Bath faced a tough match against London Wasps this afternoon at Adams Park, as they tackled the reigning Heineken Cup Champions with a star-studded line up. Fielding a rotated squad, reminiscent of the team that played Albi in the European Challenge Cup two weeks before, a resurgence of skill and power in the second half was not enough to claw back a victory in High Wycombe and Bath left London Wasps with a 25-10 defeat.
Just 70 seconds into play, Wasps had gained a three-point lead, after a Bath offence enabled Wasps' Danny Cipriani to slot the ball between the posts for his first penalty. Less than four minutes later, Tom Voyce had broken down the wing, taking the ball inside Bath's 22 for Rob Webber, who was a last minute replacement for the flu-stricken Tom Rees, to register five further points on the scoreboard. Cipriani followed up with an easy conversion, giving Wasps a ten-point advantage.
The next points were not conceded until 29 minutes, as Bath displayed good defence, while Olly Barkley, having come on for the injured Tom Cheeseman after only nine minutes, sparked some incisive attacking moves in the back line.
In one such move, Eliota Fuimano-Sapolu, back at inside centre, showed impressive pace and balance to make up for the distance gained by a burst from Josh Lewsey, to establish field position on the Wasps 10 metre line.
After some good interplay by Bath, the ball was cleared to Wasps 22 and although the home side attempted to send the ball straight back down the pitch, Nick Abendanon, energised by his first try of the season against Leeds, was ready and waiting and burst from wing to midfield. The run failed to award the west country side with the much needed points though and Paul Sackey made the most of a swift pass from Flutey then Voyce, to soar over the line for five points. Cipriani converted, taking the homeside up to a 17-point lead.
With two minutes left before injury time, Joe Maddock swept uncontested up the middle of the pitch, directly into the Wasps 22. The pressure mounting on the home side forced Voyce to make a break down the wing, but Abendanon and Stephenson were eagerly awaiting and hot on his heels, ensuring that the winger failed to get past the halfway line. With an excruciatingly long injury time on the clock, Danny Grewcock was sent off for a dubious stamping of Skivington and Cipriani enjoyed a final minute three points after being awarded a penalty. Bath left the pitch at the half-time whistle 20 - 0 down and needing an injection of the spirit that has made them such an excitement to watch of recent weeks.
Moments into the second half, flanker Daniel Leo tried to rack up some early points, but Stephenson, consistently tackling well against Wasps, took him down just outside the 22, and after two minutes the ball was back in Bath's possession and within Wasps 22. The heat was on Wasps, as Bath displayed greater determination, forcing Dallaglio to offend and giving Barkley, clearly unperturbed by recent events, the chance to display his world-class ability as he sent the ball sailing between the sticks for a penalty.
To the sounds from the crowds of "Allez Bath", Wasps were back under pressure, and as the Wasp captain broke out from the scrummage, passing to Sackey, Abendanon halted the wing in his tracks with a textbook tackle. Unfortunately for Bath's fullback, Sackey had his own back minutes later, as a grubber kick from Van Gisbergen sent the ball bobbling rapidly towards the try line. Just as Abendanon attempted to get to the ball before the Wasp, Sackey pounced on it to make the try.
The final ten minutes belonged to Bath, with the visitors advanced towards the Wasps line with renewed vigour, determined to score the breakthrough try that would haul them back into the game.
As the pack besieged the Wasps defence, Danny Grewcock used his 19-stone frame to punch a hole through the Wasps line. With the Wasps defence disintegrating, Joe Maddock sprinted over the line for a score between the posts. Barkley's conversion took the score to 25-10.
Moments later Bath had a further opportunity to reduce the arrears as Olly Barkley powered towards the try line. Although the centre crossed the line in the corner, despite the close attention of Sackey, the video replay showed that he had lost control of the ball before the line, and Bath were denied five points.
In the dying moments Bath continued to press, denying the hosting team a vital bonus point, but, unable to breech the Wasps defence once more, the final whistle resounded to a 25-10 defeat.