Freddie Burns repays coach’s faith as Bath and Wasps settle for draw
Burns kicked all five of Bath’s conversions but it wasn’t enough to claim victory
Freddie Burns of Bath kicks the ball upfield during the Champions Cup draw with Wasps. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
Wasps 35 Bath 35
Freddie Burns bounced back from his Heineken Champions Cup horror show in impressive fashion as Pool One rivals Bath and Wasps drew 35-35 at the Ricoh Arena.
Burns missed an easy late penalty and then lost the ball over Toulouse’s line after blowing a kiss to the crowd, botching what would have been a potential match-winning try against Champions Cup opponents Toulouse last weekend.
But Bath’s coaching staff stuck by him, and he repaid them handsomely, converting all five of Bath’s tries by Joe Cokanasiga, Max Wright, Semesa Rokoduguni, Charlie Ewels and Francois Louw.
Wasps stung Bath with a remarkable early-second-half scoring spree. Trailing by 14 points at the break, they scored three tries in eight minutes from scrum-half Joe Simpson, prop Zurab Zhvania and substitute Ashley Johnson.
It followed wing Josh Bassett’s first-half touchdown, yet it required flanker Thomas Young’s try nine minutes from time, with fly-half Lima Sopoaga kicking five conversions, to secure a share of the spoils, as Bath susbstitute Alex Davies missed a 79th-minute penalty after Burns had gone off injured.
But with European title holders Leinster firm favourites to win the group — they crushed Wasps 52-3 last week and face Bath home and away in December — a draw did not really help either of the Gallagher Premiership clubs.
Both sides looked to recover quickly from contrasting Champions Cup opening weekend defeats, and Bath could not have hoped for a better start as Burns’ superb pass set up an attack from just inside their own half.
Cokanasiga then linked impressively at pace with scrum-half Will Chudley before showcasing all his strength by finishing superbly under pressure from three Wasps tacklers, and Burns’ conversion opened up a seven-point lead.
Wasps drew level through an 18th-minute try after Simpson did all the hard work, breaking clear from a ruck and delaying his pass expertly before allowing Bassett a straightforward finish in the corner, with Sopoaga’s conversion hauling Wasps level.
Bath, though, regained the lead just three minutes later after Wright cut open Wasps’ defence far too easily, combined with hooker Jack Walker and then touched down unopposed before another Burns conversion opened up a 14-7 advantage.
Watching England head coach Eddie Jones was twice booed by the crowd when his image appeared on the stadium’s big screen — and then cheered later — but Bath were not distracted and they increased their lead 10 minutes before half time.
Wasps attacked inside the Bath half, but full-back Willie Le Roux’s pass was intercepted by Rokoduguni, who sprinted 65 metres for his team’s third try,and Burns again added the extras.
It was a a poor score for Wasps to concede, but they gained a temporary one-man advantage as the interval approached when Bath’s South Africa international flanker Louw was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle.
Wasps blasted out of the blocks after half-time, and Simpson set up a promising attacking position that ultimately saw him rewarded with a try when he gathered Zhvania’s pass to metres out, with Sopoaga’s conversion cutting the deficit to seven points.
And before Bath could regroup, Wasps struck again, this time when Zhvania rounded off another concerted spell of pressure, and a third Sopoaga conversion tied the game up.
Johnson then scored Wasps’ bonus point try — Sopoaga again converted — yet the lead lasted only five minutes as Bath skipper Ewels surged clear and claimed an opportunist try, converted by Burns, to make it 28-28.
Louw and Young then scored tries during the final 15 minutes, but a draw is of no real use to either side in terms of any quarter-final ambitions.
WASPS: W le Roux; J Bassett, J de Jongh, M Le Bourgeois, E Daly; L Sopoaga, J Simpson; Z Zhvania, T Taylor, K Brookes; W Rowlands, J Gaskell; B Shields, T Young, N Carr.
Replacements: T Cruse for Taylor (12 mins), A Johnson for Cruse (25), B Harris for Zhvania, W Stuart for Brookes ( both 60), R Miller for Le Bourgeois (70), K Myall for Gaskell (72). Not used: C Hampson, B Searle.
BATH: D Atkins; S Rokoduguni, J Willison, M Wright, J Cokanasiga; F Burns, W Chudley; N Catt, J Walker, H Thomas; D Attwood, C Ewels; T Ellis, F Louw, Z Mercer.
Replacements: T Homer for Willison (25 mins), A Perenise for Thomas (52), M Garvey for Attwood, J van Rooyen for Catt (both 58), S Underhill for Ellis, R Batty for Walker (both 60), A Davies for Burns (72), M Green for Chudley (75) . Yellow card: Louw (33 mins).