Bath reach summit as Barkley's kick stings Wasps

Wasps 19 Bath 20
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The Independent Online

Holding the fort while some of the senior guardsmen are away has been turned into an art form by Bath, who went top of the table yesterday, courtesy of the sort of gritty performance that used to make them one of the country's most feared clubs. And they have done it on the road.

This was their fourth win out of four, three of which have been away from home, and was achieved by a makeshift side which has more than its fair share of walking wounded.

Oh, the pain of it for Wasps. The killer sting of an overtime penalty by Olly Barkley left them writhing. The champions of England have lost three of their first four matches and desperately need to turn things round.

Their director of rugby, Warren Gatland, has until Friday, when they meet Sale in Stockport, to alter a team that he admits is lacking in confidence. He has problems.

As has his opposite number John Connolly. Unsurprisingly, he is pleased with a "good start," like other head coaches who have seen some of their best players made unavailable - Bath have four with England, and one each with Scotland and Ireland; Wasps four with England and one with Scotland.

But Bath, five of whose six in Australia are backs, are running out of replacements. Two of their centres, Jamie Williams and Robbie Kydd, went on the injured list yesterday and, according to Connolly, Matt Perry, with a thigh injury, should not be playing.

Which made the position of Bath's Tim Brasher all the more bizarre. Less than 30 minutes before kick-off, winger Brendon Daniel looked doubtful, due to a niggle in his back. Brasher, it was said, could start in his place.

Brasher, 33, is a rugby league player, but has not played that code for a year, because of injury, and he had not played union since his schooldays in Sydney.

He rocked up to the Rec on Monday to say hello to his old Balmain mate, Brian Smith, only to be dragooned into training sessions. Six days later, registered temporarily while he continues talks with Widnes, he is on an English Premiership team sheet. And 45 minutes into the game, he was on the field, replacing Perry. That is the extent of the problem.

It took Wasps less than a couple of minutes to show frailties, and Daniel less than three to cash in. It had some Wasps players pretty mad too, so they switched into counter-attack mode to give Mark van Gisbergen his first of four penalties. He stepped up again four minutes later to convert Simon Shaw's crashing run and stretch under the posts.

Wasps: Tries Shaw; Conversions Van Gisbergen; Penalties Van Gisbergen 4. Bath: Tries Daniel 2; Conversions Barkley 2; Penalties Barkley 2.

Wasps: T Voyce; S Roiser, F Waters, A Erinle, J Rudd; M van Gisbergen, R Howley (capt); T Payne, T Leota, C Dowd, S Shaw, R Birkett, I Clarke, P Volley, J Hart (P Scrivener, 56).

Bath: M Perry (T Brasher 44); L Best, J Williams (R Kydd, 69), O Barkley, B Daniel; C Malone, M Wood; D Flatman, J Humphreys (capt) (L Mears, 45), D Bell (M Stevens, 58), S Borthwick, R Fidler, A Beattie, M Lipman, Z Feaunati.

Referee: R Goodliffe.