Kurtley Beale double against Bath sees Wasps move five points clear at Premiership summit

Bath 3 Wasps 24: Christian Wade got the other try as Jimmy Gopperth kicked nine points

Click to follow

Australian maestro Kurtley Beale grabbed two of Wasps’ three tries as the Premiership leaders moved five points clear of Exeter Chiefs at the top of the table.

After two victories at The Rec last season, this was the first time Wasps had won three in a row at Bath’s home ground in the open era.

And it was a return to top form on the road for Wasps after a slight wobble last month with a draw at Exeter and a loss to Sale, as they inflicted Bath’s second home defeat in the Premiership since last April.

The star quality in Wasps’ backline shone brightly with first-half tries by the league’s leading scorer Christian Wade and expensive import Beale, and Beale bagging another in the final quarter.

Wade had raced to a hat-trick against Bath in the reverse fixture in Coventry on Christmas Eve and the wing who is on the outside looking in for England was on the money again in the 13th minute for his 12th Premiership try of the season.

faletau.jpg
Taulupe Faletau was released by Wales to prove his fitness for Bath (Getty)

The move began at a scrum free-kick to Wasps 25 metres from the Bath goalline, as No.8 Alex Rieder slipped past a couple of tackles and, after brief resistance by the home side, Danny Cipriani’s clever dummy and a link by Rieder sent Wade into the right-hand corner.

Jimmy Gopperth converted and Wasps’ Kiwi inside centre did so again after Beale’s superb score in the 25th minute, although Bath may feel they were hard done by to have a possible try by Dave Denton chalked off in between.

Referee JP Doyle and television match official David Sainsbury were quick to decide the flanker was in touch in-goal as he followed up some nice footwork by fly-half Adam Hastings, even though replays suggested Denton’s knee and foot may have been off the floor when he grounded the ball.

A knock-on by Hastings – who was starting as cover for England’s George Ford, while Bath were also missing the suspended Francois Louw and Kahn Fotuali’i  - was one of a glut of handling errors by Bath.

But there was no doubting Beale’s class as the Wallaby cut against the grain of Bath’s drift defence to finish a try made by Ashley Johnson’s battering in midfield, a dart by Wade, and an easy line-break by hooker Tommy Taylor.

christian-wade.jpg
The league's leading scorer Christian Wade added to his tally for the season (Getty)

Beale still had plenty to do when he roared onto Taylor’s inside shoulder but a burst of pace took him past home full-back Tom Homer.

A forward pass cost Gopperth a possible try and Bath were relieved to pick up three points just before the break – a penalty by Homer for a scrum offence on the Wasps 22-metre line.

But it was always long odds against a Bath revival as they had just two wins in their last six league matches before this, and only Northampton, Worcester and Bristol have scored fewer tries in the league this season.

Bath were beaten too often at the breakdown, and when they had the ball they tended to kick it without enough accuracy or penetration.

Very little was seen, too, of Bath’s Anthony Watson - apart from one early fumble in support of Ben Tapuai – so the England wing’s bid to prove his readiness for Six Nations Championship duty against Scotland next Saturday was difficult to judge.

Wasps had lost second row James Gaskell to a calf injury but Gopperth’s 40-metre penalty for a block on Johnson by Bath scrum-half Chris Cook restored the visitors’ 14-point lead early in the second half.

The excellent Johnson was consistently at Bath’s throats as the flanker and some-time hooker made his 100th Premiership appearance, and the shaggy-haired South African assumed his side’s captaincy after Matt Mullan was replaced.

kurtley-beale.jpg
Beale joined Wasps in the summer (Getty)

Wasps’ substitute scrum-half Dan Robson was millimetres short of a try in the 66th minute but the ball was recycled for Beale in loads of space on Semesa Rokoduguni’s wing to dive over, and Gopperth converted again.

Bath may feel this was a valuable lesson learnt by the many youngsters in their match squad.

The bigger picture with five rounds to go before the play-offs is that Bath remain in fourth place, just ahead of Leicester and Northampton, but the top three of Wasps, Exeter and Saracens look like the class acts.

Wasps and Bath have won the league title six times each, but the Coventry-based club appear much likelier to nab a seventh this season.

"I'm really pleased," said Dai Young, the Wasps director of rugby. "We have been a bit off colour in the current run of matches, but I thought our balance and decision-making was a lot better, not running ourselves into trouble."

Scorers:

Bath: penalty T Homer.

Wasps: tries: Wade, Beale 2; conversions: Gopperth 3; penalty: Gopperth.

Bath: T Homer (rep K Phillips 67th min): S Rokoduguni, M Clark, B Tapuai, A Watson; A Hastings, C Cook (W Homer 74); N Catt (B Obano 60), R Batty (M van Vuuren 70-73), M Lahiff (K Palma-Newport 60), L Charteris (E Stooke 58), C Ewels (capt), T Ellis, D Denton (Z Mercer 58), T Faletau.

Wasps: K Beale; C Wade, A Leiua (G Armitage 70), J Gopperth, W le Roux; D Cipriani, J Simpson (D Robson 58); M Mullan (capt; S McIntyre 49), T Taylor (C Festuccia 55), J Cooper-Woolley (M Moore 49), M Symons, J Gaskell (W Rowlands 39), A Johnson, T Young (J Willis 74), A Rieder.

Referee: JP Doyle (RFU).

Comments