|Date||9 December 2017|
|Result||W 28 - 25|
|Time played||Normal time|
Bank journeyed north of the river on Saturday to meet a mid-table Wasps outfit. On a bitterly cold, but mercifully thawed pitch, Bank were only too aware that nothing short of a bonus point win would suffice in keeping third-placed Royston at bay.
With a few key players unavailable through injury, Bank started the match with only 16 in the squad. From the off, the away side stamped their authority on the game, playing the running rugby that they favour. Useful breaks from Chris Palmer and Dan Farr piled the pressure on the Wasps defence. The away fan(s) needed to wait only five minutes before the direct line of Elderton saw him slice through the defence with relative ease. James Marshall converted from directly in front to hand Bank a welcome early lead, 7-0.
It quickly became apparent that Wasps could not handle a firing Bank backline. Playing with good fluidity on a very wide pitch, it only took another four minutes for Bank to cross the whitewash again. This time courtesy of captain Palmer, showing great agility on the left wing to beat 3 defenders and run in under the uprights. 14-0 to Bank.
The home side seemed to wake up somewhat in the subsequent passage of play. The Wasps defence held firm, with huge intensity and work rate from Hadley and Dale in particular being pivotal to keeping Bank in the ascendancy. Indeed, if the away side had been more clinical in this period, they might have gone over for another few tries. However, sloppy turnovers at the breakdown and poor lineout execution kept Wasps in touch. It took until the 30th minute for Bank to add to the scoreline. A solid platform at an attacking 5m scrum saw Dan Farr cruise through the Wasps midfield in a well worked backline move. Another straightforward conversion was forthcoming from Marshall, making it 21-0.
To the home side’s credit, they adapted well at this point. Exploiting the Bank forwards at the set piece, they made considerable ground almost exclusively via the driving maul. The bank pack were hampered by an unlucky sin-bin for Ross Mullard for collapsing a maul. Camped on their own line, Bank bravely held out but with persistent infringements and huge pressure with the scrum option, Wasps crossed the line for an unconverted try just before the interval.
A 16 point lead felt far from comfortable for Bank at the start of the second half. Wasps played a tight, simple game in attack, kicking for territory and putting justifiable faith in their lineout. These tactics worked well, allowing them to open their scoring account just 10 minutes into the half. Thankfully, the Wasps kicker continued his torrid display from the tee, leaving the score at 21-10. Bank’s woes were further confounded by a second yellow card, this time for winger Will Spencer for a breakdown infringement.
Bank had the fundamental issue of having to play the majority of the half with precious little possession. A missed penalty kick to provide breathing room was one of the only visits to the Wasps half. Wasps continued to exploit their set piece dominance to cross the line for a third try out wide. Again the conversion eluded Wasps, leaving the score at 21-15 with 15 minutes remaining.
Despite some outstanding and gritty defence from the forwards (most notably the returning Tommy Moore and Kyle Nelson-Esch), the home side trundled across the try line twice more in quick succession. Five unconverted tries taking them to 25-21 with just minutes remaining. After a rousing talk underneath the sticks, Bank came back with renewed fervour. Within seconds, the forwards had the ball in hand getting the away side on the front foot. From here, Scothern distributed quickly to a waiting James Trueman who cut through the Wasps midfield before offloading to a charging James Marshall who finished superbly. Converting his own try, Marshall took Bank clear by three.
A gritty 28-25 bonus point win for Bank on the road, but an all too close affair. The win gives Bank a 7 point cushion from third placed Royston, but the side know that improvements will need to be forthcoming to regain their spot at the top of the table.