Vesty's mistake could prove costly for Bath – and others
NOT since the 'Williams Wink' has one simple gesture on the rugby field ignited such controversy. The Vesty showboat probably won't have such far-reaching consequences for the individuals concerned – Tom Williams was originally suspended for 12 months for his part in the Bloodgate affair, while Dean Richards, his director of rugby at Harlequins has only just completed a three-year suspension from the game – but its impact on the finances of the two clubs it affects most could stretch into millions of pounds.
Sam Vesty's failure to touch down for the try he had already celebrated cost Bath a bonus point. With it, they would have had to beat Leicester in their final game of the season to have a chance of qualifying for next season's Heineken Cup.
Without it, they have to win and score four tries against the form team in the Aviva Premiership, as well as hope that Sale fail to gain a point from their final match against top of the table Harlequins.
The Vesty showboat also served to heap the pressure on bottom club Newcastle. If Vesty, pictured, had not been held up by Wasps wing Tom Varndell, the London club would have failed to register a bonus point.
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That would have left Newcastle needing just to beat Wasps in the final match of the season at Adams Park. As it is, a win for Newcastle would not be enough. They either need to win by 24 points or by scoring four tries and denying Wasps any sort of bonus point.
For their part, Wasps know that all they have to do is prevent Newcastle from winning by any of those margins.
The chances are that Wasps will stay in the Premiership on merit. As a result the chances of them gaining the financial backing they need to avoid administration have improved considerably.
Although the underlying problem – that they don't have their own ground – remains, they are still far more attractive to potential investors as an Aviva Premiership side than a Championship outfit.
Even if they don't do enough on the pitch to guarantee their Premiership future, Wasps may still be saved by what others do, or don't do, off the pitch.
A team will only be relegated from the Premiership if the team that wins the Championship is deemed to have facilities that satisfy certain criteria. That these criteria don't seem to apply to clubs already in the Aviva Premiership doesn't seem to matter too much. Those who aspire to join the elite must meet them.
Of the four clubs engaged in the play-offs for the Championship, only Bristol would qualify. My old club is favourite to go up but, theoretically at least, the team that finishes bottom in the Aviva Premiership has a three in four chance of staying up.
The embarrassment would have doubled if Ulster and Leinster had not won their Heineken Cup semi-finals last weekend. Had Edinburgh and Clermont got through, England would have been allocated a seventh place in next season's competition. According to a complicated seeding procedure that would not have gone to the team finishing seventh in the Aviva Premiership – almost certain to be either Bath or Gloucester – but to the team with the best Heineken Cup record.
That, apparently, is Wasps, even though they have lost more matches in the Premiership this season than any other club. In all likelihood, the lure of participating in Europe's premier club competition would have been a deal-clincher for any potential investor.
The Vesty showboat may have, however indirectly, saved Wasps from administration and it may also have condemned Newcastle to relegation. Vesty and his employers should be more concerned that it has cost them a shot at Heineken Cup qualification. To put it bluntly, there's a lot of money to be made in the Heineken Cup, whereas in the Amlin Cup – where Bath will be playing next season – the pickings are slim.
Unlike the Williams wink, there was no conspiracy behind the Vesty showboat. It was a cock-up pure and simple. Vesty has admitted as much and he knows he's in for some merciless leg-pulling from his team-mates in training this week and some serious sledging from his former team-mates at Leicester Tigers this weekend.
But, while Leicester roar on towards a tenth Premiership Final in a row, Bath and Vesty will be on holiday. A longer-than-wished for summer break might ensure that the incident is forgotten. It may not be forgiven quite so quickly on Tyneside.