Bath’s extraordinary run of form continued as they moved into fourth place in the Guinness Premiership with a bonus-point 35-19 win over Wasps at Twickenham.
Wing Joe Maddock ran in a hat-trick of tries but man of the match was centre Olly Barkley, who capped an impeccable display in midfield by scoring the bonus-point try and kicking 15 points. Bath can now deprive Wasps of a play-off place by beating Leeds at home in a fortnight.
Wasps director of rugby Tony Hanks made three changes to the team that won at Worcester a week earlier, recalling Mark van Gisbergen, Tim Payne and Joe Worsley. Skipper Tom Rees was making his 100th appearance for the club.
Marking his 200th for Bath was former England and Lions lock Danny Grewcock, reviving memories of epic performances at Twickenham as he led out a team which showed just five changes from the side that started against Northampton on Tuesday night.
Bath have had an extraordinary reversal in fortunes of late, with just one victory in 10 matches before Christmas and only one defeat in 10 after. With a 60,000 attendance there was an ‘international day’ feel to the build-up for the St George’s Day Game in support of Help for Heroes, the charity set up to help service personnel injured in combat.
The emotion provided the impetus Wasps needed and Danny Cipriani landed two penalties to open up a 6-0 lead inside nine minutes. The West Country side hung on and Barkley, presented with a chance from 45 metres, pulled back three points.
Paul Sackey had the big crowd on their feet with a dangerous run from deep but Bath nicked the ball from Joe Simpson and Barkley kicked clear.
The first try came out of the blue from Bath on 18 minutes after Michael Claassens took a quick free-kick and Butch James ghosted through a gap before delivering a cleverly delayed one-handed pass to Barkley. Nick Abendanon was on hand to send Maddock over for the try and Barkley added the conversion.
Another Barkley penalty on 22 minutes put Bath 13-6 ahead but he had not finished just yet. Four minutes later the centre’s break split Steve Kefu and the limping Simon Shaw, leaving lock Stuart Hooper, Claassens and Abendanon to present Maddock with another try in the opposite corner.
Barkley was wide with the conversion and Bath then had to contend with the loss of Abendanon to the sin-bin for a block on Tom Varndell. Cipriani missed the simple penalty but was then successful from 45 metres. He was first to score in the second half, chipping over a penalty from short range to cut the lead to 18-12 after a frantic passage of 12 phases.
Wasps were back on the offensive and were forcing Bath to concede penalties. Luke Watson was next to offend but Cipriani spurned the penalty chip for a chip to the far touchline and the chance was lost. Sackey was then set free on the right but chucked the ball into touch.
Bath were not in so forgiving a mood and Maddock completed his hat-trick on 57 minutes by intercepting Cipriani’s floated pass. Barkley added the conversion and, as Wasps wilted, added a penalty on the hour to make it 28-12. Cipriani’s next and final act before being substituted was to knock on a simple pass from which Bath roared back onto the attack and Barkley finished things off, also converting his own try. At 35-12 it was over, still with 15 minutes to play.
Wasps’ afternoon was summed up when David Lemi broke clear and could have scored himself but passed to a surprised Simpson who knocked on with the line clear. It was only in the last minute that Wasps managed to get over the Bath line when replacement Ben Jacobs broke from a scrum, with Dominic Waldouck adding the conversion.