Round 6 of the Premiership promised some great matches; one of them Wasps Rugby v Bath Rugby was too hard to resist in spite of the fact I’d be at Allianz Park to watch Saracens v Gloucester Rugby on the Saturday. A double weekend of rugby union it would have to be! Bath had shown their intent at the start of the season, having won 4 out of 5 games, including a big win against Leicester Tigers and a victory against Saracens; neither team left the Recreation Ground with as much as a losing bonus point.
Wasps start had been mixed but they’d run Saracens very close and beaten Northampton Saints in their opening games of the season. Adams Park would be an interesting place to visit in the week the move to the Ricoh Stadium was announced. The mood on social media sites; in particular Twitter had been one of disappointment and anger on the part of lots of fans when the news first emerged. I took the opportunity to talk to a few fans as I was walking to the ground, I didn’t find any anger; maybe disappointment but it seemed that many of the fans could understand the need to move even though it would affect their chance to watch their team. There were no banners, and no chanting and that was the case both inside and outside the ground.
I met up with the lovely Nigel Burnand a Twitter friend before the game, and was lucky enough to be able to join him and his fellow Wasps fans to watch the game; he’d also invited several Bath friends to join him that day. How different to football is rugby? Fans from opposition clubs all sitting together? Learn a lesson from it football; it makes for a great day out! The view had to be one of the best in the ground, which I have to thank Nigel for, goodness I took lots of photos, keeping my new obsession fuelled. I will confess quietly that I was expecting a close game with a victory for the visitors having been in Bath to see them beat Saracens.
The teams emerged to cheers, and although there were a few flags showing discontent there would be nothing but support for Wasps. George Ford kicked the ball off and Anthony Watson came up with the ball after Wasps failed to take it. Unlike the Saracens game where it took nearly 30 minutes before sacrum was set; the 1st scrum happened with less than 2 minutes on the clock. It wasn’t a successful scrum as is so often the case and Bath were awarded a free kick. Bath went very close through Watson,after spreading the ball across the pitch, but a great low tackle by Andrea Masi followed by a ball steal by Ashley Johnson allowed Wasps to clear their lines. Bath looked to have scored as the exciting Kyle Eastmond ran in to put the ball down; however his team mate Alofoti Faosiliva had blocked a Wasps defender and nplay was called back. Andy Goode put the 1st points on the board with a penalty as Faosiliva went in at the side of a ruck.
Andy Goode’s experience showed later when he spotted a huge gap to kick into on the wing vacated by Semesa Rokoduguni as he’d chased his own kick. We had an early show of handbags as Wasps drove Bath back and up in the 2nd scrum to win a penalty. Wasps failed to capitalise on the resulting territory, and James Haskell gave Bath a chance to attack after tackling Chris Cook high. Faosiliva caught the ball from the back of the lineout and took off down the pitch. A clever tackle by Andy Goode which saw Bath collapse the maul, meant the ball was turned over as Bath headed to the try line. The ball broke from the scrum but Bath were deemed to be offside.
Anything Bath could do Wasps could do too and Alapeti Leiua made a great break well into the Bath half; the ball was knocked on however. George Ford put Bath deep into the Wasps half after Nathan Hughes was penalised in the ruck; solid defence by Wasps prevented a Bath score and when a scrum was awarded Wasps again took advantage of their push; this time Ashley Johnson picked the ball up, getting to away to Hughes who linked with Simpson. the ball went out to Christian Wade as Wasps surged up the field. Play was switched across to the left and we saw another great run by Leiua. Rob Webber was very lucky not to see yellow as he came right around the wrong side to kick the ball in the ruck. The penalty was duly converted by Andy Goode. With 23 minutes of the 1st half gone the score was a mere 6 nil, but we’d been treated to some very exciting rugby.
I wrote last week about the fact that I felt Bath had sussed the Saracens’ game plan; it felt like the role was reversed against Bath at Adams Park. James Haskell, who I have to say is surprisingly huge! Has been in great form this season, and this match was no exception as he threw himself into contact time and again! A penalty won by Haskell put Wasps in the right half of the game and they went close after Andrea Masi put a kick along the line for Saolisi Tagicakibau; a determined Bath defensive line held him up.
We then had a contentious passage of play when Wasps were awarded a penalty as they pushed forward in the scrum, they were very close to the Bath line, and the penalty was awarded for pulling the scrum down. At what stage does that become a yellow card and a penalty try? Not during this game;and so we had a number of scrums; Nathan Hughes drove through on the 2nd scrum, it may well have been with a check by the TMO; but Wasps were awarded put in at another scrum. Bath were penalised again; this scenario really isn’t good viewing when you’re the other side of the pitch! Wasps hard work came to nothing as Goode put in a cross field kick for Masi; the ball bounced out into touch; Masi would have been across the line had the kick been more accurate.
Goode stretched the Wasps lead to 9 with another penalty. With just over 3 minutes to go advantage swung further to the home team after Leroy Houston threw Joe Simpson up past the horizontal, had Simpson landed on his head he would have seen red, as it was it was deemed a dangerous move and Houston was sent to the bin. A huge kick by Elliot Daly on the stroke of half time saw the teams go in with the score on Wasps 12 Bath 0.
I seem to be writing a novel rather than a report here so I’ll try to be more succinct in the 2nd half! It is quite amazing that a half that only yielded 4 penalties was so good to watch! The 1st notable moment of the 2nd half was a yellow card for David Wilson who got himself in the wrong position; he tripped Nathan Hughes up; Bath were down to 13 men. Goode converted the resulting penalty. The 1st scrum was set with less than 2 minutes of the 1st card remaining; it must be tempting to go for a scrum as soon as possible when a prop’s in the bin.
Wasps turned the ball over in the scrum and surged up the field; Elliot Daly put in a great kick for Christian Wade to run on to; Wade kicked the ball forward but was taken out by Micky Young before he could reach the ball. 7 points for Wasps as Goode converted the penalty try; and another sin bin for a Bath player. 20 minutes with 13 men was going to be a big ask for Bath. Sailosi Tagicakibau was to benefit from the 2 man advantage after a great pass by a marauding Ashley Johnson; Goode converted the try taking Wasps to 29 points.
The game looked out of sight for Bath but moments later Jonathan Joseph scored a great try putting 5 pouts on the board for Bath. He’d linked with Kyle Eastmond; as a pair they are electric in attack! George Ford had a spell at scrum half while Young was off the pitch as we had a Wasps scrum on the Bath line, several attempts saw Hughes break; but he was judged to have held on to the ball after he was well tackled by Ford. Bath cleared their lines; but lost the lineout on their own throw.
George Ford saved a try as Tagicakibau looked like scoring his hat trick try, his tackle spoilt that party as he held on fast. Bath were awarded a penalty from a failed scrum and a huge kick put them very close to Wasps line; Micky Young not long on the pitch scurried over the line to score his teams’ 2nd try; Ford added the extras.
With 12 minutes remaining Bath weren’t even in losing bonus point territory; Semesa Rokoduguni showed his dancing feet but was foiled by a great Wasps defence; this is a man we must see in an England shirt this summer surely! Having defended with such determination Wasps were beaten on the wing by David Sisi after Bath seemed to tie up the defence; Ford converted the try to close the gap to 10.
Rokoduguni gave more argument for his place in the Autumn internationals as he surged down his wing; the final 10 minutes or so were all about Bath; Wasps seemed to have run out of steam; but Bath couldn’t close the gap in spite of a penalty converted by Ford. The final score was Wasps 29 Bath 22; a very welcome win for Wasps after a difficult week for the club. And a real show of character by Bath who took home a losing bonus point with them. Europe beckons for both teams next weekend; my favourite rugby weekends when it’s usually ok to support every premiership team playing!