Wasps spent all last season finding victory an elusive prize. They do not want a repeat this season, after losing their opening Aviva Premiership fixture in such dramatic fashion against Harlequins and then coming away from Bath yesterday with no more than a losing bonus point, thanks to Nicky Robinson's last-minute penalty goal.
In truth, on a blissful afternoon, they were always chasing the game. All of a sudden the rocket-fuelled start they made against Harlequins at Twickenham fell to earth against one of the meanest defences of 2011-12. Bath will not be readily associated with the word risk for some time but they look like a side building purposefully.
They hope to have Stephen Donald, their 2011 World Cup-winning fly-half, available next weekend and young Tom Heathcote soon after but, in the meantime, Olly Barkley has slotted cheerfully back into the number-10 shirt. If Barkley continues to kick his goals – he is 14 from 14 after two games – they will be hard for anyone to beat but Barkley also manages well the game they seek to play.
Toby Booth, Bath's coach, denies there are any restrictions though clearly Bath look for territory before the ball goes wide. But they created two of their three tries whereas Wasps, on their own admission, lacked the patience to build a score, relying instead on the threat posed by the likes of Christian Wade in broken-field play.
Wade, of course, displayed all his elusive skills at Twickenham, and added another try here, but he was outshone by another contender for the unwanted title of "next Jason Robinson", Bath's Kyle Eastmond. Where Eastmond ends up in union – he was a halfback during his league career with St Helens – remains to be seen but he looked hard for work off the wing and scored a try which would have had the Wasps defence coach tearing his hair, did they possess such an individual which they do not.
"We haven't scratched the surface of what he can do," Brad Davis, Bath's other first-team coach, said. "Last season was written off through injury but he's a smart player, he can run, he can pass, he can kick." For the score that moved Bath 14 points clear, Eastmond ducked and weaved through five men for the first try of his Premiership career and will have benefited hugely from this experience.
Yet Bath could never quite pin down the outcome. The smoothest of take-and-give passes by Dan Hipkiss gave Matt Banahan their first-half try, though the England centre left early with a knee injury which will be assessed tomorrow. Even 10 points in the opening four minutes of the second half failed to make Wasps lie down.
Barkley opened the half with his second penalty and then converted a try by Tom Biggs which will give Wasps nightmares. Robinson was caught in two minds in defence, his pass cannoned off Tom Palmer and Biggs hacked on to the line.
Scarcely had the cheers died down than Tom Varndell replied in the left-hand corner, thanks to the deftest of chips by Marco Wentzel, the Wasps lock.
Eastmond's try gave Bath breathing space but when Banahan was turned over, Simon McIntyre found Joe Launchbury running out of his own 22 and Wade finished from 55 metres. Elliot Daly punched several holes as Wasps tried to snatch something more from the game but, after Barkley's third penalty with time nearly up, they were grateful for the one point with which they travelled home courtesy of Robinson's careful kick from 41 metres.
Bath N Abendanon (J Cuthbert, 71); K Eastwood, D Hipkiss, M Banahan (O Devoto, 73), T Biggs; O Barkley, M Claassens; N Catt (P James, 52), L Mears (R Batty, 70), D Wilson (K Palma-Newport, 70), S Hooper (captain; D Attwood, 60), D Day, S Taylor, B Skirving, C Fearns (J Ovens, 22-33, 63).
London Wasps H Southwell (captain); T Varndell, E Daly, C Bell (C Mayor, 14-20, 22; T Bell, 68), C Wade; N Robinson, J Simpson; T Payne (S McIntyre, 71), T Lindsay (R Thomas, 55), F Staibano (Z Taulafo, 71), T Palmer (J Launchbury, 55), M Wentzel, J Haskell, B Vunipola (A Johnson, 60), J Poff.
Referee: T Wigglesworth (Yorkshire)
Tries: Banahan, Biggs, Eastmond
Cons: Barkley 3
Pens: Barkley 3
Tries: Varndell, Wade
Cons: Robinson 2
Pens: Robinson 3Reuse content