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RHYS Priestland was praised by Todd Blackadder after helping Bath regain some European pride and leave a despairing Wasps stuck at the bottom of Pool 1.
The veteran Wales flyhalf announced in the build up to this contest he will be searching for a new home to play his rugby next season after four years at the Rec.
So it was apt that the man who has slipped down the international pecking order should have the final say in giving Bath their first win in what has been a miserable Champions Cup campaign.
Director of rugby Blackadder, whose side face a final pool clash in Toulouse next Sunday, said: “Rhys has been a fantastic performer for this club and he has always maintained very high levels of performance and standards. He’s a class act and you can always rely on him when you need to get the job done.
“The supporters will certainly be sad to see him go but he still has plenty to offer the team before the end of the season.”
Blackadder had mixed emotions after the game which leaves just Wasps without a win in the pool. It helped lift spirits after that remarkable Premiership injury time loss to Worcester, but he knows there is plenty of work to do to make sure his side challenge for the domestic title having seen their European hopes disappear.
Bath held a slim 12-10 advantage at the break thanks to a try created by returning Wales forward Toby Faletau. Fly-half Lima Sopoaga had kicked the first points but Faletau, playing his first game following a 13-week lay-off with a broken forearm, charged 40 yards to feed scrum-half Max Green for the opening try.
Another international just back, Wasps’ Nathan Hughes, showed he has also lost none of his strength and skill by responding superbly. The flanker twisted and then reached down to ground the ball for a try which showed impressive agility for a big man.
Sopoaga added the extras but the lead did not last long. Bath centre Max Wright gave a short pass to the charging Zach Mercer and the England flanker surged over the line unchallenged. Priestland converted to put the hosts back in front.
Sopoaga sent a penalty sailing through the posts four minutes into the second half as Bath’s discipline problems continued at the set-piece. Yet, it was a no arms tackle by Sopoaga on replacement Jackson Willison which opened the door for the hosts.
He was shown a yellow card and Priestland kicked his side ahead again with 20 minutes remaining.
Rob Miller had to take over kicking duties when Wasps’ pack forced their rivals into collapsing a scrum. And the full-back coolly slotted a long-range penalty to give his side the lead once more.
Replacement Billy Searle missed an even longer attempt at the posts for the visitors and it proved vital in the end as Priestland enjoyed the final say with his winning kick two minutes from time after Wasps had been pinged at a scrum.
Wasps boss Dai Young admitted: “It was a disappointing way to lose, right at the end to a scrum penalty against us.
“We had dominated the scrum throughout the game and it seemed a strange decision by the referee.” just said dominance doesn’t always mean legal. I’ve been playing for ten years and just six inches away from the action in the scrum and I confess I don’t always know what is going on.
“We were frustrated at the end as we had chances to kill the game. We were dominant in the scrum and to lose the game to a penalty because the referee thought we did something wrong was annoying.”
Bath boss Todd Blackadder said of crocked Sam Underhill: “It’s a big blow because he’s been on fire but I’m sure he will return bigger and better.”
Sharp thinking: Danny Care breaks away to score the first try for Harlequins against Grenoble
On the run: Darren Atkins of Bath breaks away from Wasps’ Dan Robson
Ganging up: Wasps Ross Neal is tackled by Aled Brew and Max Wright