The Wasps finally got there and given that the specter of the administration emerged just 48 hours before that nerve-wracking victory, they can be forgiven for doing it the hard way. They were excellent for 50 minutes, taking a 29-point lead with Josh Bassett scoring two tries and Jack Willis proving a formidable force. Bath came back to give Wasps a good dose of nervousness, but the visitors showed impressive determination in difficult circumstances to prove themselves victorious.
There’s no doubt it’s been a trying week for Wasps after they filed notice of their intention to appoint directors on Wednesday. Indeed, their financial situation is such that they have 20 days to find the £2million they owe HMRC in unpaid taxes. Premiership Rugby chief executive Simon Massie-Taylor stressed beforehand that the main difference between them and Worcester was that it was a proactive decision taken by the club, suggesting a degree of trust, but a tough deadline they chose to set for themselves nonetheless.
“After the last two days, I’m really proud of the effort and delighted with the result, getting five points,” said head coach Lee Blackett. “Everyone takes it in different ways. The majority of players are like me and believe that we will get through this. It will be others who serially worry about things. [The owners] given assurances, but no one can guarantee anything. That’s why I like what they said and I was honest in their assessment of where we are. They are confident. There is a lot of interest. It’s a big club. Look at the facilities we have, the stadium. There has been a lot of interest, new interests are emerging. I get very little information because I don’t ask, but there are a lot of people who are very positive.
The news came out of the blue, for Premiership Rugby as well as the Wasps squad and staff and as a result there was anxiety among the players who were summoned for a meeting with owner Derek Richardson and General Manager Stephen Vaughan. . On the pitch, the players started in such a way as to suggest their fears had been allayed, although helped by the fact that Bath had been substandard in almost every department. It turned out to be enough for Wasps, but fair.
Bath’s need for victory was just as acute as that of their visitors. They are among the Premiership clubs that can rely on a wealthy benefactor, but there have been few signs of recovery under Johann van Graan after last season’s bottom place. Like Wasps, they had lost their opening two games, including a humiliating one last time out against Sale, who played most of the match with 14 men.
They started with determination, carrying the fight against the Wasps and seeking to take advantage of any uncertainty spreading through the ranks of the visitors after Wednesday’s bombshell. After knocking on the door, however, they spat the ball out and from there the rest of the first half became an all too familiar story.
Two penalties from Jacob Umaga were followed by a fine score from Bassett down the left, running to meet his grubber in the corner. Willis was next in the back of a maul and third was a peach, finished by Will Porter under the posts after good work from Umaga and Burger Odendaal. Bath got on the scoreboard before the interval with full-back Matt Gallagher completing a fine move on his home debut after Orlando Bailey’s mini-break but two more penalties from Umaga – one obtained by the irrepressible Willis – further extended Wasps’ lead. at the interval.
When Bassett scored his second goal, Wasps were cruising, but two close-range scores from Tom Dunn either side of a Jonathan Joseph effort brought Bath within eight. A Piers Francis penalty brought Bath within touching distance with a minute to go, but Umaga responded in kind at the death to settle things.