Rugby Union

Wasps survive late fightback to secure welcome win over Bath

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Wasps resisted a strong fightback from high-flying Bath to secure a 29-22 victory on a thrilling Sunday afternoon at Adams Park.

The week leading up to the fixture had been extremely difficult, of course, with supporters frustrated by confirmation that Wasps will be moving up the M1 to Coventry in December after striking a deal to purchase a 50% stake in the Ricoh Arena.

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Despite the obvious financial benefits of such a move having been explained along with the grave implications that would inevitably arise as a result of staying in Wycombe, a total lack of transparency and regular consultation with Wasps' existing fanbase - believed to be for confidentiality reasons - has left a rather sour taste.

There was little sign of a revolt from the disgruntled masses on match day, however, as a season-high crowd of 7397 became engrossed in an excellent 80 minutes that provided a welcome distraction to the recent controversy.

Fast start

Bath begun the match in typically impressive fashion, looking to utilise the impressive skills of their in-form back unit from the outset.

Wasps' defence were more than up for the challenge, though, with Ashley Johnson pulling off a quite tremendous steal after the returning Anthony Watson had been stopped just short of the line.

The irresistible Kyle Eastmond - the Aviva Premiership's Player of the Month for September - did breach the hosts' backline to touch down during the early onslaught, but the try was ruled out for a block after referee JP Doyle rightly enlisted the help of the TMO.

Andy Goode - who has drawn criticism from some supporters after pledging his support for the impending move to the Midlands - knocked over the first of three first-half penalties shortly before Wasps' forwards really began to exercise their slightly surprising dominance up front.

Powerful forward pack

Led by the powerful prop duo of Matt Mullan and Lorenzo Cittadini, Wasps' scrum was infallible during the first half. While the first big shove came to nothing, the second saw Dai Young's side take one against the head to relieve mounting pressure deep inside their own 22.

From the ensuing break, the powerful figure of Johnson offloaded to Alapati Leiua and only the combined efforts of George Ford and Semesa Rokoduguni in defence stopped the Samoan from scoring the first try of the afternoon.

In response, Bath pushed forward in numbers at every opportunity but, try as they might, they just could not penetrate the commendably rigid defensive wall in front of them.

Indeed, it was Wasps who looked more likely to extend their lead after a well-executed grubber kick from Andrea Masi led to Salosi Tagicakibau driving for the corner. He was eventually held up, and that action led to a series of attacking scrums from which Wasps will have been slightly disappointed not to have scored after Goode's attempted cross-field chip to the open Masi sailed agonisingly out of play.

Houston yellow

Another Goode penalty made it 9-0 and the most controversial sequence of an absorbing first-half then saw Bath number eight Leroy Houston yellow carded for hauling Joe Simpson over a ruck and slamming him to the ground.

The first half ended on another positive note for Wasps as Elliot Daly demonstrated the extent of his long-range kicking ability and nailed a superb penalty attempt from all of 59 metres. 

Clearly rattled by their inability to compete with Wasps up front, things went from bad to worse for Bath and Mike Ford shortly after the break as David Wilson joined Houston in the bin after a clear trip on Nathan Hughes.

Bath indiscipline

In a shocking spell for the visitors, 13 momentarily became 12 after substitute scrum-half Mickey Young was yellowed for taking down the marauding Christian Wade off the ball as he sought to apply the finishing touches to a well-timed kick from Daly.

Wasps were awarded the penalty try and quickly made their numerical advantage count once again just a minute later as Johnson charged ahead from a lineout and fed Tagicakibau. The former London Irish stalwart did not need a second invitation to burst forward and Goode's successful conversion made it 29-0.

Uncharacteristically submissive and ill-disciplined, Bath did at last muster some spirit and hit back almost immediately thanks to their dynamic midfield duo. Eastmond offloaded to the grateful Jonathan Joseph and he went over in the corner to reduce the deficit. 

Wasps collapse

Defensively sound for so long, Wasps were not starting to creak and Bath smelled blood as Young atoned for his earlier error to find the gap and finish. 

If the men from The Rec are to live up to their early billing and return to the top four this season then they will need to display plenty of fight and resolve to match their attacking prowess.

Their stomach for the battle was clear for all to see as the second half progressed and they gave themselves a real chance of completing an unlikely comeback when David Sisi scored after good work from a rejuvenated Bath pack.

A cooly dispatched penalty from Ford served to increase the tension in the dying moments but ultimately Bath simply ran out of time and just fell short as Wasps ended a controversial and difficult week on a high.

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