Bath blast back into form with 28-16 win over Wasps

Bath did not just win this match, they completely outplayed London Wasps in every facet begging the question as to why the West Country side find themselves at the wrong end of the Guinness Premiership table.
Whilst the cup competitions have seen them excel, Jekyll and Hyde performances have blighted Bath's Premiership campaign to date. One minute superb, the next woeful. However, the 10,600 capacity crowd at the Recreation Ground saw something a little bit special on Saturday, and Wasps coach Shaun Edwards believes that Bath fans have yet to see the best of their side this season.

"The Bath fans are in for a treat over the coming months," said the former Great Britain Rugby League international and the mastermind of Wasps success in recent seasons.

Starved of tries at the Rec this term, Bath fans have had to rely on the trusty boots of Chris Malone and Olly Barkley to get their kicks, but the home side broke their try drought as early as the fifth minute when Duncan Bell powered his way over the line after flowing phases of rugby, a incisive break by David Bory and some very quick ball.

Bath's backs, refreshed under Brian Ashton, played some outstanding rugby and no one was more influential than half back pairing Nick Walshe and Chris Malone. Prior to the match Ashton insisted that the best of Chris Malone has yet to be seen and the often maligned Australian had an immense game - capping a fine display with a wonderful jinking try.

The fly half's conversion of Bell's early score - the first at the Rec in the Premiership since April 2005 when Bell touched down against Northampton in exactly the same spot of the ground - gave the home side a healthy lead from which the failed to look back.

Alex King narrowed the scores for the visitors, but Bath, showing a wonderful appetite for the game, were on top throughout. Whereas Bath have so often had the better of the physical exchanges, and the pack were in rampaging form again, there has on occasion been a lack of fluidity behind the platform. Not so against Wasps. Indeed, it was the home side that were playing like champions, such was the way that Ashton's side continued to ask questions of the Wasps defence.

One area of worry for Ashton, if there was really anything to worry about from such a performance, was that three of his players spent time in the cooler effectively leaving Bath with fourteen players for thirty minutes. The first to see yellow was Alex Crockett, who was singled out for killing the ball after a dangerous break from Stuart Abbott midway through the first half. Unbelievably Wasps could not make the numerical advantage count and it was Bath who pushed further ahead when Malone landed a thirty metre penalty when a number of Wasps players were caught offside.

Crockett had been back barely a handful of minutes when Bath lost their second player to the bin. Andy Higgins being fingered by referee David Rose for killing the ball in the shadow of his own posts. This time Wasps capitalised and King slotted over the resulting penalty to leave the match in the balance 10-6 at half time.
Any thoughts that the Wasps of old would take a grip of this match were killed off shortly after the interval. Malone fired up a high kick which Wasps failed to gather and when the ball popped into the hands of Nick Walshe, the home side made excellent ground on the left before being spun back infield where Steve Borthwick showed two outrageous dummies before passing inside to debutant Eliota Fuimaono who carried Josh Lewsey over the try line. Referee Rose needed the help of the TV official to award the try, but Bath had just dealt a massive hammer blow.

Nine minutes later the home side made good inroads into the Wasps twenty-two through David Bory before their unstoppable forward momentum left the home side a couple of metres away from the Wasps line. When the ball was recycled to Malone, the Wasps defence expected the offload, but instead the Australian stepped inside the cover to find his way through to the line for a try which he converted.

Wasps were now chasing the game at 22-6 and needed a moment of inspiration to pull themselves off the ropes. It came in the shape of Ayoola Erinle. The outside centre ran from deep inside his own half to evade Gareth Delve's cover tackle and the touchline to score in the corner. King's conversion gave the visitors hope.

However, Malone kicked two penalties to keep pushing Bath forward, before a third yellow card was brandished for Zak Feaunati's tackle from an offside position. Jonny O'Connor joined the Samoan in the bin and replacement fly half Jeremy Staunton kicked a penalty to keep Wasps in contention.

But as the countdown clock ran down it was Bath who finished the stronger and the home side recorded a memorable and welcome victory.

Bath:15 Joe Maddock, 14 Andy Higgins (yellow card), 13 Alex Crockett (yellow card) (Stephenson), 12 Eliota Fuimaono (1t), 11 David Bory, 10 Chris Malone (1t, 3c, 2p), 9 Nick Walshe, 1 Matt Stevens, 2 Lee Mears, 3 Duncan Bell (1t) (Flatman), 4 Steve Borthwick (capt), 5 Danny Grewcock, 6 Andy Beattie, 7 Michael Lipman (Delve), 8 Zak Feaunati'(yellow card)

16 Pieter Dixon, 17 David Flatman, 18 Peter Short, 18 Gareth Delve, 20 Andy Williams, 21 Andy Dunne, 22 Michael Stephenson

Wasps:15 Josh Lewsey, 14 Paul Sackey, 13 Ayoola Erinle (1t), 12 Stuart Abbott , 11 Tom Voyce , 10 Alex King (1c,2p) (Staunton 1p), 9 Matt Dawson. 1 Alistair McKenzie, 2 Raphael Ibanez , 3 Tim Payne , 4 Simon Shaw , 5 George Skivington , 6 John Hart , 7 Joe Worsley , 8 Lawrence Dallaglio (c)
16 Jonny Barrett, 17 Justin Va'a , 18 Richard Birkett , 19 Jonny O'Connor (yellow card) , 20 Eoin Reddan , 21 Jeremy Staunton , 22 Fraser Waters

Ref: Dave Rose

Att: 10,600

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