Wasps recorded a fifth successive victory in all competitions as they beat Bath 52-44 in an epic Premiership encounter at the Recreation Ground.
Lee Blackett’s team followed up a demolition of champions Exeter last weekend by scoring seven tries during a pulsating contest that bristled with adventurous, attacking rugby.
Wing Paolo Odogwu and hooker Tom Cruse each claimed two touchdowns, while flanker Brad Shields and wing Josh Bassett also crossed, and there was a penalty try, while full-back Lima Sopoaga kicked 15 points.
Bath fly-half Rhys Priestland easily outscored Sopoaga, amassing 26 points that included an early try, with flanker Sam Underhill, centre Cameron Redpath and lock Elliott Stooke also breaching Wasps’ defence, and scrum-half Ben Spencer kicked a late penalty.
But despite twice leading by 13 points and holding a half-time advantage, Bath ultimately conceded a half-century of points at home in front of England head coach Eddie Jones.
Bath made one personnel change following a narrow defeat against Leicester last weekend, with Tom de Glanville returning at full-back, while England star Anthony Watson switched to wing duty instead of Semesa Rokoduguni.
Wasps restored Thomas Young to the back-row and Jack Willis started at number eight after a hip problem forced him off during the Exeter game.
Bath made a dream start, storming 10 points clear after just seven minutes with an onslaught that left Wasps reeling.
De Glanville was instrumental in the game’s first attack, breaking clear from deep before Bath number eight Zach Mercer’s pass found Priestland, and the Wales international surged clear to score from 50 metres out.
Priestland added the touchline conversion and then kicked a long-range penalty as Bath made their intentions clear in scintillating fashion.
Priestland quickly landed a second penalty. and although Wasps hit back through a penalty try after Bath collapsed a maul that saw their captain Charlie Ewels sin-binned, the home side soon conjured a second touchdown.
This time it was created and finished by their back-row, with Taulupe Faletau’s superbly-timed pass sending fellow flanker Underhill over, and Priestland’s conversion made it 20-7.
But just as Wasps fell 13 points behind for a second time, they again responded as Odogwu’s searing midfield break saw scrum-half Dan Robson act as decisive link, and Cruse finished off.
It ended a blistering opening quarter that produced 34 points, and there remained no let-up by Priestland, as two further penalties give him a 21-point haul in less than 30 minutes as Bath moved 26-14 in front.
A Sopoaga penalty cut Wasps’ deficit, but Priestland’s fifth successful penalty soon cancelled that out as half-time approached.
Wasps’ Wales lock Will Rowlands departed for a head injury assessment two minutes before the break, but there was still time for Wasps to claim a third try.
Their forwards drove ferociously at the heart of Bath’s defence, and Shields, on for Rowlands and making his first appearance following a seven-week injury absence, claimed a score that Sopoaga converted, ending a turbo-charged half that generated 53 points at 29-24 in Bath’s favour.
It took Wasps just four minutes of the second period to go ahead for the first time, and their bonus point try arrived through another high-class Cruse finish.
Sopoaga’s conversion put Wasps two points in front, yet their lead lasted less than two minutes as Bath regained pole position after a quality solo try by Redpath that Priestland converted.
But back came Wasps, and Odogwu served further notice of his defence-splitting skill when he powered over from 25 metres out, breaking Underhill’s challenge in the process, and another Sopoaga conversion made it 38-36 to the visitors.
Priestland went off for a head injury assessment, but not before Wasps had eased past 40 points through Odogwu’s second try in six minutes, and Bath were now chasing the game, with Wasps in no mood to let things slip once they had taken charge, despite a late yellow card for Willis.
ꜰᴜʟʟ ᴛɪᴍᴇ | 🦈20-13⚔️
— Sale Sharks 🦈 (@SaleSharksRugby) January 8, 2021
Meanwhile, Sale Sharks secured their second consecutive Premiership victory under interim head coach Paul Deacon with a battling 20-13 triumph over Worcester Warriors at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Despite a slow start, Sale went on to control much of the first half, going 13-3 ahead at the break thanks to Faf de Klerk’s try and eight points from the boot of AJ MacGinty.
Duncan Weir provided Worcester’s sole response before the interval and then added another in the second period but Sale sealed the win when Jono Ross went over late on.
The Warriors did earn a losing bonus-point via a penalty try but it was not enough as they succumbed to their fourth defeat of the season, while the Sharks moved up to third.
After three successive losses under Deacon, Sale received a confidence-booster against Gloucester, but they initially struggled to build on that result against Worcester.
Mistakes pervaded the opening quarter and it was Worcester that had the first chance inside the opposition 22. They pressurised the Sale line and sent numerous big runners towards the whitewash, but the hosts’ defence held firm.
It was the intervention the Sharks needed and, after MacGinty had kicked them in front from the tee, Deacon’s charges put together a well-worked move.
They opened space out wide for Marland Yarde to burst down the left before De Klerk sniped around the fringes. Worcester were under pressure and two phases later the scrum-half had extended the home side’s buffer.
Their fly-half also converted and it put the Sharks in the ascendency. They continued to control proceedings with the visitors conceding some needless penalties and MacGinty was on target for the third time to move his side 13 points clear.
The midlands outfit were failing to make real headway but a mistake from the hosts on the stroke of half-time allowed Weir to reduce the arrears going into the second period.
That last act – an error followed by an infringement – summed up a pretty tepid affair and those frustrations continued after the break, with neither team gaining a foothold in the contest.
Step forward Worcester’s Oli Morris who, despite receiving the ball in traffic, powered through several tackles and took play to within inches of the line. Ted Hill then surged towards the whitewash but he was stopped short as the visitors were forced to settle for a second Weir penalty.
That moved the Warriors back into the contest and they maintained their pressure on the hosts, who infringed yet again when a brilliant read from Morris sent MacGinty flying backwards, but this time their fly-half missed the target.
It was a miss that was to prove costly as Sale secured the win via Ross before a late penalty try rescued a losing bonus-point for the away side.