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Wasps up to third in Aviva Premiership with victory at Bath

Published 20/02/2016

Frank Halai touched down twice for Wasps at Bath
Frank Halai touched down twice for Wasps at Bath

Wing Frank Halai scored two tries as title play-off contenders Wasps moved into third place by claiming a fifth successive Aviva Premiership victory.

Halai's double, plus a second-half touchdown from prop Simon McIntyre, gave Wasps a 24-18 triumph as they claimed a third win from four Premiership and European Champions Cup starts against Bath this season.

Kickers Elliot Daly, Ruaridh Jackson and Jimmy Gopperth each landed a penalty, while Bath replied through a Tom Homer try that he also converted, plus two Rhys Priestland penalties and a late touchdown by number eight Amanaki Mafi on his home debut.

But while Champions Cup quarter-finalists Wasps remain upwardly mobile, Bath have still won only two league games - both against Worcester - since Christmas, and their hopes of a top-six finish are fading by the week.

Their latest setback will undoubtedly increase the heat on head coach Mike Ford, yet Wasps have no such worries after Halai, England midfield hopeful Daly and scrum-half Dan Robson proved their outstanding performers during another impressive afternoon's work.

Wasps, who scored 36 points on their last Recreation Ground visit in December, dominated initial possession and territory as they put Bath on the back foot through punching runs by skipper George Smith and number eight Nathan Hughes.

Daly opened their account through a long-range penalty that benefited from the wind being behind him, and Wasps' lead should have been more during a one-sided opening 25 minutes, but Daly and Jackson missed further penalty chances.

Bath could not get going. and it came as no surprise when Wasps cut them open for a 29th-minute try that underlined the visitors' excellence with ball in hand.

Flanker Thomas Young made initial headway, running into the heart of Bath's defence, then Wasps finished brilliantly, with full-back Charles Piutau entering the line at pace and Halai crossing wide out.

Bath needed to assert some kind of authority as the interval approached, and after Priestland opened their account with a penalty, centre Matt Banahan unluckily saw a try ruled out after he appeared to have touched down amid a pile of bodies.

Bath, though, maintained scrum pressure, and referee Tom Foley punished Wasps, giving Priestland a short-range penalty chance that he accepted to cut his team's deficit and make it 8-6 at half-time.

England RBS 6 Nations squad member Ollie Devoto did not appear for the second period after suffering what was believed to be concussion - he was replaced by Max Clark - and Wasps re-established control through an impressive points burst.

Jackson kicked an angled penalty to restore a five-point advantage, then Halai struck with his second try after Daly's well-placed kick caught out Homer and Halai skirted around him to touch down.

Jackson missed the touchline conversion attempt, but Wasps led 16-6 midway through the third quarter before they repelled Bath's forwards as they attempted to drive over the visiting line.

Wasps had the confidence to break out from behind their own line, and with the visitors also securing turnover ball, it meant they had weathered Bath's storm as they reclaimed a strong attacking position.

And McIntyre went over from close range to open up a 15-point advantage that looked to be enough for Wasps, but Bath hit back when Homer converted his own try to give the home side a glimmer of hope

New Zealander Gopperth, though, extinguished prospects of a successful Bath fightback when he landed a 25-metre penalty that sealed the deal for Wasps and left the overwhelming majority among a 13,000 crowd wondering how their team could continue to fade away following last season's Premiership final and Champions Cup quarter-final appearances.

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