Usually we start each one of these recaps with a little schpiel about the statistics, the rivalries and the hype behind each side, but WOW! 11 tries, some star making performances, some comical defending and a whole lot of action! Definitely the match of the season, Bath vs Wasps didn't skimp on the entertainment, all in front of an ever frowning Eddie Jones... Let's dive into the analysis!
Let's get this straight, Paolo Odogwu just put in the performance of the competition thus far. Stop the debate over international call ups, the banter about his size, the lazy comparisons to Wade and thoughts over his aerial competency, the guy just put on the show of the season. Let's look at the stats: 5 defenders beaten, 4 clean breaks, 142 metres made, 1 turnover won, 6 carries and 2 tries. That. Is. Phenomenal. He was the difference between two sides and at 23 years old, boy does he have some confidence. Having a utility option that can play outside centre and wing, and be motm in either position is as exciting as it gets if you're a Wasps fan. He made the back three of Bath (who all looked up for the game) look largely anonymous in defence as they couldn't predict his lines or hold onto his tree-trunk sized legs.
Defence... All lack there of it...
Look don't get me wrong, I would much rather watch a game like that than the absolute duds we saw on the international scene last year... But... The defence was pretty darn woeful on both sides. Sopoaga, despite nailing his kicks, is perhaps the worst defensive fullback in the Premiership at the moment, completely reluctant to attempt any tackles once the first line is broken. Wasps big back row fell short to Baths speedsters and allowed half breaks from Faletau and Underhill who sniped around the fringes at ease, scooting for frustratingly simple tries. Umaga fell off tackles too, leaving glaring holes in the midfield. However, it wasn't all Wasps, Bath looked gutless out wide. Another huge game for Watson to forget, failing to gather in the air and losing collisions on the deck. When Joseph limped off, Wasps targeted the 13 channel and tore it apart with Odogwu cutting inside at will. Ewels looked lost around the fringes, not committing to the counter ruck or guarding the fringes particularly competently leaving huge holes for Wasps big ball carriers to exploit. In fact, what was maybe the worst example, was Bath's goalie defence. Every time Wasps got into that 22, they came out with a try. Bath just couldn't match Wasps' physicality on the forwards, especially when Brad Shields came on. I know this section seems very negative, but with 97 points scored, it was a pretty atrocious defensive performance.
I know it's become popular to hate the term 'finishers' and to rely on the oldie-worldie slang of 'substitutes', but Wasps bench was immense in this game. They are one of the only teams in the league that have the potential to get even better once they start utilising their squad options. One of the key aspects Blackett has introduced to this Wasps side is rotation, however its more complex than that. It's strategic and intelligent; many people look to Toomaga-Allen and Mcintyre as starting options, but their impact off of the bench is unquestionable. It's intensified from West and Brookes' attritional and barbaric first 40, causing havoc in the scrums and sapping their opposite number. Then you look to Gopperth, Porter and Watson who add control, guile and gamesmanship to the last 20. Lastly you look at Shields, now back from injury, who looked like he hadn't missed a step despite his lengthy injury layoff. Wasps squad depth is exceptional and that's because they don't rely on one-off, expensive superstars anymore, they have built an all action, young and hungry squad of immensely talented academy grads.
Paolo Odogwu: Breakthrough performance for the young Wasps utility back, crazy stats, we've gushed enough about him now.
Dan Robson: For two weeks in a row, Dan Robson has been the standout scrum half in the league. Marshalled his forwards excellently, out kicked Spencer all game and sniped around the fringes expertly.
Taulupe Faletau: Targeted Wasps at the breakdown, offloaded fantastically and created a try out of nowhere. Looks to be fully back in form.
Brad Shields: What a comeback! Scored a great try, looked like a real bruiser in the contact area and carried hard throughout his cameo.
Rhys Priestland: If Bath did go on to win this game, we would be singing his praises. In the first 30 minutes he had already scored 24 points, fantastic performance.
Jacob Umaga: A very mixed bag for the young Fly Half. Terrific kick to set up Bassett and opened the back line up well. His strategic kicking however was very poor and he nearly cost Wasps the game with two poor touch misses.
Charlie Ewels: looked second best to Launchbury at every line out, ruck and scrum. Also gave away a penalty try that led to a yellow card.
Anthony Watson: Another really poor performance from Watson. Anonymous in attack and indecisive in defence.
Photo Copyright Credit @ Somerset Live