Often European victories on the road are few and far between however this year Wasps are making a habit of going away and spoiling parties. At The Recreation Ground Dai Young's side's victory was as emphatic as they come and it reinforces their strong position in this year's European Champions Cup. For Bath Rugby it was a sobering day, one that compounds their difficult start to the year and one that made last weekend's win seem a world away.
All of the things that Dai Young was unhappy about at the Ricoh Arena were rectified by his side and they did so with gusto. Instead of playing too much rugby in their own half they worked the territory with ease, courtesy of the superb kicking game of Jimmy Gopperth, and performed in the right areas of the field. Last weekend they didn't show their hand in attack, this time they did, from the opening kick-off when Elliot Daly marauded up field with a run that screamed 'Hi Eddie Jones, I'm Elliot, nice to meet you!!' Wasps kept their discipline well and in the first-half were dominant at the scrummage - all of the elements that you need to produce a comfortable and impressive lead.
Conversely Bath Rugby weren't allowed into their stride such was the defensive work rate and line speed of Wasps. The men in white had all of the answers to Bath's attacking play and the very slow ball from Niko Matawalu hindered any true progress, needless to say Peter Stringer is being greatly missed. When Stringer was around the service to George Ford was crisp, clean and lightning quick and that allowed Bath to set up early and always be on the front foot. Now the ball is much slower while Niko decides what to do. or tells those around him what he wants them to do, and that means that opponents are ready and waiting.
I asked Mike Ford after the game what he thought was missing from his side and his answer was honest and clear;
"I just think belief really, we are a bit fragile aren't we? Although we won last week, to go from 7-0 up to 7-23 down is not great. Our scrum was a big problem but there were others things as well. So, a bit of belief there and a bit of leadership lacking as well."
He shared that they are going to have a season review on Monday morning and ask 'all of the questions that need to be asked' but was very clear that he trusts his players 100% and the talent that they have. There is no question that this is difficult, and frustrating, period for the club but it is one that they need to get through.
The mood at Farleigh House will be a stark contrast to the one at Wasps' Twyford Avenue Training Ground. In his own quiet way Dai Young was a happy man after his side's victory and why wouldn't he be? His squad will be bouncing into the festive period and looking forward to testing themselves against the current Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens on the 27th.
In this match Elliot Daly, Joe Simpson and James Haskell all put their hands up in front of Eddie Jones and overall their squad looks strong and well composed. James' physicality was high and his combination with Nathan Hughes and George Smith goes from strength to strength. Joe Simpson was back to his sparky best and unlike Niko Matawalu delivered superb service for Jimmy Gopperth and finally Elliot Daly was the stand out player on the field. According to his Head Coach Daly is growing as a player and now 'doing the simple stuff well' alongside adding the 'stardust' and should be a shoe-in to Eddie Jones' England squad.
It was yet another brilliant European day at the office for Wasps and a difficult one to watch for all concerned at Bath Rugby. Pool 5 remains delicately poised, both sides have to face Toulon and Leinster and although Bath have a game in hand the Coventry based outfit will have all of the confidence and swagger of a side that knows they are playing well regardless of where they are in the world.Suggest a correction