Rugby Union: Wasps ruin Rec record

Bath 36 Wasps 40
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A new age and a brand new game which is undeniably entertaining and as bewildering in its pace as it is in the patterns of its scoring. Yet for all the dazzling brilliance of some of the passages of play at the Recreation Ground yesterday, it was strangely unsatisfying.

Seventy-six points scored, and for the first time in league history 40 of them were scored against Bath. There were, too, some breathtaking individual performances, most notably from the Wasps No 8, Chris Sheasby, whose two tries ultimately broke Bath's spirit. There was also a major contribution from the Wasps full-back, Gareth Rees, whose 17 points kept his side abreast of the opposition throughout the helter-skelter of the play.

Such was the advance interest in this match that the telephone at the Rec had gone night and day for 72 hours. But judged on Bath's tired performance throughout this match, the club could soon be going ex-directory. True, the expectation levels, given the presence of three of rugby league's brightest stars and Bath's dazzling midweek performance against Swansea, were absurdly high. But by any standards the quality of Bath's play was depressingly poor, the flow too often fractured by avoidable errors.

Had it not been for Jon Callard, whose kicking was as remorselessly accurate as that of Rees, Bath's defeat would have been much bigger than it was.

The full-back gave a beautiful exhibition of goal kicking and his conversion of Jason Robinson's first-half try, scored in injury time, which gave Bath a two-point lead, appeared to be the turning point of the match.

But apart from a brief spell of domination at the start of the second half when Callard kicked his fourth penalty and Mike Catt went over for a try, Bath appeared very much the worse for wear after their midweek excursions, and it was no surprise when Wasps proceeded to score 23 points without reply thereafter.

Far too frequently Bath lost control in commanding positions. Twice in the first half they lost tries at critical moments, the first when Catt lost possession and, from Andy Gomarsall's whipped pass, Paul Sampson ran 75 yards to score. It was Catt who was again the villain when Wasps scored their second, this time taking his eye off the ball and allowing Lawrence Dallaglio and Simon Mitchell to lay on the try for the ever supportive Sheasby.

At this stage Catt, understandably intent on involving the highly priced and prized acquisitions from league, Henry Paul and Robinson, was running everything. Not once did his vision extend to the temptingly broad acres behind Wasps' tightly grouped and shallowly aligned defence.

The situation cried out just occasionally for a judiciously placed chip, but instead Bath persisted with their predetermined set moves, which fooled no one but which introduced the league converts, and particularly Paul, to the claustrophobic world of rugby union.

A much better route for Bath would have been through their forwards, who in the opening 10 minutes drove the Wasps pack backwards with a series of rolling mauls. It should have been quickly obvious that Wasps' problems this season are the same as they have been for the past few years: a lack of genuine bulk and devil in the second row. But Bath attempted to bring their backs into play at every opportunity, failing to provide them with a solid platform and giving the Wasps loose forwards the opportunity to gain ground with their pulverisingly effective tackles.

Following their scoring burst at the start of the second half, the game was dominated by Wasps with Mitchell and Sheasby scoring tries, Rees converting three penalties and two conversions and Alex King, a most promising-looking outside-half, dropping a goal for a memorable victory.

Bath: J Callard; J Sleightholme, J Guscott (capt), H Paul (A. Adebayo, 42), J Robinson; M Catt, A Nicol; D Hilton, G Dawe, J Mallett, N Redman, B Cusack, N Thomas, E Peters, S Ojomoh.

Wasps: G Rees; P Sampson, N Greenstock, V Tuigamala, S Roiser; A King, A Gomarsall; W Green, S Mitchell, D Molloy, D Cronin, M Greenwood (M. Griffiths, 70), M White, C Sheasby, L Dallaglio (capt) (P. Scrivener, 32-33).

Referee: J Pearson (Yarm, Cleveland)