Vesty error gives Wasps bonus in relegation battle

Bath 17 London Wasps 12

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The Independent Online

The fingernails must be bitten to the quick. The relegation dogfight which has involved Newcastle and Wasps for four months will not be decided until 5 May, when the two clubs meet at Adams Park in the last round of the Aviva Premiership.

Just as Newcastle scrapped to a losing bonus point against Saracens on Friday night, so Wasps clung on yesterday, thanks to the unwitting generosity of Sam Vesty. The replacement Bath fly-half raised his arm in celebration as he headed for a bonus-point try, only to be caught by Tom Varndell and denied the score.

The fact that the video official confirmed a try, then thought again, added to the 78th-minute drama. Bath's coaches will be seething, since a five-point win would have given them a better chance of Heineken Cup qualification. Since their final game is at Leicester, their prospects of catching sixth-placed Sale are slim.

Wasps remain masters of their destiny and may even have Marco Wentzel, their injured captain, for the finale. A win or a draw will preserve their Premiership status and make them far more attractive to a potential buyer.

Newcastle must achieve a bonus-point win, to overcome a four-point deficit. A straightforward win would see bottom place determined on points difference – Newcastle must win by 24 points or more to do that. Had Vesty denied Wasps a point here, Newcastle's task would have been made easier. He will do well to avoid visiting the north-east any time soon.

Young was left bemoaning a third quarter in which Bath scored twice and overturned a 9-0 interval lead established by Nicky Robinson's three penalty goals.

"We talked at half-time about not becoming ragged and loose, because Bath have strike runners who can cause you trouble," Young said. "But they were given the opportunity to play."

Wasps could have been further ahead, if Chris Mayor had given a scoring pass to Christian Wade. Two tries in six minutes then turned the match on its head: Lee Mears covered 25 metres for the first and Stephen Donald went between Robinson and Jonathan Poff for the next.

Bath stemmed the flow of penalties and came to dominate the line-out, though their weakness at the scrum haunted them. The game-breaker came when Wasps were down to 14 men, Dominic Waldouck having been sent to the sin-bin as he attempted to stem a Bath move from their own 22; Olly Barkley hit a post with the penalty but Wasps could not cover an overhead pass by Matt Carraro which gave Nick Abendanon the third try.

All they could muster was Robinson's fourth penalty and the satisfaction of turning over another five-metre scrum. The Bath faithful were moderately happy, since this was a win on his last appearance at the Rec for Duncan Bell the popular prop who led his team out. They may also have seen a glimpse of the future in the shape of Kyle Eastmond, the former St Helens player who made his second appearance as a replacement. Eastmond is reminiscent of Jason Robinson and has, according to Sir Ian McGeechan, Bath's retiring director of rugby, "huge potential."

Bath N Abendanon; M Carraro (K Eastmond, 50-63), M Banahan, O Barkley (Eastmond, 76), T Biggs; S Donald (S Vesty, 64), M Claassens; N Catt (D Flatman, 64), L Mears (P Dixon, 64), D Wilson (D Bell, 64), S Hooper (capt), B Skirving, J Ovens, S Taylor (D Attwood, 64), C Fearns.

London Wasps J Wallace; C Wade, C Mayor, D Waldouck,T Varndell; N Robinson, C Davies (N Berry, 67); T Payne (Z Taulafo, 67), T Lindsay, B Broster, J Launchbury, R Birkett (capt; R Filipo, 70), S Jones, B Vunipola, J Poff (T du Plessis, 55).

Referee D Pearson (Northumberland)


Tries: Mears, Donald, Abendanon

Con: Barkley

London Wasps

Pens: Robinson 4