Bath. . . . .19
IF the good Lord had intended rugby to be played at this pace he would surely have given its practitioners four pairs of eyes, 10 fingers on each hand and external breathing apparatus. Certainly there was scarcely room to breathe through the normal channels at Sudbury, even if by the end Wasps were breathing fire and fury.
Fire to the extent that until the closing minutes of a game unremarkable for anything save the number of errors, Bath were cruising casually - much too casually - towards yet another victory. But Wasps came back so strongly that the champions' unbeaten record was hanging by a thread. Graham Childs's try under the posts and Rob Andrew's conversion had brought Wasps within a converted try of victory.
Fury because in these final frenzied seconds Wasps believed that they had snapped that slender thread when Dean Ryan, their captain, was held on the Bath line. Ryan had no doubt that he had touched down for what could have been the winning score. The referee thought otherwise.
It was the last time that Wasps and the referee were at odds but not, alas, the first. Ryan also took issue with the decision earlier in the game to award Bath's second try, accredited to Ben Clarke, who went over from a line-out in an unsightly and, according to Wasps' account of the referee's positioning, impenetrable heap of players.
Wasps therefore were doubly disappointed - by the defeat and also by the manner of it. It was a controversial end to an abrasive match played for the most part at a fearsome pace. Defences were too tight, the tackling was too accurate and the refereeing of offside too lax for any of the game's fineries to be displayed. Nevertheless, the match had its heroes. In a game which is increasingly for the big boys it was Andy Robinson, one of the smallest, who was the outstanding performer. He was everywhere in the loose and a demon in the tackle.
Wasps, who have worked hard to polish up their back-row defence, still could not prevent Stuart Barnes from sneaking through. Horribly off line with his tactical kicking for most of the first-half, Barnes scampered into a black thicket of Wasps defenders and out the other side. His pass was swatted down by Chris Oti but Richard Hill was in to pick up the pieces and Adedayo Adebayo's pass put Mike Catt over for Bath's first try.
If they were to have any chance Wasps had to come out into the open. But then they were exposed to Bath's cutting edge. Victor Ubogu, the clear winner in the battle of the tight- heads, broke upfield and found support from Robinson and Hall. It was from the line-out on the Wasps line that Clarke scored his controversial try.
Wasps: A Buzza (M Skinner 66 min); P Hopley, G Childs, D Hopley, C Oti (L Dallaglio 55 min); R Andrew, S Bates; G Holmes, K Dunn, J Probyn, R Kinsey, D Ryan (capt), M Greenwood, C Wilkins, M White.
Bath: J Callard; A Lumsden, P de Glanville, M Catt, A Adebayo; S Barnes, R Hill; V Ubogu, G Dawe (C Atkins 55 min, temporary replacement), G Chilcott, M Haag, N Redman, A Robinson, B Clarke, J Hall (capt).
Referee: G Black (Ireland).
Scores: Callard (pen, 10 min, 0-3); Andrew (pen, 22 min, 3-3); Callard (pen, 29 min, 3-6); Callard (pen, 36 min, 3-9); Catt (try, 43 min, 3-14); Andrew (pen, 60 min, 6-14); Clarke (try, 66 min, 6-19); Childs / Andrew (try / con, 78 min, 13-19).
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