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London Wasps players and supporters alike will be ruing another missed opportunity this evening, as having come back from a 13 point deficit to take charge of their new Year's Day fixture against Bath, Wasps lost their way in the final quarter and surrendered the win to a jubilant home side.
Bath took their lead within the first sixteen minutes, with a 12 minute penalty by Chris Malone followed up by a Malone converted try in the corner for Kiwi winger Joe Maddock. This was a reflection of the home side's lively start to the game, with their forwards getting the drive on in the loose and set piece, setting a platform from which Malone and his backs looked full of attacking running.
Indeed, Wasps first foray into the Bath 22 did not come until the game was into the second quarter, when Dave Walder and Dominic Waldouck combined to send Rob Hoadley on a run towards the line. Walder slotted the ensuing penalty and, though Bath continued to look dangerous on the counter attack, Wasps started to take more control.
Wasps' comeback came as the rain also set in, but for fly half Walder, playing in the driving rain seems to be becoming a staple of his time at Wasps. After having done well in atrocious conditions against Saracens at the start of December, here he kicked Wasps back into contention, under sheeting rain, with two more penalties before half time.
Wasps comeback was complete in the 47th minute, when Walder set Waldouck off on a run down the left that saw the centre evade three attempted tackles as the line approached. As he looked to make the scoring pass to the player outside him though, Bath's Olly Barkley blocked the way, happy to concede the scrum for a knock on instead.By this time Wasps had asserted their ascendancy up front, and when referee Roy Maybank saw Bath's front row stand up in their second attempt at holding Wasps scrummage drive, he had no hesitation in running to the posts to award a penalty try.
Walder's simple conversion took Wasps 13-16 ahead, and though Malone equalised with his third penalty of the day in the 52nd minute, Wasps still looked the favourites to take the honours.
However, as the rain stopped and the game entered its final quarter, Bath's open side flanker, James Scaysbrook, contrived to turn around the direction of the game all by himself, with two searing breaks though the middle that raised the pace of the game and the spirit of his side. The first lifted the intensity of Bath's game, the second allowed them to play off the front foot and, recycling quick ball in the Wasps 22, Bath were able to move the ball to the wing where Maddock easily capitalised on the overlap for a simple slide over the line.
Just two minutes later however, Walder had pulled Wasps back to 23-19 and his raking penalty kick to touch from his own half, with just five minutes remaining, gave Wasps the platform from which they should have won the game. Winning the line out 10 metres out, the forwards got the maul going and their momentum looked to be taking them all the way to the line. However, their dive for the line was premature and Bath were on hand to smother the man and win back the ball to revive the pressure.
Instead it was Bath who sealed their win with a soft try just two minutes from time. Walshe fielded a kick in his own half and, running it back down the blind side, he found space to pass to team-mate Shaun Berne, who dived over in the corner for Maybank to award the try, although Walshe's pass looked suspiciously forward.
Director of Ruby Ian McGeechan pointed to tactical errors in the final quarter in accounting for the loss. 'We didn't set off well, but then we came back and took control of the game.
'We'd got them up front and were dominating the second half, when we should have let our forwards take over, but we played away from the pack too much and so tactically we blew it.
'We gave Bath the chance to come back, so I'm very disappointed.'
The result means Wasps slip back to fourth in the Premiership, Gloucester's win at London Irish allowing them to climb back up to third.
Referee: Roy Maybank