Bath 6-11 London Wasps, Aviva Premiership, November 27
Wasps triumph at The Rec
November 27, 2010
London Wasps winger Tom Varndell made a decisive contribution for his side
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Fly-half Dave Walder set up a try for Tom Varndell and kicked a penalty in each half to earn London Wasps a precious 11-6 victory over misfiring Bath on Saturday.
Crowds hover around the 12,000 mark at the Recreation Ground but the West Country side still cannot manage a Premiership victory on their own turf. Their second home defeat in six days, following a tame display against Saracens last Sunday, kept them firmly in the bottom half of the table as Wasps leapfrogged Exeter Chiefs into sixth place.
Bath head coach Steve Meehan gave Academy flanker Guy Mercer his first Premiership start in the continued absence of England captain Lewis Moody and injured club skipper Luke Watson. Aaron Jarvis also came in at tight-head while Jack Cuthbert returned from Scotland A duty at outside centre.
Wasps, buoyed by their win over London Irish last weekend, were without lock Simon Shaw, restored to the England squad for the final autumn international against South Africa. Serge Betsen stepped up into the back row, with Tom Rees on the bench and surrendering the captaincy to Ben Jacobs.
The Rec pitch was in perfect condition after being covered since Wednesday afternoon but snow still decorated the hills around Bath. In a scoreless but hectic first quarter Bath posed the greater attacking threat but without the precision to carve out any clear-cut chances against a well-organised Wasps defence.
When they were forced on to the defensive themselves, Olly Barkley just scrambled back to clear a reckless pass. His kick only found Richard Haughton and the Wasps wing was eventually hauled down by Cuthbert, who came to the rescue again moments later as Walder threatened to score.
Wasps began to look more threatening by the minute and when Bath infringed at a ruck in front of the posts, Walder chipped over the penalty to open the scoring on 20 minutes. A second effort shortly afterwards missed from longer range.
On the half hour, Jacobs' inside pass put Steve Kefu through a gap but Varndell was unable to finish in the corner. Kefu was close himself a couple of minutes later but it was a simple chip over the top by Walder that eventually unlocked the Bath defence in the 33rd minute, Varndell touching down virtually unopposed. Walder's conversion was unsuccessful.
Barkley was wide from halfway with his first penalty attempt and Bath mounted another prolonged assault on the Wasps line until the ball was spilled yet again to end the half.
Mercer collected Walder's second-half restart and burst away on a 50-metre run only to lose the ball in contact, and when Wasps lock Marty Veale found a gap, he ran straight into Nick Abendanon.
Bath began to find some pace and rhythm and Barkley kicked a 50th-minute penalty from wide out on the right as Wasps were forced to infringe at a ruck. That was also a signal to replace all but one of the home front five, allowing Peter Short to make his first Premiership appearance of the season after knee surgery.
For a time the penalty count began to tip in Bath's favour and Wasps found themselves defending a five-metre scrum after Bath spurned the kick. When referee Dean Richards' arm went up yet again, Barkley landed a 65th-minute penalty.
However, six minutes later Ben Skirving was penalised for hanging off a scrum and Walder restored Wasps' five-point lead, leaving Bath vainly searching for a way through the visitors' unyielding defence.
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