From Paul Morgan, Editor of Rugby World Magazine
Well, these are heady heights for Wasps. They normally win 10 out of the last 12 games, sneak into the Guinness Premiership play-offs and win the final. But this year they sit proudly on top of the Premiership after this 17-15 victory, which was inspired by scrum-half Joe Simpson.
We’ve all been hearing about teenage prodigy Simpson for a few years, but today he came of age.He ran 40 metres for Tom Varndell’s first try and then 60 metres, from a scrum on his own 22, for Varndell’s second. Breathtaking play, which lit up the encounter and will ensure Bath may be having one or two defence sessions this week.
Bath coach Steve Meehan was quick to brush aside the problems he has experienced in the last nine months. But to lose five key players (three of them internationals) to off field scandals is enough to send any coach mad. But Meehan is right to focus on the positives and the big positive from this game was that they could and have should have won.
A few things I noted:
The Rec – There are few better places to watch rugby than a sun-drenched Recreation Ground. Come on charity commissioners, give the club the green light to at least put roofs on the two stands so everyone can watch the game in comfort when the weather draws in.
Tom Varndell – Four tries in two games and this guy is one of the best finishers in the world. Let’s focus on what he can do rather than what he can’t. Martin Johnson, you should be the phone immediately.
Joe Simspon – If he is mature enough to play in the Guinness Premiership he is mature enough to play for England. There’s no scrum-half in England playing better than him at the moment so get him in the squad, Johnno! His pace of the mark is enough on its own but Simpson has great service, and a kicking game that is developing all the time. If he doesn’t get his chance we’ll never know!
Referee Chris White – This game had 20 minutes (yes, 20 minutes!) of second half injury time, without any significant injuries. Surely one of the longest games ever! Where did he get it all from. And how on earth can Wasps concede three penalties on their own at scrums (and see Tim Payne sin binned) and him not award a penalty try to Bath! It is inconsistency that drives me crazy. Last week we had Wasps awarded a penalty try against Quins when Quins dropped a maul a few metres from their line. Fair enough if everyone is treated that way. Not so today.
Stuart Hooper – What a huge impact he’s having at Bath and if he was just a bit bulkier I would be expecting him to figure in the England reckoning. He ensured Bath dominated the lineouts.
Danny Cipriani – I am such a Cipriani fan there needs to be something on him from every game. He’s on his way back and I would say 80% of the player I saw score one of the tries of the season, at Bath two years ago. Showed flashes of what he can do and could still be one of the stars of the 2011 World Cup, although Jonny Wilkinson (if fit) will take a lot of shifting from that England No 10 shirt.
I would be delighted to hear from any fans at the game. What did you think?
PS – Is it any surprise that the two clubs: Harlequins and Bath who have been the victims of the scandals to rock rugby this summer are 11th and 12th in the table? I don’t think so. It’s very hard for a club to shrug off all the off-field problems, on the field, so I’m not surprised. But having watched Quins last week and Bath this week they won’t be there for long, I can guarantee you that.