Maddock hat-trick puts Bath on top-four course

London Wasps 19 Bath 35
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The Independent Online

It remains to be seen if the financial clout of Bruce Craig can bring the glory days back to Bath. But a week and half into the ownership of the gentleman ranked 299th on the new British Rich List, the West Country club have a win at HQ under their belts for the first time since they beat Leicester in a drama-laden finish to the 1996 Pilkington Cup final.

That was the notorious occasion on which Neil Back pushed Steve Lander to the ground after the referee had awarded a last-minute try against the Tigers. Last night it was push-come-to-shove time in the fight for the fourth and last place in the Guinness Premiership play-offs. Bath now have it in their grasp, having maintained their winning momentum – 10 in 11 since Christmas – to knock it out of Wasps' possession.

Steve Meehan's men have a three-point advantage over the Londoners with a home game to come on Saturday week against Leeds. Wasps need to win away to Newcastle and hope that Bath lose to a team coached by... Neil Back.

Bath scored four tries here, the first three by Joe Maddock and the fourth by Olly Barkley, who also kicked three conversions and three penalties and performed the midfield string-pulling that put the visitors firmly in control.

Wasps had won twice at Twickenham this season, in "home" and "away" fixtures against Harlequins, and they got their feet under the table with a couple of Danny Cipriani penalties. Bath took 15 minutes to get points on the board, Barkley thumping over a penalty from 40 metres. That, however, was a minor blow compared to the one-two the visitors proceeded to deliver midway through the first half.

The first was prompted by Butch James, Bath's Springbok fly-half, launching a break up the left and fending off Cipriani before Barkley and Nick Abendanon furnished Maddock with a silver-platter score on the overlap. It was the Kiwi wing's eighth Premiership try of the season and his ninth was not long in coming, after Barkley had converted the first from out wide and kicked another penalty for good measure.

It was Barkley who created the try, the sometime England man darting in between two Wasps from a ruck on halfway and shipping the ball wide, via Stuart Hooper, Abendanon and Michael Claassens, for Maddock to dot down in the right corner. All of which, after Barkley pushed wide the conversion, put Bath 18-6 up with 26 minutes on the clock. By the interval a Cipriani penalty had cut the score to 18-9 but Meehan's men had survived 10 minutes without Abendanon, the full-back having been sent to the cooler for a none-too-subtle shoulder-charge on Tom Varndell as the former Leicester wing chased a kick up the left touchline.

A Cipriani penalty whittled the gap to six points early in the second half but it was game over in the 57th minute when the future Melbourne Rebel threw out a Harlem Globetrotter of a pass that Maddock plucked out of the air for the game-breaking score. Barkley scored the bonus-point try six minutes later, which meant that Ben Jacobs's last-minute touchdown was a hollow consolation for Wasps.

London Wasps: M van Gisbergen; P Sackey, D Waldouck, S Kefu (B Jacobs, 65), T Varndell (D Lemi, 49; J Hart, 72); D Cipriani (D Walder, 65), J Simpson; T Payne (S Taulafo, 65), R Webber, B Broster (P Vickery, 42), S Shaw, G Skivington, J Worsley, D Ward-Smith, T Rees (capt; S Betsen, 72).

Bath: N Abendanon; J Maddock (J Cuthbert, 79), M Carraro (S Hape, 66), O Barkley, M Banahan; B James, M Claassens (capt; S Bemand, 68); D Barnes (N Catt, 40), L Mears (P Dixon, 65), D Bell (D Wilson, 40), S Hooper, D Grewcock (B Skirving, 79), A Beattie, L Watson, J Salvi.

Referee: W Barnes (London).