Grewcock escapes punishment

Wasps 9 - Bath 12
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The Independent Online

Bath's forwards will be entitled to pat themselves on their aching backs this morning. When big efforts at the scrum were called for, which was often during a chill evening of butter-fingered handling, the visitors were not found wanting. Wasps, already dismissed from the Heineken and Powergen Cups, had their proud claim to league champion status a little further undermined as a result.

Bath's forwards will be entitled to pat themselves on their aching backs this morning. When big efforts at the scrum were called for, which was often during a chill evening of butter-fingered handling, the visitors were not found wanting. Wasps, already dismissed from the Heineken and Powergen Cups, had their proud claim to league champion status a little further undermined as a result.

The obvious caveat as far as Wasps' supporters and, indeed, many neutrals were concerned was that Bath were fortunate to be able to put on the full squeeze up front. They survived a crass moment of midjudgment by their England second row, Danny Grewcock, in the ninth minute, which ought to have produced at least a yellow card from the referee, Dave Pearson.

Students of this fixture would not be astounded to learn that Grewcock got in a tangle with Lawrence Dallaglio. The one-time England colleagues were at it with their fists in the reverse fixture at the Rec earlier this season, and Grewcock was cited and missed an England tour after punching Dallaglio in the 2003 Parker Pen Challenge Cup final. Dallaglio was heard at the time to refer to "cheap shots" and this latest flare-up was in the same category.

Grewcock was cleared from the edge of a ruck by the Wasps captain. It was a far from violent act but Grewcock reacted with a slow and deliberate plant of his boot on to Dallaglio's prone body, much as one might stub out a cigarette. Pearson, one of the RFU's full-time international panel, had a chat with his touch judge, then had a chat with Grewcock, but applied no other sanction.

An average of three points separated these two sides in the previous three meetings, and the respective fly-halves James Brooks and Chris Malone spent the first quarter shying drop kicks at the posts. Brooks converted one from two for Wasps; Malone missed twice, but put over a penalty in the 28th minute to make it 3-3.

Bath's back line included two scrum-halves, two fly-halves and two centres so they were unlikely to dazzle Wasps' famed defence. Wasps' England scrum-half Matt Dawson, hoping for a Six Nations recall, sat this one out as a precautionary measure with a strained right calf.

Dawson is staying here next season but, with the transfer window open until the end of next month, players' agents are said to be doing a roaring trade. Dallaglio and Phil Greening are being courted by French champions Stade Français. An international hooker, perhaps Gordon Bulloch of Scotland or England's Andy Titterrell, may come in.

Wasps lost Johnny O'Connor to the sin bin just before half-time for diving over a ruck: in the Irishman's absence Malone kicked a penalty for 6-3, and struck twice more to treble the advantage. Wasps, with Simon Shaw comfortably outplayed in the line-out by Steve Borthwick, managed only two penalties by Mark van Gisbergen in reply.

London Wasps: M van Gisbergen; J Lewsey, R Hoadley, A Erinle, T Voyce; J Brooks (A King, 56), W Fury (H Biljon, 56); C Dowd (W Green, 70), B Gotting (J Barrett, 70), T Payne, S Shaw, R Birkett, L Dallaglio (capt), J Worsley, J O'Connor (T Rees, 80) Bath: M Perry (R Davis, 77); A Crockett, A Higgins, O Barkley, A Williams; C Malone, N Walshe (M Wood, 70); D Barnes (D Bell, 45), L Mears, M Stevens, S Borthwick (capt), D Grewcock (R Fidler, 70), A Beattie, I Fea'unati, M Lipman (J Scaysbrook, 70).

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).

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