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Nail-biting match ends in narrow defeat for Bath

No-one could blame Ryan Davis for missing a touchline conversion of Ben Skirving's try in the 20th minute of injury time after a pulsating finish to the first home of the season. Watched by a record crowd of 11,300, the fly-half sent his kick to the right of the posts and Wasps players jumped for joy at their second win of the season. After scoring three excellent tries to two, it was no more than they deserved.

Bath head coach Steve Meehan pulled no punches in his assessment of the performance. "We played well for 30 minutes - the first 10 and the last 20," he said. "It's not a physical thing. If you can do it in the 80th minute, you should be able to do it in the first few. It's a question of application. There were times when we went to sleep."

He added: "It was a far better performance than last week - but still not good enough. We've got to make some changes - there's no doubt about that."

There was little sign of the lethargy that had undermined the display at Gloucester as Bath attacked from the kick-off in bright 'Indian summer' sunshine. After nicking a line-out off the Wasps throw in the first minute, Matt Banahan latched on to a Ryan Davis chip ahead and was driven over the line from all of 25 metres. Unfortunately, there was no TMO to check whether the ball had been grounded and they had to be content with a 5-metre scrum.

The try was not long in coming, however, as referee Chris White awarded a penalty when Wasps infringed at a ruck and new skipper Michael Claassens took a quick tap to score. Fly-half Davis converted with some confidence to put his side 7-nil ahead with just three minutes on the clock.
Opposite number Danny Cipriani was not having such an easy time of it with the boot, missing with two efforts from 50 metres although his teasing chips were keeping Joe Maddock on his toes at full-back.

The real danger man was his half-back partner, Joe Simpson, whose electrifying pace provided Wasps with a stunning reply on 17 minutes. The scrum-half set off from a tapped penalty inside his own half and was eventually pulled down short of the line but David Lemi and Cipriani combined to send Varndell over in the left corner. Mark Van Gisbergen was wide with the conversion.

Bath responded with a straighforward penalty from Davis on 24 minutes by Matt Banahan, David Flatman and Julian Salvi but the speed of Simpson cut them open again almost immediately.

This time the platform was a scrum just outside the visitors' 22 and Simpson sped away on the blindside on a searing run to provide a simple try for Varndell, his fourth of the season. Cipriani's conversion from the touchline was off-target, leaving the scores level at 10-10.

The home effort was being undermined by a string of penalties conceded and also by an unusually high number of handling errors.

Wasps struck again on the stroke of half-time with a third try, created by Cipriani and centre Steve Kefu and finished off with a flourish by former Bristol wing David Lemi. Cipriani converted from wide out to send his side in at the break with a 17-10 lead.

Bath began the second half with a greater sense of purpose but Banahan, shown a rare glimpse of space, was eventually hauled down and when the ball was recycled for Davis to chip over the top, Tom Cheeseman was offside.

Although struggling to impose themselves in the loose, the scrummage was one area of superiority and a succession of put-ins - and penalties - on the Wasps line led to an inevitable yellow card for loosehead Tim Payne. Unfortunately for the home side, they lost control of the subsequent scrum and the chance was lost.

It was the same story at the line-out where a rare attacking position had been squandered when the ball was spilled at the tail and Wasps were able to clear their lines, their confidence growing visibly.

In the loose, the visitors mauled effectively and scrapped for every bit of possession to the extent that quick ball was a rare luxury for Claassens and his team.

Occasionally, Joe Maddock broke free from full-back and Shontayne Hape wriggled away from the suffocating cover but those chances were few and far between and much of the time Davis operated on the back foot at fly-half.

It was not long into the second half before Meehan rang the changes from the bench, giving Jack Cuthbert a chance at full-back after reshuffling the backline.

Slowly the pressure built up and it was Wasps who found themselves on the back foot, resorting to giving away penalties as the home team struggled for an equalising score. Again Payne found himself on the wrong side of the referee and, receiving a second yellow card, was then shown a red.

With the countdown clock long stopped at zero and the scoreboard showing 60 minutes, Maddock wriggled down the touchline, fed the ball inside at grass level and No 8 Skirving was forced over at the flag. Davis coolly took his time over the kick as a gang of Wasps players charged from the try-line but the effort was wide and a losing bonus point scant consolation.

Shred-it Man of the Match - Michael Claassens

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Bath Rugby: Maddock; Carraro, Cheeseman (Cuthbert 63), Hape, Banahan; Davis, Claassens; Flatman (Barnes 68), Mears (Dixon 56), Bell (Jarvis 68), Hooper, Grewcock (Short 56), Beattie (Fa'amatuainu 56), Salvi, Skirving.

Wasps: Van Gisbergen (Walder 40); Varndell, Jacobs, Kefu, Lemi; Cipriani, Simpson; Payne, Webber, Broster (Baker), Skivington, Birkett, Worsley (Hart 72), Betsen, Ward-Smith (Beech 60; Beech 80).

Yellow card: Payne 60; Payne 80. Red card: Payne 80.

Referee: Chris White (RFU).

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