23rd Sep, 2020

Battling Wasps sting Bath despite losing four players to injury

Solihull Editorial 31st Aug, 2020

Wasps claimed a remarkable Gallagher Premiership victory by beating play-off rivals Bath 27-23 despite losing four players injured.

Flanker Thomas Young, full-back Lima Sopoaga, hooker Tommy Taylor and Taylor’s replacement Gabriel Oghre all departed during the first 34 minutes.

It meant the match going to uncontested scrums, so stretched were Wasps’ front-row resources, yet Bath could not take advantage and a 75th-minute penalty try after Bath collapsed a maul saw the visitors home.

It took Wasps back into fourth place and ended Bath’s unbeaten run since the competition restarted after lockdown.

Fly-half Jacob Umaga and prop Tom West scored tries for Wasps, while Umaga kicked two conversions and a penalty and full-back Liam Sopoaga slotted a penalty.

Wing Ruaridh McConnochie and substitute hooker Jack Walker claimed Bath’s touchdowns, and fly-half Rhys Priestland kicked 13 points.

Bath showed 12 changes from the side which won at Northampton on Wednesday as they targeted a best run of Premiership results since November.

Wasps, meanwhile, had six switches of personnel in their attempt to bounce back from a home defeat against Sale Sharks last time out.

And Bath made a flying start, going ahead after just two minutes after Wasps blundered when they tried to run possession from inside their own 22.

Young was down receiving treatment, and the visitors went for an audacious counter-attack, but a dropped pass gave McConnochie a chance, and he finished superbly, with Priestland’s conversion making it 7-0.

Priestland then kicked a seventh-minute penalty, leaving Wasps with plenty of early problems to ponder against arguably the Premiership’s form team since restart.

Young had been on the receiving end of a hefty collision and failed a subsequent head injury assessment, then Priestland and Sopoaga exchanged penalties as Bath maintained a 10-point advantage.

Wasps lost two more players to injury when Sopoaga and Taylor went off, but they enjoyed a spell of territorial dominance as Umaga looked to free dangerous wings Marcus Watson and Zach Kibirige.

Taylor had barely left the field before Wasps conjured a quality try, with scrum-half Dan Robson’s agility turning Priestland inside out before delivering a scoring pass to Umaga.

Umaga converted his own try, and Wasps were back in contention, trailing by three points midway through the second quarter.

The injury curse would not leave Wasps, though, and Oghre went off just eight minutes after taking over from Taylor, meaning uncontested scrums as prop Simon McIntyre joined the action.

There was a lengthy delay while referee Wayne Barnes sought assurances from the Wasps staff about their hooking options, and without a recognised hooker, it resulted in Robson and McIntyre throwing into the line-out.

Umaga then drew Wasps level on the stroke of half-time, underlining an admirable recovery in adversity.

Wasps remained in the hunt during a third quarter that saw a Priestland penalty put Bath ahead again, only for the visitors to respond brilliantly.

A flowing move ended with Bath defending desperately, but they could not keep West out from close range, and his try was converted by Umaga for a 20-16 lead.

Bath looked shell-shocked, needing to regroup before regaining the advantage through Walker’s touchdown and a Priestland conversion after Wasps’ forwards back-pedalled inside their own 22.

But then came the clinching penalty try, and Wasps could claim a famous victory.

By Andrew Baldock, PA Rugby Union Correspondent

Wasps Zach Kibirige breaks clear during the Gallagher Premiership match at the Recreation Ground, Bath.

Photo credits: Press Association

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