Wasps 29-15 Bath: Gary Gold still confident of Aviva Premiership play-off charge
Head coach Gary Gold is optimistic Bath can bounce back from their defeat to Wasps and make a charge for the Aviva Premiership play-offs.
Gold’s troops have now gone four league games without a win and remain in eighth place after Christian Wade’s try on the stroke of half-time changed the course of the game.
Bath had taken a first-minute lead through Nick Abendanon and Michael Claassens’ effort added to the feeling that it was going to be their day.
But Wade’s trickery, Stephen Jones’ right boot – which gathered 17 points in total – and Chris Bell’s late effort proved too much for the visitors.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
But despite their disappointing second-half display, Gold was defiant in his belief that his players could respond.
“I think the table is quite tight this year, if you look at it if you’re a pessimist and see the glass half empty you could think [we’re out of the top four contention],” he said.
“But we have a good group of rugby players, the attitude is right and I’m certainly not going to be giving up on the top four going forward.
“At 29-15 it doesn’t look like we showed character but I think we did, we started off well and we put them under pressure, but that try just before half-time hurt us there’s no doubt about it.
“I think we defended bravely for quite a number of phases at that stage and a piece of brilliance from their very good players led to them getting a try.
“It’s not just in isolation and the fact they got the try, they got to build an innings and then the try becomes a dagger through the heart.”
Wade offered England head coach Stuart Lancaster a timely reminder of his talents.
The 21-year-old wing danced his way past three Bath defenders on the stroke of half-time to turn the game in the Adams Park outfit’s favour – taking them into the play-off places in the process.
Wade’s sixth Premiership try of the season will have been noted by Lancaster, who announces his Six Nations squad on Wednesday, but it will have also delighted his domestic boss Dai Young who was celebrating Wasps’ sixth win in eight games.
Bath got off to the best possible start with a try after 30 seconds for Abendanon in the corner. The full-back ran down the right touchline, evading two challenges, after catching Jones’ high kick on the halfway line.
Stephen Donald missed the tough conversion and moments later the visitors were penalised for offside and Jones added three points.
The game erupted when Tom Varndell was sin-binned for an alleged spear tackle on Horacio Agulla.
And, after Jones missed a penalty, Bath capitalised on the one-man advantage and Wasps fell further behind on 15 minutes when Claassens bundled over in the corner. Donald converted from the touchline for a 12-3 lead.
Jones struck an easy penalty on 21 minutes and shortly after he notched another to bring the hosts within three points of Bath.
Dom Day was then sin-binned for bringing down James Cannon in the air but it was Bath who had the next scoring opportunity. Donald, though, missed his penalty.
Despite the man deficit, Kyle Eastmond nearly forced his way in but Elliot Daly cleared to touch just 20 yards from the line.
Daly then missed a penalty before Wade’s moment of magic, beating three challenges on his way into the corner after Jones’ long pass. Jones converted from the touchline on the Bath 22 for a 16-12 half-time lead.
Within two minutes of the restart Bath had reduced the arrears to one point, with Tom Heathcote, who had replaced Donald at the break, slotting a penalty.
Wasps responded well though, a prolonged attack ending with Billy Vunipola driving his way towards the line only for his effort to be ruled out by the TMO.
The No 8 failed to ground the ball but his disappointment was eased on 54 minutes when Jones added a fourth penalty.
The hosts were beginning to exert some territorial dominance and had men over from another break, but this time Ashley Johnson was halted in his tracks by a forceful challenge from compatriot Francois Louw.
Louw was then at the heart of the next incident, snaffling the ball well only for team-mate Dave Wilson to be penalised, with Jones making them pay with another three points to take Wasps seven points clear at 22-15.
Replacement Nicky Robinson missed the chance to put breathing space between the sides with a 69th-minute penalty but Bell’s late try, after a neat offload from Joe Simpson, sealed the victory, with Abendanon’s sin-binning for a trip ending his day on a sour note.
Wasps: Southwell, Wade, Daly, C. Bell, Varndell, S. Jones, Simpson, Taulafo, T. Thomas, Swainston, Launchbury, Cannon, Johnson, Haskell, Vunipola. Replacements: Robinson for S. Jones (66), Payne for Taulafo (72), Lindsay for T. Thomas (72), Taylor for Swainston (64), Wentzel for Cannon (60), S. Jones for Haskell (72). Not Used: Davies, Masi.
Scorers: Tries – Wade, C. Bell. Cons – S. Jones, Robinson. Pens – S. Jones 5.
Sin Bin: Varndell (6).
Bath: Abendanon, Agulla, Eastmond, Banahan, Biggs, Donald, Claassens, James, Mears, Wilson, Hooper, Day, Louw, Mercer, Skirving. Replacements: Hipkiss for Agulla (68), Heathcote for Donald (41), Beech for James (68), Perenise for Wilson (74), Attwood for Day (46), Skuse for Mercer (55). Not Used: Dunn, McMillan.
Scorers: Tries – Abendanon, Claassens. Cons – Donald. Pens – Heathcote.
Sin Bin: Day (25), Abendanon (72).
Referee: Andrew Small (RFU).