Wasps defy in­juries to force way past Bath in show of grit

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport | Rugby Union - By Ben Coles

Bath Wasps

Af­ter a week­end of de­flat­ing mis­matches across the Gal­lagher Premier­ship, a proper con­test was over­due, and this cer­tainly de­liv­ered. Wasps, de­spite their pack be­ing ripped apart by in­juries in the first half, came from be­hind to pro­duce a cru­cial win over their top­four ri­vals Bath.

Wasps lost both of their hook­ers in the first half, as well as Thomas Young and Lima Sopoaga, but the deeper they were forced to dig, the bet­ter they played.

Jack Wil­lis, a tour de force once again at the break­down, was named man of the match, while Dan Rob­son and Ja­cob Umaga were both ra­zor sharp as a late penalty try won by the Wasps maul sealed vic­tory for Lee Black­ett’s side at the Rec, where Sara Cox made his­tory by be­com­ing the first fe­male as­sis­tant ref­eree in a Premier­ship fix­ture.

“Joe Launch­bury has just spo­ken in the sheds about how that was one of the best wins of his Wasps ca­reer, and he has been here a lot longer than I have,” Black­ett said. “It’s the char­ac­ter, the lead­er­ship, the ad­ver­sity we had to go through. We spoke in the break about be­ing adapt­able and that was the most pleas­ing thing to­day, be­cause ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble was thrown at us.

“We saw what Bath’s scrum did to Northamp­ton, but we were on top early on [be­fore go­ing un­con­tested], which was re­ally pleas­ing.”

With no hook­ers left, the li­ne­out throw­ing du­ties fell to re­place­ment prop Si­mon McIn­tyre, who acquitted him­self well in the chaos. The backup thrower in this sce­nario was meant to be Young, who was forced off him­self with an in­jury af­ter four min­utes. No prob­lem. Wasps rose above it. “Fair play to him [McIn­tyre], he has added a lit­tle bit to his con­tract I think,” joked Black­ett.

Black­ett might have been full of praise for how Wasps adapted, but Stu­art Hooper, re­flect­ing on Bath’s first de­feat since the restart, felt his side could have han­dled the un­con­tested scrums bet­ter. “We didn’t re­act quick enough and we didn’t ad­just, and they got the win,” said Bath’s di­rec­tor of rugby. “I thought we had mo­ments where we showed some of the things we had done in the pre­vi­ous three games, but we didn’t con­sis­tently knit that to­gether. We coughed up a few op­por­tu­ni­ties. To­day was an op­por­tu­nity for us, but it is not ter­mi­nal.”

The start for Bath was far more promis­ing. Ruar­idh McCon­nochie was sharp off the bench in mid­week against Northamp­ton when Bath’s pres­sure on de­fence pro­duced a try, and he re­peated the trick here, speed­ing away to score af­ter scoop­ing up a loose ball when Malakai Fek­i­toa spilt a pass.

Two quick penal­ties against Wasps, both at the break­down, helped Bath build their lead through Rhys Pri­est­land’s boot to put Wasps in a 13-0 hole. A Jack Wil­lis penalty gave them a foothold, the im­pres­sive flanker se­cur­ing yet an­other break­down turnover this sea­son, for Sopoaga to make it 13-3.

Wasps then lost Sopoaga and Tommy Tay­lor with a nasty-look­ing an­kle in­jury, but were un­fazed, pro­duc­ing a scrum penalty against Bath’s vaunted pack which was sent to a cor­ner, be­fore a mo­ment of magic from Rob­son. The Eng­land scrum-half can­di­date sold Pri­est­land an ex­cel­lent dummy, backpedall­ing, be­fore swiv­el­ling to­wards the posts and putting his half-back part­ner Umaga away to haul Wasps back into the con­test.

Wasps’ in­jury is­sues then be­came a full-blown dis­as­ter when re­place­ment hooker Gabriel Oghre was forced off, as scrums went un­con­tested.

Were it not for an­other Jack Wil­lis turnover then Wasps might have

Im­pos­ing: Wasps’ Jack Wil­lis takes on Ben Spencer as his side grind out a vic­tory, over­seen by as­sis­tant ref­eree Sara Cox (left)

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