The game was played on the all-weather surface at Maidenhead RFC and Wasps produced some thrilling rugby, to score seven excellent tries in front of a large and appreciative crowd.
The opening minutes of the game were notable for some eye-catching running by the elusive Wasps fly-half Owain James, and he played a major role in the first try of the match, after 8 minutes.
A poor throw allowed Wasps to steal a Bath attacking lineout, deep inside their 22. The forwards took the ball up towards halfway and it was then moved out to the right. A superb offload by flanker Tommy Spinks gave James the chance to dart through a gap. He made 20 metres, before feeding Tom Howe 30 metres out. The winger still had plenty to do, but stepped inside the first line of defence before heading off towards the posts. He was caught by a despairing ankle-tap, a few metres from the line, but managed to stay on his feet and crash over for a fine score which James converted.
Five minutes later, another deft offload by Spinks, this time after a rampaging run down the middle, sent James in for Wasps’ second try which he converted to make the score 14-0.
At this point, the character of the game changed, and Bath took complete control for the rest of the half. They dominated territory and possession, but a combination of poor passing and handling and determined Wasps defence, meant they were unable to capitalise on their dominance. Their only clear scoring chances came from two penalties, within two minutes of each other, but flyhalf Ed Coulson missed both. He was unlucky with the first, from 35 metres out to the left of the posts, as it came back off the right upright. His second, from 40 metres, but straight in front, went wide leaving Wasps still 14-0 ahead at the break.
Bath began the second half as they had finished the first but were still unable to breach the Wasps defence, and it was the home side who produced the first real threat of the half, when Tom Howe came in off his wing to take a well-timed pass from James and break the Bath line with a diagonal run, which took him deep into the 22. Unfortunately, there was no one in support and his ambitious infield pass was intercepted.
Two minutes later, James scooped up a loose ball and made 15 metres through the middle of the Bath defence. Quick recycled ball was moved out to the left, and skipper Alex Lundberg put in a powerful charge before sending a pass towards Joel Harvey, out wide on the left. The ball bounced before reaching him, but he accelerated on to it before cutting inside the defence to go over for the third try, which James again converted.
Bath responded with another period of sustained pressure, which ended with winger Rich Galloway going over for an unconverted try in the left corner to make the score 21-5, after 12 minutes of the second half.
Any hopes of a comeback by the visitors were soon dashed by a simple but superbly worked try to claim the bonus point. Wasps won a lineout on the right, a few metres inside the Bath 22. Quick, crisp passing along the back line sent centre Alex Harrison over in the opposite corner. For the first time, James was unable to convert, but he put that miss right, four minutes later, when he added the extra points to Jackson Burton’s try, to take the score to 33-5.
By now, Wasps had used all of their replacements and it was an outstanding piece of work by Louis Clayton-Molloy which set up the next try. He gathered a high kick just outside his 22, and eluded two chasers, before setting off on a run which took him up to half-way. When he was tackled, Wasps recycled quickly and spun the ball out to the right, where another replacement, Dan Rowlands, produced a blistering turn of speed to race over for another superb score, which stretched the lead to 40-5.
Bath came back with an unconverted try by number 8 Tom Woolstencroft, as the game entered injury time, but it was Wasps who had the last word, when pressure in the left corner led to Morgan Ward coming in on a well-angled run before producing a lovely offload to send replacement hooker Ryan Cole over, between the posts. James landed the easy conversion, to make the final score 47-10.
Academy skills coach Chris Lloyd was understandably delighted with the performance and the result. “That was a great game of rugby, and the performance was a real step up from our first game against London Irish.
“We had a pretty long, arduous training session this morning, and it was very rewarding, as a coach, to see that they boys took so much of what we told them on board. On top of that, they threw their own things into the pot, and were very creative in their problem solving. It was really pleasing that they took all that out on to the pitch this afternoon.
“They were up against a very good side, and the score maybe flattered us a bit. There are some very good players in that Bath team , including several England age-group players. They’re well-coached, they never looked ragged and the way they played in the second quarter really had us hanging on at half-time. But we stepped up in the second half, and I’m very, very happy with the way things turned out.”
London Wasps U18
1. Tom West
2. Ian Brown
3. Alex Lundberg (c)
4. Jake O’Leary
5. Oskar Hirsky-Douglas
6. Jackson Burton
7. Tommy Spinks
8. Matt Blandford
9. Akira Takenaka
10. Owain James
11. Joel Harvey
12. Morgan Ward
13. Alex Harrison
14. Tom Howe
15. George Saunders
16. Ryan Cole
17. Beno Obano
18. George Edgson
19. Brad Schraff
20. Danny Williams
21. Ben Wood
22. Dan Rowlands
23. Louis Clayton-Molloy
24. Marcus Sirmon