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Match Report: Bath Rugby 18 Wasps 24

20 Feb 2016
Match Report: Bath Rugby 18 Wasps 24

A try in each half from Frank Halai set Wasps on their way to a 24-18 win over Bath Rugby at the Rec and into the Aviva Premiership Rugby play-off places.

The Kiwi winger was at his predatory best, while Simon McIntyre also crossed in the second half although they couldn’t manage the fourth try and a bonus point.

The loss leaves Bath’s play-off hopes in tatters, with 14 points now separating them from the top four, although a late try from Amanaki Mafi at least allowed them to pick up a losing bonus point.

And it was Wasps who were on top early on trying to keep their hands on the ball despite the tricky conditions but they struggled to turn that dominance into points.

Their first chance went begging after a break from Nathan Hughes ended with a ball going astray when there appeared to be an overlap.

They were able to take the lead with an Elliot Daly penalty while both teams struggled at the lineout.

A Charles Piutau break got Wasps back into dangerous territory but an intentional knock-on from Rob Webber gave Ruaridh Jackson the chance to stretch the lead.

He couldn’t do so however, his effort drifting wide, and after 25 minutes the teams were still separated by that sole Daly penalty.

The Wasps centre was off-target with another shot from long range soon after, but they were able to stretch their lead just before the half-hour.

An initial break from Dan Robson had them on the front foot and then some magic from Piutau sent Halai over for the try. The former All Black full-back collected the ball on the left wing, surged forward, handing off Francois Louw along the way, before offloading for Halai to finish. Jackson missed the conversion but Wasps led 8-0 despite having played into the wind in the first half.

Bath finally got on the board on 33 minutes, when Rhys Priestland knocked over a penalty when Wasps were penalised for hands in the ruck.

And having been under the cosh for much of the half, Bath were able to get back to within two points on the stroke of half-time.

After Matt Banahan had been held up just short of the line, Bath had a succession of scrums, and while they couldn’t manufacture a try, they did earn a penalty which Priestland slotted to make it 8-6 at the break.

Wasps started the second half the better with an early penalty from Jackson as they led 11-6.

And that lead was soon extended when Halai crossed for his second with a poacher’s finish. A kick over the top from Daly led to a foot race between Tom Homer and Halai, and the Wasps winger got there just in time to nudge it forward with his boot before diving on the ball before it squirted over the sidelines.

Jackson was well off-target with his touchline conversion but Wasps led by double figures for the first time.
Bath weren’t about to fold though, and instead it was the introduction of the likes of Henry Thomas and Matt Garvey which appeared to spur them on.

A succession of drives from the forwards got the visitors on the back foot and earned Bath a string of penalties. They kicked to the corner just before the hour, before another penalty for maul entry.

Again Bath went to their lineout but the visitors held, and then Jimmy Gopperth, just off the bench, ripped the ball out of a tackle and allowed Piutau to clear Wasps’ lines.

That appeared to take the steam out of Bath, and Wasps soon had their third try to put them in control. A little half-break from Gopperth followed by an offload to Christian Wade saw them stopped just short. The ball was recycled and though Daly couldn’t quite go all the way, McIntyre popped up to charge through from the breakdown and dot down. Gopperth’s conversion skewed horribly wide in the difficult conditions but Wasps led by three scores.

Wasps’ discipline had been a concern during the concerted Bath attack though, and when the home side came back up the other end, Thomas Young was sin-binned for the succession of infringements.

Bath took advantage straight away, with Banahan putting a grubber through for full-back Homer to finish. The former London Irish man added the conversion to cut the deficit to eight with just under quarter of an hour to go.
Gopperth found his kicking boots though with a first penalty of the afternoon to keep Bath at a safe distance and try to kill off the hopes of a comeback.

They had their chance at a fourth try with seven minutes remaining after a scintillating break from Wade. He was just about hauled down but when quick ball followed, a try seemed inevitable. The defence drifted well though and Piutau decided to keep hold of the ball rather than feeding Halai outside him.
Bath found themselves reduced to chasing a losing bonus point but they did at least manage that, with Mafi deservedly getting the score off the back of a good driving maul. Homer missed the conversion but it made little difference.

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