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Bath ease pressure with Wasps win

01 Jan 2007
Bath ease pressure with Wasps win

Watching England head coach Brian Ashton though, learnt little that he did not know already about the numerous international players on view.

Ashton, who replaced Andy Robinson in the England hot-seat just 12 days ago, is due to announce the first squad of his regime tomorrow afternoon. And there appears little chance of Wasps skipper Lawrence Dallaglio gaining a recall after another largely ineffective display during a season when he has struggled for consistency, saw him substituted after 62 minutes.

Maddock’s late clincher came after Wasps had fought back superbly through a penalty try and fly-half Dave Walder’s precision goalkicking.

But Walder’s opposite number Chris Malone slotted 13 points, and Bath, given confidence by Maddock’s 17th-minute touchdown, stuck to their task in appalling conditions, with Berne rounding things off in thrilling fashion.

Bath handed a debut to prop Terry Sigley, recruited on loan from Gloucester following a front-row injury crisis that has sidelined David Flatman, Duncan Bell, Matt Stevens, Aaron Jarvis and Jon Dawson.

England forwards Lee Mears and Danny Grewcock, meanwhile, both started just three days before facing Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearings after being cited following alleged stamping incidents during Premiership games either side of Christmas.

Dallaglio returned to the Wasps side, regaining captaincy duties from rested fly-half Alex King and packing down in the back-row alongside Joe Worsley and Jonny O’Connor.

Wasps, despite starting the game 13 points and seven places above Bath, produced a nervous, error-strewn opening as Malone booted two penalties – his second strike arriving after a high tackle by England flanker Joe Worsley on James Scaysbrook.

Wasps could not establish threatening field position, and Bath’s greater hunger for the battle was reaffirmed after 17 minutes through a superbly-executed try.

Grewcock’s chase and thumping tackle on Wasps scrum-half Simon Amor set the tone, and Sigley’s impressive handling worked space out wide that saw Barkley send Maddock over unopposed.

Malone landed the touchline conversion, and Wasps needed Walder’s 24th-minute penalty to settle them down as they struggled to shake off what appeared to be a collective New Year’s Day hangover.

Conditions rapidly deteriorated, but Walder’s second penalty a minute before the break lifted Wasps’ spirits before he completed his hat-trick, cutting the interval deficit to 13-9.

Bath had lost their way after an impressive opening quarter, although wing Tom Cheeseman’s departure because of a hamstring injury caused an unsettling reshuffle as scrum-half Andy Williams moved out wide as his replacement and replacement Nick Walshe took over number nine duties.

Walshe proved unable to boss the game behind his forwards, and Wasps went ahead for the first time on 49 minutes when sustained scrum pressure near Bath’s line saw the home side repeatedly infringe and referee Roy Maybank awarded an inevitable penalty try.

Walder slotted the conversion, edging Wasps 16-13 clear, but it proved a short-lived lead as Malone found his range from 40 metres to tie things up.

Wasps though, had left their first-half lethargy behind, and a new enthusiastic mood was underlined when England wing Paul Sackey raced out of defence, followed up his own kick ahead and secured an attacking scrum just 10 metres from Bath’s line.

In stamina-sapping conditions, Bath head coach Steve Meehan and opposite number Ian McGeechan inevitably opted to utilise their benches during the closing quarter, and a notable Wasps double switch saw Dallaglio and Worsley make way for Dan Leo and John Hart, respectively.

But Bath dug deep into their mental and physical resources, and two powerful Scaysbrook charges sufficiently disrupted Wasps’ defence for Barkley to free Maddock, who cut back inside for his second high-class try.

Malone converted, yet Walder’s fourth successful penalty ensured Bath could not relax entering the final five minutes.

Wasps put together a threatening passage of play as the clock ticked down, but they even ended without a losing bonus point when Walshe’s last-gasp break sent Berne scampering over, and Barkley added the extras.

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