Wasps' Sunday best not quite enough

Bath's double try scorer Rob Webber during his Wasps days.

Bath's double try scorer Rob Webber during his Wasps days.

First published in Sport by

WASPS will have to wait a little longer to return to the winner's circle after losing a spellbinding Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final 24-18 to Bath at Adams Park today.

Dai Young's team played just about as well as they could in a match that constantly tipped from one end of the field to the other, but they will look back at a forward pass early in the second half as the crucial moment in a game that hung on such slender calls.

They were three points in front then and could have stretched their lead to ten had Kearnan Myall's try stood.

Instead the TMO ruled against them, rightly so, and within minutes Bath had crossed themselves.

It was a 14-point swing, and Wasps were never able to get back on level terms.

But pinpointing one incident in a game littered with them is perhaps churlish.

This was a match to savour for the 6,010 fans inside Adams Park and although the home faithful will think longingly of a final in Cardiff next month, they can't be overly disappointed.

Their team have twice been well beaten by Bath in the league this season but they went out of this competition kicking and screaming.

They led at the interval, reached the final ten minutes within a try of snatching it and on another day their desperate assaults on the Bath line in the final moments would have brought them reward; it is perhaps fitting that it was two tries from former Wasp Rob Webber that ultimately settled it.

The black and golds were chastened 28-5 the last time these sides met at Adams Park but there was no hint of a repeat as they reached the end of a ferociously competitive opening quarter 6-3 in front.

The signs were good as early as the first minute when their pack won a penalty in the scrum.

After being brutalised by Bath in November it was a significant victory for the front row and Andy Goode capitalised off the tee to nudge his side into an early lead.

As if in a rush to erase the memories of November, the pack continued to impress in the early stages with muscular drives from Ashley Johnson and Carlo Festuccia raising the volume inside the stadium before the decibel levels rose again with a 30m rolling maul that took play over halfway.

Bath are no shrinking violets though and they responded with a penalty of their own, converted by England hopeful George Ford after 11 minutes.

But straight from the restart Elliot Daly hunted down Kyle Eastmond, Bath were pinned back in their own 22 and Goode did the honours when the inevitable penalty came.

Ford missed a chance to level it up at 6-6 with 19 minutes gone and moments later Wasps threatened the first try of the game when Goode's inventive crossfield chip floated towards Tom Varndell.

The winger jumped to get two hands to it but couldn't make it stick, and instead it was Bath who crossed first when their pack shoved prop Anthony Perensie over.

The conversion made it 10-6 and the lead was nearly increased after 36 minutes when Wasps' line out broke down 5m from their line.

Bath scented blood and poured in, but the home line held and it proved a pivotal moment in the match as within moments Wasps had crossed themselves.

Will Helu scored it under the posts after Daly's blitzkrieg counter-attack, and instead of being17-6 behind at the interval Wasps were 13-10 in front.

Wasps were nearly at it again three minuted after the restart after another Goode cross field kick.

This time it went to the other side of the pitch and Helu collected. He slipped trying to step inside Matt Banahan, but Wasps were quick to support him and only a forward pass denied Kearnan Myall.

It was a marginal call but a correct one, and it came to haunt Wasps as Webber went over from attacking line-outs after 47 and 57 minutes.

Suddenly Wasps wee floundering at 24-13 down, but they didn't wilt and were right back in it when Johnson powered to the corner and then reached over Bath bodies on the line to touch down.

That brought Wasps back within a converted try of Bath, and they spent the next 15 minutes straining every sinew to get it.

It wouldn't come though, and in the end Bath held on to complete a hat-trick of wins over the black of golds.

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