Wasps go unbeaten at home for whole of 2016 after thrilling win over Bath

In front of the Ricoh Arena’s biggest crowd of the season, and the biggest crowd in the Premiership this season outside of Twickenham, Wasps and Bath served up a memorable afternoon of attacking rugby.

40 - 26
Wasps Bath Rugby

Sat 24th December 2016
2:00 pm

Ricoh Arena Stadium Aviva Premiership As it happened
Man of the Match Christian Wade gave Wasps a storming start, with two tries inside the first 13 minutes. Bath responded with two tries of their own, but Thomas Young’s breakaway score gave Wasps a 10-point halftime lead.

Wasps dominated the second half, with Wade completing his hat-trick and Jimmy Gopperth notching up his 1000th Premiership point before two further Bath tries earned them a bonus point. The win was Wasps’ 18th consecutive home win to complete an unbeaten year in Coventry. It also meant they ended the day level on points with Premiership leaders Saracens, who have a better points difference, and six points ahead of third-placed Bath.

After Wasps kicked off, the opening passage of play lasted over three minutes. Bath’s long clearance was gathered by Nathan Hughes and Wasps took play through phase after phase, until Frank Halai broke through a tackle to make ground down the left. When play came back infield, Wasps lost possession and Bath kicked towards the corner. Jimmy Gopperth gathered to launch another Wasps attack, before Christian Wade kicked down the right touchline. Bath counterattacked and Halai took a heavy knock as he tackled Semesa Rokoduguni. The Wasps winger left the field for a head injury assessment, to be replaced by Rob Miller.

After a couple of threatening runs by Rokoduguni, Wasps went ahead in the eighth minute. Joe Simpson put in a well-placed box kick, which Bath could not control thanks to Christian Wade’s strong chase. Thomas Young gathered the loose ball and broke away. He drew the final defender, before sending Wade over near the right corner. Jimmy Gopperth added the extra points with a well-struck kick.

Five minutes later, Wade added a memorable second try, with the sort of virtuoso score few other wingers could dream of. He came off his wing to join a midfield move, slipped one tackle, then jinked his way past a series of defenders to race in from halfway. Gopperth was again on target with the conversion.

After a thrilling run by Kurtley Beale had set the home crowd roaring, Bath responded through a try by Ross Batty, after Nathan Catt somehow broke through a tackle and offloaded to Batty. The hooker handed off the oncoming Wasps defence, before showing impressive pace to run in from 30 metres. George Ford added the extra points.

Wasps were awarded a penalty when Elliot Daly’s outside break was stopped by a high tackle, 12 metres inside the Bath half and Jimmy Gopperth made no mistake with the kick to make the score 17-7 after 22 minutes.

It took just three minutes for Bath to respond with a well-constructed try by Dave Attwood, after Ben Tapuai powered through a tackle in midfield to set up a multi-phased attack, which ended with the lock going over near the posts. Ford converted to narrow the gap to three points.

For the next few minutes, the visitors dominated territory and fluently controlled the ball through a series of phases, to create space out wide, only for the ball to be lost in contact just inside the Wasps 22.

Five minutes before halftime, the Wasps scrum was penalised, on halfway. The scrum had been called for a knock-on, although replays suggested that the ball had deflected backwards. Tom Homer’s kick fell just short and wide, to the left.

In the final minute of the half, Wasps turned over Bath possession on the 10-metre line and Thomas Young gathered and raced 60 metres to go over between the posts. Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion put Wasps 24-14 ahead at halftime, after forty minutes of exhilarating rugby from both sides in which the ball had regularly been in play for minutes on end.

Wasps began the second half with a sustained period of possession in which Ashley Johnson featured prominently. Eventually, Christian Wade went over in the right corner, but the TMO ruled that the ball had not been grounded. The resultant scrum went to ground and Wasps won a penalty, which Danny Cipriani sent into touch at the corner. The line out drive came to nothing when the ball shot out. Although Joe Simpson did well to tidy up, Bath stole a turnover.

With six minutes of the half gone, Wade completed his hat-trick and secured the bonus point with another top-quality try, created by a superb break by Elliot Daly. He split the defence, before passing inside to Kurtley Beale, who sent Wade over between the posts. Jimmy Gopperth’s simple conversion stretched the Wasps lead to 31-14. Gopperth then added a long-range penalty to take him to 997 Premiership points.

On 54 minutes, Alex Rieder replaced Ashley Johnson, who left the field to a huge ovation. Wasps immediately won a scrum penalty 30 metres out in front of the posts. After some adjustments to the strapping on his knee, Jimmy Gopperth stepped forward to land the kick which took him past the thousand-point milestone.

Bath pulled back five points when replacement Tom Ellis touched down from a driving line out after 59 minutes. George Ford’s conversion attempt from the right touchline went wide.

Dan Robson and Kearnan Myall replaced Joe Simpson and James Gaskell, before Bath were penalised directly from the restart, giving Jimmy Gopperth three more points. Dan Robson then produced a fine piece of covering to gather Rokoduguni’s dangerous kick-ahead, deep inside the Wasps 22 after the Bath wing had broken away down the right.

With thirteen minutes left, George Ford created an opening for Ben Tapuai to escape down the right wing. He managed to slip Robson’s covering tackle to go over in the right corner and Ford landed a fine conversion to bring his side to within 14 points.

Another Wasps replacement saw Kurtley Beale make way for Kyle Eastmond, who was facing his old club for the first time. Guy Thompson also came on in place of Nathan Hughes. With a try bonus point already secured, Bath kept up the pressure for a further score to add a second bonus point or better. With their bench cleared, Wasps kept up their defensive intensity to deny them any openings and eventually force them back into their own half.

Four minutes from time, Jimmy Gopperth and Rob Miller launched a counterattack, in which Tommy Taylor stormed through the middle of the defence to feed Dan Robson. His offload sent Joe Launchbury charging for the line and only being stopped by a last-ditch tackle a few metres short. Moments later, the final whistle went to end a game to send the home crowd on its way with a huge smile on its collective face. 

Wasps Line ups

  1. Matt Mullan
  2. Tommy Taylor
  3. Martin Moore
  4. Joe Launchbury
  5. James Gaskell
  6. Ashley Johnson
  7. Thomas Young
  8. Nathan Hughes
  9. Joe Simpson
  10. Danny Cipriani
  11. Frank Halai
  12. Jimmy Gopperth
  13. Elliot Daly
  14. Christian Wade
  15. Kurtley Beale
  16. Alex Rieder
  17. Tom Bristow
  18. Phil Swainston
  19. Kearnan Myall
  20. Guy Thompson
  21. Dan Robson
  22. Kyle Eastmond
  23. Rob Miller

Bath Rugby Line ups

  1. Nathan Catt
  2. Ross Batty
  3. Max Lahiff
  4. Luke Charteris
  5. Dave Attwood
  6. Matt Garvey
  7. Francois Louw
  8. Taulupe Faletau
  9. Kahn Fotuali'i
  10. George Ford
  11. Aled Brew
  12. Ben Tapuai
  13. Jonathan Joseph
  14. Semesa Rokoduguni
  15. Tom Homer
  16. Tom Dunn
  17. Nick Auterac
  18. Kane Palma-Newport
  19. Elliott Stooke
  20. Tom Ellis
  21. Darren Allinson
  22. Adam Hastings
  23. Max Clark