Sensational Eastmond score stings Wasps as Bath secure second victory
Match report: BATH RUGBY 30 LONDON WASPS 23
by Harry Abbott
Kyle Eastmond scored a sensational individual try as Bath Rugby made it back-to-back wins at the start of the new Aviva Premiership season with victory over Wasps.
The former St Helen's rugby league star suffered an injury-ravaged first season at The Rec last term but rewarded Bath's patient fans with his first competitive touchdown for the club after a jinking second-half run to avoid five Wasps tackles.
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An Olly Barkley penalty put the home side ahead inside five minutes but the Londoners quickly forced them on to the back foot. Nick Robinson missed a long-range kick to bring the scores level but made no mistake from his next attempt 20 metres out.
Nick Abendanon's searing break lifted Bath's appetite for the contest and Matt Banahan forced his way over for the game's first try soon after.
With Michael Claassens drawn into a ruck, captain Stuart Hooper played scrum-half and the ball quickly travelled from Barkley to Dan Hipkiss before Banahan collected at pace and smashed through would-be tacklers to charge in under the posts. Barkley added the extras from out wide on the left.
A wayward Abendanon pass cost Bath the chance of a second touchdown five minutes before the break, with the full-back failing to find Tom Biggs on his shoulder, waiting to run into space.
The visitors took full advantage of their let-off, dominating until the interval and only a last-ditch Barkley tackle prevented a certain score. Joe Simpson's blistering break presented Christian Wade with acres of room out wide but Barkley just got back to bring the winger down as he headed for the corner.
Wasps were not to be denied, though, and got some reward with the last action of the half. Bath could not hold back the rampaging visitors, allowing Robinson a close-range penalty to cut the deficit to just four points.
The home side came out of the blocks at a blistering pace in the second half, scoring ten points within five minutes of the restart. Barkley landed a long-range penalty before Biggs capitalised on a glaring Wasps error.
Robinson's pass deflected off the back of Tom Palmer as the visitors tried to run their way out of trouble and Biggs produced some neat football skills to punt downfield and beat Wade in a foot race to the line. Barkley fired home the conversion.
Wasps hit back straight away and Tom Varndell collected James Haskell's chip over Abendanon to touch down in the corner and Robinson impressively dispatched a challenging kick.
Eastmond's moment of brilliance arrived with 15 minutes to play to coolly calm all of Bath's nerves. Barkley found the cross-code convert 20 metres from the line and the threat of a host of opponents failed to scare the former St Helen's ace as he weaved his way to the line to grab a brilliant first Premiership try. A close-range kick was easily converted by Barkley.
The visitors refused to lie down, though, and a turnover in their own half ended with their second try. Joe Launchbury raced away with the ball before feeding Wade, who had the whole of Bath's half to himself to sprint to the line.
Barkley maintained his perfect record with the boot so far this season with a penalty from the halfway line to increase the hosts' advantage to ten points before Robinson added another kick of his own with the last action of the match to ensure his side travelled back to London with a losing bonus point.
Following last week's single-point success over Worcester Warriors at Sixways, the result continues an upturn in fortunes for Bath under new head coach Gary Gold. The South African will hope his side can make it a hat-trick of victories when they entertain Northampton Saints on Friday (7.45pm).
BATH RUGBY: Abendanon, Eastmond, Hipkiss, Banahan, Biggs, Barkley, Claassens, Catt, Mears, Wilson, Hooper, Day, Taylor, Fearns, Skirving. Replacements: Batty, James, Palma-Newport, Attwood, Ovens, McMillan, Devoto, Cuthbert.
Tries: Banahan, Biggs, Eastmond Conversions: Barkley 3 Penalties: Barkley 3
LONDON WASPS: Southwell, Varndell, Daly, Bell, Wade, Robinson, Simpson, Payne, Lindsay, Staibano, Palmer, Wentzel, Haskell, Poff, Vunipola. Replacements: Thomas, McIntyre, Taulafo, Launchbury, Johnson, Davies, Bell, Mayor.
Tries: Varndell, Wade Conversions: Robinson 2 Penalties: Robinson 3
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth