Winger Tom Biggs raced in for a stunning hat-trick of first-half tries as Bath kept their exceedingly slim hopes of an Aviva Premiership Rugby play-off place alive with a crushing 43-10 victory over Wasps in the showpiece St George’s Day game at Twickenham.
England’s Matt Banahan, in his first outing at inside centre, grabbed two tries, fellow centre Matt Carraro added the sixth, and fly-half Sam Vesty kicked 13 points. Bath need to win their final two matches, collect at least one bonus point and hope Northampton get nothing from their final match, at home to relegation strugglers Leeds.
Wasps, whose hopes of Heineken Cup qualification for next season were all but ended, replied with a try and conversion from scrum-half Joe Simpson, and a penalty from Japan-bound fly-half Dave Walder. They are left effectively needing Northampton and Harlequins qualifying by winning the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup respectively to increase the English representation in Europe’s premier competition next season.
Bath went ahead after only four minutes when full-back Nick Abendanon off-loaded as he was tackled and sent Briggs sprinting in to leave Vesty an easy conversion.
Bath, with stand-in skipper Michael Claassens orchestrating their attacks from scrum-half, and Abendanon linking dangerously with the threequarters, had too much pace and penetration for Wasps, who had taken their home fixture to English rugby’s HQ.
Claassens, inside his own half, threw the long pass to instigate their second try, in the 26th minute. He found Banahan who charged deep into the Wasps half and drew teenage full-back Elliot Daly before releasing the ball to send Biggs in unchallenged. Vesty, who two minutes earlier had landed a penalty after the hard-working Carraro was stopped inches from the Wasps line, landed his second conversion.
Walder opened Wasps’ account with a 32nd minute penalty when Bath strayed offside at a ruck in front of their posts. Bath turned up the heat as cloud and thunder replaced the baking sun over Twickenham, striking twice more before half-time.
Their third try came in the 36th minute. Taylor secured a lineout, passed short to veteran former England lock Danny Grewcock who found Claassens. The scrum-half spotted and exploited a narrow gap, sold a dummy and burst through the Wasps’ defence before producing a sublime pass back inside to release Banahan, offering excellent support, on a straight run for the line.
Three minutes later Biggs grabbed his third try, beating opposing winger Richard Haughton for pace, running around Daly and then once more defying Haughton, who had got back to tackle.
Wasps, trailing 29-3 at half-time, wasted the chance to pull back a try early in the second half. The ball slipped from the grasp of No 8 Billy Vunipola, the England Under-18 star who was making his first start, as he stretched for the line while being tackled.
Bath’s fifth try – and Banahan’s second – came in the 55th minute when the giant winger-turned-centre chased a kick from Vesty to collect and touch down, shrugging off Haughton’s tackle.
Simpson finally gave Wasps fans something to cheer in the 61st minute, bursting from just inside his own half, left the Bath defence for dead on a 55-metre race for the line before drop-kicking the conversion.
Bath, fittingly, had the final say when Carraro chased Vesty’s kick to score their final try in the 74th minute, with Vesty again converting.