Match ac­tion - starts

The Rugby Paper - - Front Page - By GARY FITZGER­ALD

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.”

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

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

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