Bath Rugby fought back from behind to complete a 29-17 bonus-point victory against Wasps in the final home game of the season at the Rec.
Bath opened the scoring with a try coming after just four minutes. Bath had the attacking platform with a line-out just outside the Wasps 22. Freddie Burns shipped the ball out to Jamie Roberts, who made good ground as he charged his way into contact. The ball was quickly redistributed by Will Chudley with the scrum-half finding Jonathan Joseph in the midfield. The centre used the show and go with devastating effect, as the England international powered his way through the Wasps defence to run in unopposed. Burns added the extras from out wide. [7-0]
Bath continued to control much of the territory in the early stages, but were unable to capitalise on points and the visitors hit back with 14 minutes on the clock. Wasps launched the counter attack inside their own half, which took play to just outside the Bath 22. Joe Simpson popped the ball out to Gaby Lovobalavu on the right wing, with the centre cutting back inside to find a way in behind the Bath defence. The quick-footed back drew in the last defender before sending Nizaam Carr through to score. Rob Miller was on hand to level the scores from the tee. [7-7]
Wasps took the lead for the first time in the match through a Nathan Hughes try just over 10 minutes before the interval. Following sustained pressure to the Bath 22, Wasps pulled a play out of the training manual. Simpson instigated the move, finding Lovobaluvu in the midfield. The centre sent Hughes through on a brilliant attacking line with a no look pass, touching down to score. Miller extended the visitors lead to seven from directly in front of the uprights. [7-14]
Burns reduced the gap to just four points with three minutes left to play in the first half, as Burns notched a successful penalty. [10-14]
Wasps were agonisingly denied a third try moments later. Quick hands from the back line saw Josh Bassett over the whitewash. However, the Coventry-based side had the effort ruled out for a forward pass following intervention from the TMO. [10-14]
As the clock drifted into the red, Wasps restored their seven-point advantage with a successful penalty from Miller.
Half-time - Bath Rugby 10-17 Wasps
Bath had the upper hand in the opening exchanges of the second half, but were unable to breakdown the Wasps defence in a hugely attritional contest at the Rec. Neither side were able to gain an opening until 10 minutes to play of the contest.
The pressure began to build and this time it was Bath, who had a try chalked off by the TMO, with replacement Jacques van Rooyen held up over the line.
In the resulting scrum, Bath were awarded a penalty and took up the option to re-set the set-piece. It paid dividends, as Bath went through several phases before Zach Mercer burst over from close range. Alex Davies added the extras, six minutes left on the clock. [17-17]
The home side continued to mount attack after attack and Joe Cokanasiga put Bath into the lead with just three minutes left to play. The hosts patiently worked their way up the field to the edge of the Wasps 22 before Kahn Fotuali’i switched play to the left wing. Fellow replacement Max Wright was able to draw in two defenders to create space for Ruaridh McConnochie who manoeuvred his way through the Wasps defence. The winger found Cokanasiga in support outside him, who finished off a superb move. [22-17]
With 30 seconds left to play, Sam Underhill provided the crucial turnover to secure a late penalty and the points. Davies sent the ball into the corner and Bath continued to hunt for a vital bonus-point. Bath’s patience paid off and it was Man of the Match Mercer, who got over the try line with Tom Ellis and Underhill in support. Fotuali'i converted the bonus-point score in what was a fitting end to his career at the Rec.
Bath will travel to Welford Road to face Leicester Tigers in the final game of the season, with a top six position within their reach.
Full-time - Bath Rugby 29-17 Wasps
5 May 2019
Referee: Luke Pearce
Half Time score: 10-17
- Tries: Joseph (3), Mercer (73, 81), Cokanasiga (77)
- Conversions: Burns (4), Davies (73), Fotuali'i (83)
- Penalties: Burns (36)
- Tries: Carr (13), Hughes (28)
- Conversions: Miller (14, 29)
- Penalties: Miller (41)