Without fail the European back-to-back fixtures always deliver and with the individuals housed in both Wasps' and Bath Rugby's squads their Pool 5 encounters always had the potential to be an extremely intriguing two part drama.
Bath's form going into the game was undefinably shaky, their confidence was low and ahead of the game they had looked a shadow of their former selves. Wasps had been unrelenting in Europe and although had stuttered against Exeter were expected to blow their opponents away. Understandably Dai Young wasn't too content after the fixture, not only had they lost, but his side hadn't produced a performance reflective of their potential;
"I think that we need to look at ourselves for the whole performance that's what we've talked about. Bath didn't play any rugby whatsoever and we played far too much rugby. We had something like four times as many rucks as they did, we were keeping the ball but weren't getting much penetration to be quite honest with you. We probably should have been a little bit smarter and played the game in the right areas a little bit more than we did. As I say we became very lateral keeping the ball and struggled, certainly out wide in the contact area and if you look at the first half all of their penalties came from our mistakes."
Conversely Mike Ford knew exactly how important the result was to their European hopes and more importantly for his side's confidence;
"So we talked about all week if we get into the red zone that we aren't going to come out until we score. We put pressure on them, with two in the bin and they couldn't obviously go for a scrum so we said keep it with the forwards and if you call for it backs then you've got to score. It was pleasing that what we did at Farleigh on Friday, it was a bit edgy that session and showed that the players care about the position that we are in, they replicated it out there today I thought. I thought sometimes you want to play fantastic rugby don't you and a beautiful game but sometimes it just takes guts and heart."
Without question both sides were very aware of the presence of Eddie Jones in the crowd, how could England's new head coach not have been there with such a number of talented Englishmen on display? Although Wasps didn't play to their full potential there were individuals that will have given Eddie a flavour of what they are about. James Haskell was his industrious and physical self, the match was a bruising encounter and it was exactly the type of game that he will have enjoyed, bar the result. Elliot Daly ran some trade mark arching lines and unleashed his powerful boot from the half-way line although two further strikes did go off course which was a shame. Joe Simpson wasn't as dynamic as he could have been, that will be something he'll want to change at the Rec next week, however his namesake Joe Launchbury showed exactly what type of athlete he is and excelled.
The final Wasp that should already have a very large page in Jones' notebook is Nathan Hughes. By my understanding Nathan qualifies for England on 25th June 2016 and I believe that he should go straight into England's squad. For every single moment that he was on the field Nathan caused Bath so much to think about - breaking tackles and the gainline is his bread and butter however he has so much more as a number 8. Nathan has total control over a rugby ball, it does what he wants it to do and he is such a powerful man that he has the ability to stay upright and offload with ease in situations others that would go to ground.
So what of Bath's key men? Mike Ford shared that Eddie had been to Farleigh House on Friday and they'd had a conversation about the players he would be watching. Like Wasps Ford's players gave a flavour of what they are about but not the whole shebang. Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph started together for the first time since the Premiership Final and added the confidence that a pairing switched onto each other always provides. Anthony Watson had a few pacy runs forwards and finished the final try well but it was under the high ball that he shone. Dave Attwood was a physical and welcome presence in the second-row and finally what of George Ford? The fly-half showed nerves of steel to land the final conversion from the far left-hand touchline and had a much more complete and Ford like game than last weekend's against the Northampton Saints. Ford wasn't perfect but his decision making on the whole was effective and he kicked well out of hand.
So what now at half-time in this back-to-back encounter? Well Pool 5 has been blown wide open by the result and you can be sure that Wasps will arrive at the Rec with their tails up. Dai Young's squad know that they are better than they showed on home turf and equally know that need to deliver away from home as their opponents have a game in hand. Bath, well, they have to take every ounce of morale boosting confidence that they can from closing out the win and build on it. Yesterday's performance, although not pristine started to show us glimpses of the Bath that we know and the result must provide platform to work off.
Needless to say I expect both teams to crank their performances up another a gear in five days time and it should produce another intriguing eighty minutes of rugby for us, and Eddie Jones, to watch.Suggest a correction