Swift lifts the gloom

Twickenham Bath36 Wasps16
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The Independent Online
IT WAS going to take a game of extraordinary quality to overshadow the shattering news of Will Carling's dismissal as England captain. And, as Cup finals go, this was undoubtedly one of the better contests in recent years.

With the teams out on the field for the pre-match formalities, the name being chanted around the ground was neither Wasps nor Bath, but Carling. Before half-time it had been replaced by Martin Haag, Bath's solidly reliable and consistently competent lock who scored two tries, and before the end of the game by the incomparable Tony Swift. Playing in his last match for Bath after 10 years of yeoman service, he provided the one exquisitely appropriate moment of the game with a try scored with the old-fashioned almost forgotten virtues of sidestep and swerve. It was the try of the match and the moment when his side's victory was assured.

As for Haag, he performs the basic chores for which there is seldom any personal reward and having laboured throughout the season without scoring a point, he crossed for two tries yesterday, the first when he appeared in splendid isolation from an incipient maul following an untidy scrummage to score unchallenged under the posts.

The second, even more importantly, came after one of several periods in which Wasps were in the ascendancy. But despite the constant bombardment, they had been unable to nail Bath with the all-important try. Then, in a rare breakout, Steve Ojomoh drove into the massed ranks of the Wasps' pack, the ball was delivered with sure handling inside and Haag found himself a couple of steps from an unguarded line. Ben Clarke galloped in for Bath's third try of the half.

Wasps deserved better and although Bath were undeniably worthy winners of the Cup for the ninth time in 12 years, the margin of their victory scarcely reflected the run of play. Regardless of the searing heat, Wasps displayed admirable enterprise, pursuing their running game through Lawrence Dallaglio, Mike White, Dean Ryan and the powerful Damian Hopley. But so much of their running lacked conviction. There were too many passes marginally off line, too many wrong turns and far too many turnovers at crucial times.

Bath had great success in clearing their line. There was no better example of this than in the first quarter of the second half when Wasps mounted a ferocious assault on their line. But, ignoring overlaps and declining the best options, Wasps ran out of steam and Swift raised the siege. Moments later, he raised the roof with his sinuous run past Nick Greenstock, and Wasps, although they refused formally to surrender, were beaten.

But their refusal to submit, although clearly upset by the referee's sins of omission regarding Robinson's straying off-side and by some outrageous fortune, did them credit. Rob Andrew, on the very day when his name was being considered for the England captaincy, produced one of his least authorative displays of the season. He missed with two penalties, two conversions and a drop goal and his kicking from the hand was dispiritingly wayward.

Wasps scored their only try in injury time in the first half. Norm Hadley won a line-out and, driven on by the pack, he and Paddy Dunston collapsed over the line together with the latter being awarded the touchdown.

This limited Bath's half-time lead to 19-11. Had Wasps managed to score again early in the second half it might have been a different story. As it was, Bath moved further ahead with a fifth try from Callard after Jeremy Guscott's powerful run. But if 6 May will be remembered as the day when Will Carling was sacked as England's captain, it will at least be coupled with the name of Tony Swift.

Bath: J Callard; T Swift, P de Glanville (capt), J Guscott, A Adebayo; R Butland, I Sanders; K Yates, G Adams, V Ubogu, M Haag, N Redman, A Robinson, S Ojomoh, B Clarke.

Wasps: J Ufton; P Hopley, D Hopley, G Childs, N Greenstock; R Andrew, S Bates; D Molloy, K Dunn, I Dunston, M Greenwood, N Hadley, L Dallaglio, M White, D Ryan (capt).

Referee: J Pearson (Durham)