Bath Rugby sealed their place in the Amlin Challenge Cup Final this afternoon after a closely fought encounter against London Wasps, final score 18-24.
The away side emerged the victors to book their place in the final for the first time since 2008.
It was Wasps who registered the first points of the match through the assured boot of Andy Goode with an early penalty just inside the 22, after Bath were penalised at the scrum. 3-0.
Bath started to find their feet in the game, stringing a couple of decent phases of play together and after a promising attacking spell in the Wasps 22, Ford levelled the scores after a Wasps infringement in the maul. 3-3.
Just minutes later, Wasps had another penalty opportunity in front of the posts as Bath were judged to be guilty of not rolling away. Goode made no mistake to nudge Wasps back in the lead after 15 minutes of play. 6-3.
The visitors took the lead soon after though. After Ford found touch in the corner with a superb kick, the ball was thrown to the back of the lineout, which set the foundations for a big powerful drive towards the line. Anthony Perenise crashed over to emerge as the scorer and Ford nailed the conversion. 6-10.
Both teams were trying to play fast, expansive rugby, with some big hits being made across the park making it an entertaining encounter for both sets of supporters.
A clever chip through from centre Elliot Daly forced a defensive lineout 5m from the Bath try line. Hooper secured the ball and although Stringer's attempted clearance was charged down, Ford cleared the ball with the 22 dropout. His kick went only as far as Daly and Will Helu though, and the two combined to send the winger in under the posts. Goode converted in the last act of half as Wasps went into the break with a slender lead.
Half-time score: London Wasps 13 Bath Rugby 10
Wasps came racing out of the blocks in the second half as they looked to build on the momentum gained before the break. After quick hands across the back line, they thought they had scored their second try through Kearnan Myall, but after a quick consultation with the TMO, referee Roman Poite ruled it out due to a forward pass in the build-up.
With the momentum swinging from team to team throughout the game, a moment of quick thinking by 98 times capped Peter Stringer, spotted a gap and a pin-point grubber kick went out into touch on the Wasps 5m line. Wasps hooker Carlo Festuccia overthrew the ball, missing the jumper and instead finding the grateful hands of former Wasps Rob Webber, who swooped on the ball to score the try near the posts, leaving Ford with a straightforward conversion. 13-17.
Bath looked to further extend their lead but the Wasps defence held firm with a series of promising attacking phases for the away team coming to nothing. However, the pressure paid off and after another lineout, safely gathered by Hooper, another powerful Bath maul was only going in one direction, gathering pace all the time and eventually Webber crashed over to notch up his second try of the game. Ford once again converted with just over 20 minutes of the second half played. 13-24.
Bouyed on by their home support, Wasps immediately stepped back on the attack. The intent was clear when Goode passed up a kickable shot at goal to instead send the ball to the corner for a 5m lineout. This time around, despite a gallant defensive effort, Wasps proved too strong and after a consultation with the TMO, flanker Ashley Johnson was awarded the try. Goode missed the conversion, but Wasps had their tails up and the comeback was on. 18-24.
Straight from the re-start, replacement Anthony Watson looked to have won the ball and a searing break from the young back had the Wasps defence scrambling. The ball was worked quickly through the hands to Jonathan Joseph, who thought he'd scored a great try, only for Poite to reverse his decision on consultation with the TMO - Watson had knocked the ball on earlier in play, and so the try was disallowed.
A nervy last ten minutes followed for Bath as phase after phase of attack from Wasps threatened to puncture the defence at any moment, and with Kyle Eastmond's sin-binning meaning Bath were down to 14 men, it was a tense countdown for the travelling support.
With just under three minutes left, a 5m line-out to Wasps saw them practically camped on the Bath line but the visitor's resolute efforts were rewarded with a penalty and Ford cleared the ball as far as he could into touch.
Only a minute remained on the clock as Leroy Houston rose to gather the lineout and a patient, but powerful, maul had Bath in control in the dying seconds. The maul kept rumbling but Micky Young showed no hesitation in booting the ball into the stands to book their place in the Amlin Challenge Cup Final.
Final score: London Wasps 18 Bath Rugby 24