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Bonus point win catapults Bath to Fourth

There may have been better Bath performances on the grand stage in the last ten years but it's hard to remember when. With an impressive attendance of 60,208 making the St George's Day game in support of Help for Heroes at Twickenham a memorable occasion even before the match kicked off, Bath Rugby capped things off with a stunning bonus point victory.

Joe Maddock grabbed a hat-trick with a superb display of finishing and Olly Barkley added the fourth try in addition to kicking 15 points.

In terms of pure league points, it leaves Michael Claassens' team with a simple task. They have to beat Leeds on May 8 to hang on to fourth place and earn the right to a play-off semi-final on the following weekend, most probably at Leicester.

"There's a lot of rugby yet; a lot of things can happen," said Head Coach Steve Meehan afterwards. "There's the small matter of a match against Leeds who have been playing well, dogging it out.

"But we've always believed that we could win these last three games. The players have done very well to achieve that. For the first time this season we get the opportunity to play a game knowing that it's in our hands.

"We've come a long way since the first four months of the season," added Meehan. "Work and belief in one another was how the spirit built up in those unenjoyable moments.

"We're playing well but we can play better that's the challenge we throw to the team every week. We've won well and we've had to win tough at times."

Meehan acknowledged the contributions of Barkley and Maddock, also Julian Salvi whose work at the breakdown eclipsed that of Wasps skipper Tom Rees. But the coach also paid tribute to Claassens who had been up since 3am with a stomach bug: "The way he captained that side was a brilliant effort."

Sky's man of the match award went to Barkley for his commanding performance in midfield as well as his place kicking. But the forwards played an heroic part in one of the great Bath victories and that includes the famed era of the 1980s-90s with Stuart Hooper and Andy Beattie linking intelligently and carrying powerfully.

After all the pre-match razzamatazz, it was Wasps who were riding highest on the emotion of the occasion and Danny Cipriani put them 6-nil ahead inside nine minutes with two penalties.

Barkley replied with a 45-metre kick and made a crucial tackle on Mark van Gisbergen before appearing on Butch James's shoulder at the other end of the field to link with Nick Abendanon who supplied the scoring pass to Maddock on 18 minutes.

Barkley added the conversion and kicked another penalty to extend the lead to 13-7.

For all the Wasps' fans expectations, it was Bath's finishing that was crisp and deadly as Barkley stepped past Steve Kefu and Simon Shaw and found Hooper in support on 26 minutes. Claassens provided support at the crucial moment and Abendanon again provided the scoring pass to Maddock for an unconverted try in the corner.

That was the full-back's last real contribution of the half after he was sin-binned for blocking Danny Cipriani on the touchline. The fly-half missed the kick but was then presented with another opportunity which allowed him to send his side in at the break 9-18 adrift.

There might have been more points against 14-man Bath but Barkley and Co pulled off a succession of last-ditch tackles which prevented try opportunities but also sapped Wasps' will.

Cipriani kicked the first points of the second half after 48 minutes and nearly created a try for Paul Sackey with a cross kick from a penalty, when he might have kicked for goal. Then Lee Mears made a try-saving tackle on the France-bound winger.

But the storm blew over and the immaculate Maddock completed his hat-trick on 57 minutes by intercepting a telegraphed floated pass by Cipriani on the 10-metre line. Barkley's conversion, closely followed by a penalty in front of the posts, stretched the lead to 28-12.

The contest was over to all intents and purposes but Bath needed the bonus point to make it a perfect evening at HQ. It came just three minutes after the hour when the hapless Cipriani dropped a simple pass and Bath went for the jugular.

Replacement prop Nathan Catt barrelled into the tiring Wasps defence, the ball was carried on by his pack and James attacked the short side, flicking an exquisitely timed pass to Barkley for the try. The conversion was a formality.

With 15 minutes left, Cipriani was replaced but still Wasps struggled to display the quality of finishing that had shone through the Bath performance.

Even when David Lemi broke away, giving himself an easy run-in, he chose to pass to scrum-half Joe Simpson who promptly dropped the ball. It was not until the final minute that Ben Jacobs broke away from a scrum to score a try, converted by Dave Walder.

By that time Bath had used all their replacements, Danny Grewcock staying on until the 78th minute of his 200th appearance for the Club and one of the most memorable.

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