
After excellent Wasps work at the breakdown yielded a penalty, they controlled the ball through a series of phases, before Nick Robinson found touch at the left corner, with a long, raking kick. Bath threw long at the lineout, but knocked on, giving Wasps an attacking scrum, a few metres out. Charlie Davies made a thrust for the line, but was stopped by a crunching tackle, which left him requiring treatment. Billy Vunipola then continued the attack, and Wasps won a penalty, just to the left of the posts, and Nick Robinson opened the scoring with a simple kick, after 14 minutes of play.
Wasps then sacrificed a promising position on the Bath 22, after Nick Abendanon deflected another low Robinson kick into touch. They lost the lineout, enabling Bath to clear to their 22.
Tom Lindsay’s throw in to the lineout was then ruled not straight. From the scrum, Bath launched their first threatening attack, with Stephen Donald bursting through a gap, to be stopped just short. Bath recycled quickly, and Stuart Hooper went for the line, but Charlie Davies managed to get underneath him, to prevent the try. The pack then produced a magnificent surge to turn over possession and win a scrum of their own. They won the ball, Billy Vunipola broke on the blind side and fed Christian Wade, who skipped through a tackle to cross the 22, before feeding Sam Jones. When he was stopped, the ball was moved out wide to the left, and Tom Varndell made his way in to the Bath 22. The referee then appeared to award a penalty to Wasps, but it was taken back to halfway for an earlier offence.
Minutes later, after another fine kick by Robinson found touch at the corner, Bath attempted to move the ball and aggressive Wasps tackling forced a penalty, 15 metres in from touch. Robinson landed the kick to give Wasps a deserved 6-0 lead, with 11 minutes of the half to play.
Wasps then came tantalisingly close to the first try of the game after winning a lineout inside the Bath 22. Chris Mayor chose a perfect line to slice through the defence with a diagonal run. He had Christian Wade outside him, but was unable to get the ball away. Wasps kept possession, and moved back infield, but Tom Lindsay knocked on, a few metres out, with options outside him.
With seven minutes of the half left, another powerful Wasps scrum yielded a penalty, 30 metres out, and in front of the Bath posts. Robinson made it three out of three, to give Wasps a 9-0 advantage.
Bath should have scored right on the break, when Michael Claasens burst through a tackle to break around the fringe of a breakdown, on the Wasps 22. He seemed certain to score, but Jack Wallace put in a superbly timed tackle as he crossed the line, and managed to hold him up until Charlie Davies and Joe Launchbury came to his aid, and the ball was not grounded, leaving Wasps with a thoroughly deserved nine-point lead at halftime.
Had it not been for lineout frailties, and the failure to finish off Chris Mayor’s scything run, they could have had a bigger lead.
Inside the first minute of the second half, Wasps had an excellent attacking position, after Joe Launchbury’s excellent kick chase. The ball was worked out to Varndell on the left. He cut inside, the ball was fed to Billy Vunipola at pace, but Sam Jones was penalised for crossing. Another good position then came to nothing, when Wasps were penalised at the breakdown,
after another strong run by Vunipola.
Bath then created a half chance when they broke away down the right. Right wing Matt Carraro hoisted the ball over the advancing Jack Wallace, but was unable to gather the high bounce, with 30 metres of open field ahead of him.
Eight minutes into the half, Wasps’ lineout failings cost them dear. Bath stole the ball, just outside the Wasps 22. The ball was moved out to the left, where Matt Banahan made a few metres. Play then came back to the right, where the Wasps defence was looking stretched, and Lee Mears produced a fine turn of pace to go over for an excellent try. Barkley’s kick was pushed just left of the posts.
Six minutes later, Bath took the lead, this time from their own lineout, on the Wasps 22. Ben Skirving won good ball, and Claasens’ pass was perfectly placed for Stephen Donald to charge between Nick Robinson and Jonathan Poff without a finger being laid on him. Barkley added the conversion, to make the score 12-9, after 54 minutes.
Wasps then made their first substitution, when Tinus du Plessis came on for Poff, who had required treatment for a knee injury, shortly before the try.
Bath almost added a third try, after Tom Biggs chipped over the defence, and gathered his own kick, only to be stopped within metres of the line. With Bath attackers arriving in force, Joe Launchbury managed to win the ball, to save a certain score.
Bath were now gaining in confidence, and finding a pace and direction which had been missing from their first half performance, with 15 minutes left.
With 15 minutes left, Wasps came close to regaining the lead, from a counterattack started inside their own 22. Nick Robinson drifted through a gap and sent Wade away down the right. He was just getting into his stride when Tom Biggs brought him down with a last-ditch ankle tap. Wasps kept the attack alive, and moved the ball back out wide to the left, where Tom Varndell was stopped inches short. By now Nic Berry had replaced Charlie Davies.
After another Wasps attack ended with a penalty to the home side, Bath ran the ball and came close to a try after a sustained attack. It produced a penalty, close to the line, but Barkley’s kick rebounded off the post, into the arms of Ben Broster, and Wasps were able to clear. Ross Filipo then replaced Richard Birkett, who’d clearly been struggling for some time.
The momentum was now all with Bath, and the gallant Wasps defence was finally breached seven minutes from time, after Bath opted to kick a penalty to the corner. The pack drove for the line, and made several attempts to go over, before enough defenders were sucked in for the ball to be moved out to the left, where Abendanon made the most of a huge overlap to go over for a try, which Barkley was unable to convert.
Five minutes from time, Wasps clawed their way to within seven points, but hopes of hanging on to the bonus point appeared to have evaporated three minutes later, when a charging run by Josh Ovens gave Sam Vesty a clear run in for a try. Before crossing the line, he raised his arm, to salute the crowd, and Tom Varndell managed to get back and put in a tackle which prevented his former team-mate from grounding the ball.
For the third time, referee Dave Pearson consulted the TMO. Replays seemed to confirm that no try had been scored, so it came as a shock when TRY appeared on the big screen. It also seemed to surprise Mr. Pearson, who waved his arms from side to side, to contradict the ruling. It transpired that the TMO had informed him that no try had been scored, but had then pressed the wrong button! The error was immediately corrected, but the incident had done nothing for frayed Wasps nerves.
Bath still had a scrum in the shadow of the posts, but the Wasps eight dug deep to produce a superb shove which produced a penalty. Robinson found touch just outside the 22, but Wasps again lost the lineout, giving Bath one last chance to attack, with the clock almost at zero. To their great relief, Vesty knocked on, and the whistle blew, meaning that Wasps had secured what could be a crucial bonus point.
There is now a two-week break, before Wasps face Newcastle Falcons in the final game of the season, at Adams Park, on Saturday, May the 5th.
That game now becomes the relegation decider, with Newcastle having to beat Wasps by more than 23 points, or win with a bonus point without Wasps earning their own bonus point, to force London Wasps to the foot of the Aviva Premiership table.
The team need your support more than ever at that game! To secure your place at Adams Park on May 5th and stand shoulder to shoulder in support of the boys, call the London Wasps ticket hotline on 0844 225 2990 or book online here.
15. Jack Wallace 14. Christian Wade 13. Chris Mayor 12. Elliot Daly 11. Tom Varndell 10. Nick Robinson9. Charlie Davies 1. Tim Payne 2. Tom Lindsay 3. Ben Broster 4. Joe Launchbury 5. Richard Birkett (c) 6. Sam Jones 7. Jonathan Poff 8. Billy Vunipola
16. Vladislav Korshunov 17. Zac Taulafo 18. Simon McIntyre 19. Ross Filipo 20. Tinus DuPlessis 21. Nic Berry 22. Tom Prydie 23. Lee Robinson
15. Nick Abendanon 14. Matt Carraro 13. Matt Banahan 12. Olly Barkley 11. Tom Biggs 10. Stephen Donald 9. Michael Claassens 1. Nathan Catt 2. Lee Mears 3. David Wilson 4. Stuart Hooper 5. Ben Skirving 6. Josh Ovens 7. Carl Fearns 8. Simon Taylor
16 Pieter Dixon 17 David Flatman 18 Duncan Bell 19 Dave Attwood 20 Guy Mercer 21 Mark McMillan 22 Sam Vesty 23 Kyle Eastmond