Bath Rugby v London Wasps Preview

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

Bath Rugby v London Wasps | Saturday 19 December | Recreation Ground | 21:45

When last Sunday night rolled around I was moderately pleased with my European Rugby predictions. Despite Toulouse getting rolled over by Ulster and Toulon not clearing the margin I suggested they would I still had a small smile on my face. My tip for Exter to beat Clermont had come in and I was confident Wasps would be able to give Bath a trouncing. How wrong I was. Despite trailing for the majority of the second half, the Men in Blue and White managed to claim a dramatic late win.

Their victory has left things nicely poised in Pool 2 with only six points separating first placed Wasps and third placed Toulon - who still have a game in hand - on the log. With things so tight, the result of this game could have huge ramifications for all the teams in the pool.

To Win (80 Mins)
Bath 4/11
Draw 16/1
Wasps 9/4
Bath (-7) 9/10
Wasps (+7) 9/10
*Please note these are expected odds

I have to say, Bath sold me an absolute dummy. The English club had been struggling for form for a good few weeks and the performance they put in last Sunday was one I didn't see coming.

While Wasps were nowhere near their best, the credit for the victory must go to the Bath players. They came out firing and had a two-point lead when the teams went in for the half time break.

A try from Wasps fullback, Rob Miller, saw Bath lose that lead early on in the second stanza. And when replacement flyhalf, Jimmy Gopperth, stepped up and slotted a 74th-minute penalty to extend Wasps lead to five points, I thought the game was dead and buried. Bath had other ideas, however. With time running out, the former Heineken Cup Champions were camped deep inside the Wasps twenty-two.

At this point, any handling error would have seen the full-time whistle blown and Wasps claim victory. But Bath kept the ball in hand and continued to lay siege to Wasps tryline. The home side had to resort to giving away penalties in order to keep their line intact. With the penalty count mounting, referee, Jerome Garces, was forced to reach for his pocket. Former Wallaby, George Smith was the first to incur the wrath of Garces. Smith was soon joined in the bin by fellow forward Lorenzo Cittadini. With only 13 men left on the field, Wasps tryline was eventually breached by Anthony Watson. The fullbacks try was cooly converted by George Ford and Bath walked away from the Ricoh arena with a vital victory.

Bath now have the opportunity to move to the top of the log with a win over Wasps this weekend. If they are to do this, they are going to need their centre pairing of Jonathon Josephs and Kyle Eastmond to replicate last weekend's performance. Both players put in seismic displays, and when you consider it was the first time the duo had lined up next to each other in half a year, it makes it all the more impressive.

In light of last week's defeat, Wasps coach, Dai Youngs, has vowed to curb his sides " attack at all costs " attitude. While I do think Wasps have to be smarter when it comes to controlling territory; I don't think they need to completely forgo their attacking game plan. I mean what's the point of recruiting Charles Piutau, if you're going to play conservative rugby.

Like most players to represent New Zealand, Piutau has x-factor in abundance. I think Youngs missed a trick by not fielding Piutua at fullback last week. Having the former Blues man stationed at fifteen tends to lead to opposition flyhalves sacrificing a bucket load of distance with their kicks for touch so as to ensure Piutau is unable to take a quick line out. This effectively negates the emphasis placed on Wasps pivot, Ruaridh Jackson, to control the game with his boot. If the opposition ten is sacrificing 15 to 20 meters with each touch finder, Wasps are likely to play the majority of the game in their opponents half.

Wasps are yet to announce if Frank Halai will be fit enough to take the field this weekend. If Halai remains sidelined, I think Youngs needs to find a way to move Piutua back into the 15 slot. Rob Miller put in a solid shift last week, but he just doesn't offer that x-factor that Piutua does.

I expect Joe Launchbury and James Haskell will once again find themselves amongst the starting pack. The duo impressed on their return to the starting lineup last week. If they can get Wasps go forward ball, then the London side may well be able to exact some revenge over their English rivals.

Verdict: Wasps 
They may be experiencing a run of poor form, but I still think Wasps have the quality to bounce back this weekend with a much-needed win. If the actual odds mirror the expected odds then Wasps to win is probably the best value you'll get on a rugby match this weekend.

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