Bath Rugby ended 2017 with a nine-try thriller, but couldn’t stop Wasps from securing a 26-31 victory at the Rec.
Wasps were quickly out of the blocks with a try after just eight minutes. It came after sustained pressure from the in-form side, which was finished off in the corner by Marcus Watson. Danny Cipriani added the conversion to make it a seven-point score. 0-7.
The waves of attack continued, and the visitors doubled their lead less than 10 minutes later, with scrum-half Dan Robson darting through the Bath defence to score from close range. 0-14.
It got even better for the men in white, who added their third try of the evening soon after, with Watson crossing for his second of the game after good work from Thomas Young and Robson on the overlap. 0-19.
The game turned Bath’s way 10 minutes from the interval, when Watson was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on. A man to the good, the Blue, Black and White made the numbers count with their first try under the Friday night lights. A strong scrum from the pack gave Kahn Fotuali’i good ball, and the scrum-half sent his half-back partner Rhys Priestland through the gap to score. The fly-half converted his own try to reduce the gap to 12 points. 7-19.
With the clock running into the red, Bath scored a quick-fire second try through Jack Wilson. The winger collected the ball on the right wing, and fended off the attentions of Robson to send his side into the half-time break just five points adrift.
Half-time: Bath Rugby 14-19 Wasps
Three minutes into the second-half Wasps secured the bonus point, with their fourth try of the evening. Robson was the architect of the move, picking up from the back of the ruck before sending Juan De Jongh in for a simple run-in. 14-26.
Bath weren’t going to give up without a fight, and their patience was rewarded when Paul Grant crossed the whitewash with just under 30 minutes to play. The openside flanker used every ounce of energy to reach for the line, and after consultation with the TMO, the try was awarded. 19-26.
The flurry of tries kept coming, as Wasps hit back through Gaby Lovobalavu, who took Willie Le Roux’s pass in his stride to score in the corner. 19-31.
With 17 minutes to play, Bath were handed a lifeline when Le Roux was shown the yellow card for offside. Once again, Bath made the numerical advantage work in their favour, as Zach Mercer powered his way over the try line. The number eight held off two Wasps defenders to score under the posts and take the game into a nail-biting final 15 minutes. 26-31.
Wasps showed their experience keeping ball in hand for large parts of the final quarter, and despite the best efforts of the Blue, Black and White, Bath had to settle for two bonus points.
Final score: Bath Rugby 26-31 Wasps.