Rugby Union: Robinson sees it all come together

Bath 43 Wasps 27
Click to follow
The Independent Online
ANOTHER red letter day for the European champions and their benefactor Andrew Brownsword, the greetings card magnate, who might have been tempted to send the club a Valentine: "Roses are red, Violets are blue, I'm glad I climbed into the bath with you".

As it happens, Brownsword, who is rarely seen at the Recreation Ground, limits his literary output to signing cheques which puts Bath in an enviable position.

They're still cashing in on their victory over Brive in the European Cup final (replica jersies go on sale next month for pounds 75 and we're not talking cashmere) and have not given up the Allied Dunbar Premiership. Two of their three defeats have been at the hands of Newcastle and Saracens and they meet both frontrunners again.

Andy Robinson, their coach, believes Bath can catch up though he thinks Saracens are odds on. "Because of the strength of the squad my money would be on them," Robinson said.

As Bath take a well-earned break, he is looking to strengthen his own squad (the names of Robert Howley and Neil Jenkins keep cropping up) although after this victory, Robinson gave his half-backs, Andy Nicol and Mike Catt, a pat on the back.

"At the end of last season we played some outstanding rugby and we are beginning to understand the way we want to play with the half-backs running the game," Robinson said.

After beating Gloucester in midweek, Bath, third from top, just about had the legs on Wasps who remain third from bottom. It was the type of game that Lawrence Dallaglio would have relished, but the England captain failed a fitness test on a well-disguised injury. Dallaglio damaged a rib cartilage early on in the Five Nations opener against France and, with hindsight, should have gone off. He is optimistic about his chances of facing Wales on Saturday but Rob Smith, the Wasps coach, thinks it will be touch and go. "He could play," Smith said, "but the danger is in exacerbating the injury."

Since winning the title last season, Wasps have been dormant in the marketplace. "I'm happy with the squad I've got," Smith said. "To tell you the truth I thought we'd be a mid-table team last season. Our success was based on hard work and that is the route for us rather than signing expensive individuals. We have shareholders to answer to".

As it is, the shareholders have had precious little to sustain them this season although Wasps seem to have been plagued by insecticides, the injury to Dallaglio being the latest in a long line. With Alex King nursing a knee injury and Gareth Rees at stand-off, at least Paul Sampson could show his pace at full-back and one of his breaks led to a cracking try for Kenny Logan.

It might have been uncomfortably close for Bath but for Rees missing rugby's equivalent of a couple of open goals. No such problems for Bath in that department and once again Jon Callard (a little corner of Bordeaux will be forever his) kept them ahead of the game with 18 points. "If you fail with your kicks it gives the opposition hope and gets the crowd frustrated. Jon never looks like missing them," Robinson said.

The last time Bath omitted Callard for Matt Perry, Catt kicked like a foal on ice and they went out of the Tetley's Bitter Cup. On Saturday Callard wasn't the only veteran to get a Cupid's arrow from Robinson. At half-time Ieuan Evans, having just completed a hazy run, asked Robinson: "How much longer do you want me to continue?" "Forty minutes," Robinson replied.

Evans not only went the distance but scored one of the most popular tries seen at the ground when he took a pass from Jeremy Guscott in the final minute. "His attitude has been fantastic," Robinson said, "and I was delighted that he finally got a pass from Jerry. We haven't been giving him enough of the ball." Evans is not complaining.

Bath: Tries De Glanville, Lyle, Guscott, Evans; penalty try; Conversions Callard 3. Pens Callard 4. Wasps: Tries Logan, Scrivener, Sheasby; Conversions Rees 3, Pens Rees 2.

Bath: J Callard (M Perry, 60); I Evans, P de Glanville (R Butland, 75), J Guscott, A Adebayo; M Catt, A Nicol (capt; S Hatley, 77); D Hilton, M Regan (F Mendez, 50), V Ubogu (J Mallett, 50), M Haag, N Redman, R Earnshaw, D Lyle (D Jones, 27), E Peters.

Wasps: P Sampson; S Roiser, N Greenstock, L Scrase, K Logan; G Rees (capt), A Gomarsall; D Malloy (A Black, 65), S Mitchell (T Leota, 71), W Green, M Weedon, S Shaw, C Sheasby, P Scrivener (D Walton, 76), M White.

Referee: B Campsall (Yorkshire).