Rugby Union: Barnes draws the sting

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Bath. . . . .24

Wasps . . . .11

NO excuses this time. In their last two encounters against England's champion club, Wasps have felt mightily aggrieved, with some justification. A sending-off last season and a dubious try this term left them frustrated. But yesterday Bath won fair and square.

To have played at such a dizzying pace in perfect conditions would have been hard enough but, in a stiff wind, it was frequently beyond the skills of even the most accomplished players in the country's two foremost clubs. It was no less entertaining for that.

It was typical of Bath that they adapted far more readily to the pace and the conditions than their opponents. For long periods in the first half when Wasps had the benefit of the wind, Bath had neither the possession nor the territorial advantage to build up a head of steam yet such is their tactical acumen that they established a comfortable lead.

The line-out, a barren area for so much of the half, still provided Bath with the scores which decided the match. For the first, Victor Ubogu drove off John Hall's tap and with Bath stacking the short side Mike Catt had the simplest of tasks to score when he received the ball on the Wasps line. Ian Sanders, a lively and resourceful scrum-half, scored Bath's second try after Ben Clarke's gallop from a Wasps line-out infringement had been halted just short of the line. Jon Callard, who missed three penalties, converted both tries.

Decisive and incisive where Wasps were laboured and hesitant, Bath did enough in the first half to cruise in relative comfort through the second. Stuart Barnes dropped a goal a minute into the second half to end Wasps' challenge.

Wasps are a self-destructive lot. So much of their play is admirable and carefully planned but comes to grief on poor decision making and indiscipline. Both were frequently in evidence yesterday.

Several times in the first half the Wasps pack advanced through rolling mauls, only to be scuppered by the inadequacy of their backs. It was not one of Rob Andrew's better games, although he was not helped by a late tackle from Ubogu in the second minute. He did kick a penalty, following the tackle, and followed this up with a well-taken left-footed drop goal but he was off-line with his kicking from the hand and failed to harness the wind in the first half. He left the field with suspected concussion 15 minutes from the end to be replaced by Chris Wright.

This led to a major readjustment in the Wasps backline and left poor Wright with the unenviable task of being the last line of defence as Audley Lumsden sailed through for Bath's third try.

A glimpse of what might have been came too late. Huw Davies's try four minutes from the end followed a sweeping move and sustained the interest until the end but could not prolong Wasps' interest in the cup.

Bath: Tries Catt, Sanders, Lumsden; Conversions Callard 3; Drop goal Barnes.

Wasps: Try Davies; Penalty Andrew; Drop goal Andrew.

Bath: J Callard; A Lumsden, M Catt, P de Glanville, M Lloyd; S Barnes, I Sanders; C Clark, G Dawe, V Ubogu, M Haag, P McCoy, A Robinson, B Clarke, J Hall (capt).

Wasps: P Hopley; S Hunter, G Childs, H Davies, M Wedderburn; R Andrew (C Wright, 65), S Bates; G Holmes, K Dunn, J Probyn, R Kinsey, S Shortland, M Greenwood, D Ryan (capt), C Wilkins.

Referee: B Campsall (Yorkshire).

(Photograph omitted)