5 years ago
2 October 2008, 1:24pm
Adams Park proved to be a bogey ground for Bath Rugby last season, yet on a bitter evening in Buckinghamshire, Bath made amends in the best possible way, defeating champions London Wasps 23-27 in an exhilarating match to move to the top of the Guinness Premiership table.
Michael Claassens, Matt Stevens, Pieter Dixon and Joe Maddock scored tries for Bath ensuring a maximum-point haul from the away fixture. It was also an impressive performance, reminiscent of the Bath that set the Guinness Premiership alight last season, outlining the club's title intentions.
On this form, there would be few who would disagree. Starting as they had finished against Worcester at the weekend, Bath wasted no time in taking the game to the champions and were rewarded with a deserved try from Michael Claassens after five minutes.
The build-up was all about power and brawn as Matt Stevens and Justin Harrison provided the impetus to drive Bath into the Wasps 22. The finish though was classic fluid Bath as Nick Abendanon's clever chip split the Wasps defence and provided the opportunity for Pieter Dixon to charge towards the champions' line. The hooker was hailed down off the whitewash, but Claassens was on hand to finish the move. Butch James missed with the conversion attempt, but Bath were five points up and in control.
The pressure was unrelenting. Bath were in control and after a prolonged period of possession deep inside Wasps territory, Bath were awarded a scrum feet from the Wasps line and with it the chance of extending the lead. The platform allowed the Bath pack to drive forward before before Stevens forced his way over for his side's second try. James made up for his earlier miss, booting the ball between the sticks for the conversion.
The champions were not going to give up without a fight and Paul Sackey, doing his bit to reverse the 12-0 deficit, made a scintillating break, side-stepping through the Bath defence before being eventually halted by Alex Crockett. It was an important tackle, but an offside infringement gave Wasps a small chance to reduce the points deficit as fly half Cipriani kicked the ball straight between the posts for the penalty.
It was to be a brief lapse against the run of play and Bath nearly added a third try. Jonny Faamatuainu's show and go gave him the space to career up towards the line. Joe Maddock, supporting all the way, continued the charge and Stevens made a lunge for the line. Inches from the line and with Harrison staying on the floor, the melee did not conclude with a try.
Instead, Wasps fought back and a Bath infringement allowed Cipriani to put his boot into action again. The kick seemingly sailed through the posts, the assistant referee's flags went up, but the Referee did not accept the kick, perplexing the home support. There was no mistake two minutes later though when another Bath offence allowed Cipriani to decrease the score gap to 6-12 after 35 minutes.
The score served to boost Wasps and after another strong Sackey break, Cipriani off-loaded to Riki Flutey who went over for the try Cipriani's conversion gave Wasps a 13-12 lead.
A difficult period for the visitors was further compounded when another Bath infringement invited Cipriani to win a further three points for his side. The young England international made no mistake and Wasps went in at half time with a 16-12 lead.
Determined to recover the lead, Bath Rugby came back with renewed aggression in the second half as prop Stevens charged through Phil Vickery, offloading to Claassens who in turn passed to Harrison and then to Cuthbert who came close in the corner. Quick recycled ball kept Bath on the front foot and the ball was rapidly shipped to the other wing where Dixon was waiting to score the try that handed the visitors the lead once more. James pulled the conversion just wide, but Bath were simmering.
Cipriani, having scored 12 of his side's 16 points, was penalised for a shoulder barge on Butch James. For the offender it was to be his last act of the game as the rehabilitated Cipriani made way for Staunton, but for James it was another routine three points to take Bath to a four point lead.
In an exciting seesaw of a match, Wasps took the lead once more as after a series of scrums close to the Bath line, flanker Tom Rees forced his way through the pack to touch down for the try. A conversion by Staunton gave Wasps a further two points and a 23-21 lead.
The lead was to be short-lived. Seconds later Abendanon burst past Josh Lewsey and Dominic Waldouck to find Maddock in support for the try that brought up the try scoring bonus point for the European Challenge Cup champions. It was also a second try in as many matches from the in-form Maddock. James converted and Bath were 23-27 to the good.
With time running out, Wasps embarked on desperate catch-up rugby. With pressure mounting, Wasps trying everything and Bath throwing everything at protecting the lead, both teams failed to demonstrate the same flair that had been shown earlier in the match.
Enjoying the benefit of the fresh legs of Lee Mears, Andrew Higgins and Duncan Bell, Bath put in a final effort to really make amends for the losses last season at Adams Park and held on valiantly to secure a 23- 27 victory that took Bath to the top of the Guinness Premiership table.
Other results for this match are not available.
Lineups for this match are not available.