Bath Rugby v London Wasps | Saturday 20 February |The Recreation Ground | 17:10
Our second port of call this week in the Aviva Premiership is the Recreation Ground in Bath where Mike Ford’s Bath Rugby will take on Dai Youngs’ London Wasps. The hosts currently languish in ninth place on the log after a string of poor results, while the visitors moved up to fourth place with their annihilation of Saracens last Sunday.
So, can Mike Ford’s men turn their season around with a vital home victory or will Young’s charges continue their ascent up the Premiership log? Let’s take a look at how the teams are shaping up for this one.
To Win (80 Mins)
I could not tell you what went on with Bath last weekend, as I didn’t get to see the game due to it not be televised, but having read through a few of the match reports, I can safely say that they were nowhere near their best. Their narrow two-point victory over Worcester last Saturday hardly papers over the cracks that have been evident since they lost the spine of their starting XV to the England Six Nations squad.
Bath had lost their two games prior to last weekend’s win and while there is no shame in losing to Saracens - especially at Allianz Park - their loss to Gloucester at the Rec' the following weekend would have frustrated all those associated with the club.
So how do Bath turn around their season without the services of their stalwarts? Well, the youngsters that Mike Ford has brought in to fill the boots of their colleagues who are on Six Nations duty are going to have to step up to the mark. 19-year-old pivot and son of Scottish legend Gavin Hastings, Adam Hastings, made his debut last weekend and by all accounts, he had a decent game.
Another youngster who is going be vital for Bath during the Six Nations is Max Clark. The talented outside centre had a bit of a day to forget last weekend as he was shown a yellow card for a less than friendly tackle on former Waikato Chief, Bryce Heem.
The two young guns are likely to play a crucial role for Bath this weekend, but the likes of Horacia Agulla, Leroy Houston, Nick Auterac, and Semesa Rokoduguni may be even more pivotal. The seasoned veterans know how to grind out a win, and at this point, Mike Ford will be willing to sacrifice playing pretty rugby in order to pick up vital log points.
Did we witness the performance of the season by a European club last week? Well, it’s going to take something special for anyone to top Wasps 23-64 victory over Saracens. Dai Young’s men ran in eight tries in a virtuoso display of attacking rugby last Sunday. Their backline was extremely impressive with Charles Pitau and pivot Jimmy Gopperth shining brightest.
While you’d expect a back to win the man of the match award in such a high-scoring spectacle of rugby, former Wallaby flanker, George Smith claimed that particular honour. The veteran flanker was everywhere last weekend, cleaning out opposition defenders at ruck time, making hits from corner flag to corner flag, and he also managed to get involved on attack.
Wasps will be looking to Smith and his fellow loose forwards to once again set a platform for their exciting backline to work off. Eighthman Nathan Hughes was in imperious form last week and managed to grab a brace of tries. His fellow back rower Thomas young also put in a fine display and ended up bagging a try.
The trio are probably the best set of loosies currently operating in the Premiership. The way in which they asserted themselves at the breakdown against Saries brought back memories of the Wallaby loose trio against New Zealand in the Rugby Championship decider last year.
The sides have met on three occasions this season with Wasps winning the reverse Aviva Premiership tie 10-36 and one of the two Champions Cup ties by seven points, while Bath managed to win the reverse Champions Cup tie by two points.
Verdict: Wasps 6/10
This year’s Aviva Premiership has been a bit unpredictable but I honestly can’t see a fired up Wasps side capitulating after last weekend’s blinder. Back Dai Young’s charges to claim back to back away wins at 6/10
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