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Match Report: Wasps 40 Bath Rugby 26

24 Dec 2016
Match Report: Wasps 40 Bath Rugby 26

Wasps stayed hot on the heels of Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders Saracens with a 40-26 victory over Bath Rugby in a scintillating Christmas Eve encounter in Coventry.

A whopping 26,292 people – the largest Aviva Premiership Rugby crowd of the season outside the London Double Header – were at the Ricoh Arena to see Christian Wade break his seven-game try drought in style, scoring a first-half double as Wasps built a big lead.

Dai Young’s son Thomas also went over while Ross Batty and Dave Attwood kept the score respectable for Bath, but Wade completed his treble shortly after the interval to give them a commanding advantage.

Bath were down but not out as Tom Ellis and Ben Tapuai made sure they would take home at least a losing-bonus point, but Jimmy Gopperth was relentless from the tee in the second half as Wasps eased to a win that saw them stay second in the standings and complete 2016 unbeaten at home.

It was also a record-breaking day personally for Wade, who smashed the record for the most tries in a calendar year, with his treble taking his tally to 18.

Both Joe Launchbury and Matt Mullan were making landmark appearances, with the skipper notching up his 100th game in a Wasps shirt while the front row made it 150 Aviva Premiership Rugby games.

And it was Wasps who claimed an early lead when Bath spilled a Joe Simpson box kick, Thomas Young recovered the ball and sent Wade racing over for a try which Gopperth converted.

Better followed five minutes later when Wade popped up on halfway from a set move, stepped three defenders and scorched over for his second score, again upgraded by Gopperth.

An end-to-end first quarter saw Bath hit straight back through hooker Batty, who raced in from 30 metres in support of Jonathan Joseph’s break.

George Ford converted, but the hosts soon restored a 10-point advantage through Gopperth’s 40-metre penalty after a high tackle on Elliot Daly.

But another impressive Bath attack, again led by Joseph, ended several phases later with Attwood charging over for a score which Ford upgraded.

Bath dominated possession and territory for much of the second quarter, only to concede a third long-distance try on the stroke of half-time.

The influential Young was again at the heart of the action, this time spotting a gap in the away defences on the fringes of a ruck and outpacing the cover from just inside his own half.

Gopperth’s conversion gave the hosts a 24-14 interval advantage, which they soon extended when Wade completed his hat-trick with a score of sublime quality. Elliot Daly’s slashing break was continued by Kurtley Beale, who then sent the speedster to the posts.

Gopperth converted, and the Kiwi No.12 almost immediately further extended Wasps advantage with a 45-metre penalty after Bath failed to release in contact, then a 35-metre effort after the visitors’ front row fell foul of referee Luke Pearce.

Bath struck back on the hour mark with a driving lineout score, touched down by replacement Ellis, but the visitors infringed direct from the restart, to hand three of these points straight back to Gopperth.

However, Todd Blackadder’s team kept their faint hopes alive when Tapuai claimed their bonus-point score, converted by Ford, with 14 minutes remaining.

But despite a lengthy late period in the home 22, that was as good as it got for the away team, who remained in third position in the standings.

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