The early stages gave no indication of the tension to follow as Bath eased into a six point lead via a brace of penalties from Chris Malone. King replied with a penalty success of his own as both sides struggled to break down the fiercely organized defences, with the most notable moment of the opening exchanges being Alessio Galasso flattening Trevor Leota as the Samoan hooker tried to stop the burly French prop advancing. Indeed, it wasn't until Lyle was harshly sent to the sin bin, adjudged to have been guilty of killing the ball that the match opened up.
Unfortunately for Bath, Wasps took full advantage of the extra man, laying siege to the Bath line in a ten minute spell of concerted pressure. Kenny Logan and Josh Lewsey both knocked on with the line at their mercy, before King's cross field kick was gathered by Lewsey who managed to touch down under pressure from Simon Danielli. King converted and was on hand to add the extras three minutes later after Lewsey's second try.
Mike Catt, playing at full back, attempted a long miss pass that was perfectly read by Wasps wing Shane Roiser. Roiser intercepted and raced seventy metres before being hauled down by the covering Tom Voyce. Lewsey was in support though to take the scoring pass. It was a disastrous five minutes for Bath Rugby, who up until that point had looked very much in the match.
The second half seemed to bring a rejuvenated Bath side as Nathan Thomas, enjoying a fine match at number eight, and skipper Danny Grewcock began to make yards with the ball in hand. After a typically thrusting run from Gavin Thomas, Wasps were penalized for offside and Malone landed his third penalty of the contest to reduce the arrears.
Ten minutes later Bath Rugby were staring down the barrel. Former Wales international scrum half Rob Howley accelerated away from a ruck in midfield, breaking a flimsy tackle by David Barnes to race clear. He drew Catt and fed inside to the awaiting Phil Greening who failed to take the pass. This was, according to referee Nigel Whitehouse, because Barnes had taken the England Sevens star out before he received the ball and thus awarded a penalty try. King's conversion put Wasps 24-9 in front.
This time last season with the club shy of confidence and on a three match losing run the team may not have had the heart to respond, and yet, under the tutelage of their Australian coaching quartet, Bath have rediscovered the steely resolve of old and proceeded to fight their way back into a contest that seemed beyond them.
After sixty minutes Bath gave themselves a lifeline with a superbly worked try, their first of the season. Danielli gathered a speculative clearance kick and fed the ball inside to Malone. Malone straightened the back line and found Kevin Maggs who released Mike Tindall into space. The England international centre needed no second invitation to cruise over in the corner and run round towards the posts. Malone converted to make the score 16-24 and shortly after kicked a fourth successful penalty as Bath came roaring back.
Another Malone penalty five minutes from time set up a grandstand finale, and Bath amazingly took the lead in stoppage time with a quite breathtaking try. Catt took a long kick on his 22 and threw a pass wide to the waiting Tom Voyce. Voyce took off showing the pace and elusiveness that earned him a full England cap in 2001, dancing and weaving his way past defender after defender on a seventy-metre run. He was hauled down deep into Wasps territory yet managed to offload to Grewcock who kept the movement alive. The ball was recycled and Catt joined the line finding Lyle on his shoulder.
The US Eagle still had a lot to do but managed to hold off a challenge and reach over for the score. Malone's attempted conversion drifted just wide. From the re-start Wasps showed their mettle. Lyle and Greening challenged for the ball that ricocheted kindly into the path of King who tied up the scores with his monster drop goal.
Bath Rugby Head Coach Michael Foley said afterwards, "I am very, very pleased with the way the team fought. The players were determined today, and they hope to be more consistent." If they can show the fighting spirit that was in evidence in the second half for the rest of the season then Bath's loyal supporters can look forward to an excellent campaign.
Bath Rugby: Mike Catt, Simon Danielli, Kevin Maggs, Mike Tindall, Tom Voyce, Chris Malone, Gareth Cooper, David Barnes, Jonathan Humphries (Lee Mears 74), Alessio Galasso (John Mallett 61), Andy Beattie (Andy Lloyd 71), Danny Grewcock, Gavin Thomas, Dan Lyle, Nathan Thomas
Replacements not used: Ross Blake, Rob Thirlby, Alex Crockett, James Scaysbrook
London Wasps: Josh Lewsey, Shane Roiser (Paul Sampson h/t), Stuart Abbott, Mark Denney, Kenny Logan, Alex King, Rob Howley, Craig Dowd (Will Green 53), Trevor Leota (Paul Volley 24), Darren Molloy, Simon Shaw, Joe Beardshaw (Richard Birkett 64), Joe Worsley, Phil Greening, Lawrence Dallaglio
Replacements not used: Ben Gotting, Harvey Biljon, Will Wigram
Bath Rugby: Tries: Mike Tindall, Dan Lyle. Conversions: Chris Malone. Penalties: Chris Malone (5).
London Wasps: Tries: Josh Lewsey (2), Penalty Try. Conversions: Alex King (2). Penalties: Alex King (2). Drop Goal: Alex King.
Referee: Nigel Whitehouse
Touch Judges: Paul Emerson, David Grashoff
Man of the Match: Rob Howley (London Wasps)