Bath dampen Wasps' ambitions

Bath 22 Wasps 14
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The Independent Online

Bath hauled themselves into third place in the Premiership after a mighty scrap with the defending champions Wasps at the Recreation Ground last night. Defeat leaves Wasps' hopes of European qualification hanging by a thread.

Both sides were willing to run the ball, Bath in particular were prepared to attack from deep inside their own half, but it was Wasps who breached the defences first with a well-worked try by Riki Flutey.

They worked their way up to the Bath 22 before Danny Cipriani drifted almost casually across, Dominic Waldouck cut a great angle, beat a tackle then popped a perfect pass for Flutey.

The fact that Cipriani missed the conversion, much to the delight of the Bath fans, was negated five minutes later when he landed a penalty, his second of the match, in the 38th minute.

Wasps, aware that they had to win if they were to keep alive their slender hopes of qualifying for next year's Heineken Cup competition, matched Bath for derring-do.

The home side found themselves confronted by a tight defence, if a Bath player beat the first tackle there was always another Wasp ready to fill the gap. Bath had to rely on their fly-half Butch James to keep them in touch.

The South African landed all three first-half penalties that he was presented with, but Wasps piled on the pressure as the interval approached and could have added another penalty, but Cipriani fluffed his third kick of the night to leave them with a slender two-point advantage.

Bath lost captain Michael Lipman with a suspected neck injury after an hour, which was a blow to the player, this being only his third game back following a head injury against Toulouse in January. Eventually Bath's superiority at set-pieces produced a try, No8 Jonny Fa'amatuainu picking up and crashing through Tom Voyce's attempted tackle. James converted.

Cipriani's three penalty misses and the failed conversion saw him cede the kicking duties to replacement Jeremy Staunton, who hauled Wasps closer with his first goal and 15 minutes left on the clock, but two late penalties from James clinched victory.

Scorers: Bath: Try: Fa'amatuainu; Conversion: James; Penalties: James (5). Wasps: Try: Flutey; Penalties: Cipriani (2), Staunton.

Bath: N Abendanon; J Maddock, A Crockett, S Hape, M Banahan; B James, S Bemand; D Flatman, L Mears, D Bell, J Harrison, P Short (S Hooper, 44), A Beattie, M Lipman (capt, J Scaysbrook, 58), J Fa'amatuainu.

Wasps: M van Gisbergen (J Staunton, 80); L Mitchell, D Waldouck, R Flutey, T Voyce; D Cipriani, J Simpson; T French (B Baker, h-t), J Ward (R Webber, 57), T Payne, S Shaw, R Birkett (G Skivington, 57), J Worsley, S Betsen (capt; T Rees, 12-27 and 80), J Hart (J Haskell, 57).

Referee: R Debney (Leicestershire)

* Harlequins ran in 10 tries as they beat Worcester 60-14 in the other Premiership game last night. Nick Easter scored a hat-trick and Ugo Monye went over twice in a comprehensive victory that lifted Quins to the top of the table.

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