European Challenge Cup - Game of the Week
Gritty Wasps pull off victory
December 15, 2009
Dave Walder's boot proved to be the difference in France
© Getty Images
Wasps took control at the top of European Challenge Cup Pool 4 with a hard-fought 12-3 victory over Bayonne at the Stade Jean Dauger.
Three penalties and a drop-goal from fly-half Dave Walder were enough for Tony Hanks' men, who required a victory after allowing Bayonne to pick up a losing bonus-point at Adams Park in their last meeting. Wasps are yet to lose a Challenge Cup fixture and were rarely challenged by a Bayonne side that struggled to create any momentum beyond several brutish mauls from their forwards, despite Wasps losing both Serge Betsen and George Skivington to the sin-bin.
Tom Varndell's reward for scoring a brace in last weekend's win was an omission from the 22 this week, with David Lemi slotting in to the No.11 jersey alongside Paul Sackey. Danny Cipriani was named on the bench, but will have to wait for his first-team return after remaining in the stands.
It was always going to be up-front where Wasps, and long-time Biarritz servant Betsen, would need to make their mark and some decent early possession was secured despite a frantic scrap for the ball on the deck. Walder continued his superb run of form with the boot by punishing an early Bayonne indiscretion but a try to the home side was almost dished up on a plate by a hurried pass from Joe Simpson, which was an inch away from being picked off by Sam Gerber.
Cedric Garcia missed his first shot at goal from distance and Walder also failed to bisect the sticks with his next opportunity as both sides struggled to string together anything meaningful in attack until a sniping break from Lemi stretched Bayonne to breaking point.
Bayonne's first attack came through their bruising pack, but their maul was met with stern resistance from Simon Shaw and Wasps. Craig Gower probed at the defence with a series of darts and offloads to Gerber but the resolute away defence forced him to attempt and optimistic drop-goal which fell harmlessly short.
Walder's second penalty secured a handy 6-0 lead with 20 minutes played and the Premiership side were good value for their advantage after some powerful defence.
Bayonne sent their next penalty opportunity to touch and from the ensuing lineout Gower again called on Gerber outside him, the South African centre making a good gain before being hauled down by Dom Wauldouck. A Wasps scrum followed and their front-row tore into their opposite numbers, giving Dan Ward-Smith an armchair ride at the base. Simpson picked up from the No.8's feet and set off on a familiar mazy run, but the support was not forthcoming and the lightning scrum-half lost the ball in contact.
Wasps were beginning to tick and a deft offload from Betsen was followed by a telling burst from hooker Rob Webber, who sent blindside John Hart crashing through and into the Bayonne 22. Harts gain was lost with a grubber through by Walder, which was comfortably mopped up by Garcia.
The Bayonne pack ground back into gear as half-time approached, smashing through Wasps with another well-marshalled maul. They were eventually brought crashing to earth, although illegally. Betsen paid for collapsing with 10 minutes in the sin-bin, but the Bayonne penalty came to nothing after a forward pass from Thibault Lacroix brought the half-time whistle.
The home side began the second-half by continuing to kick away any worthwhile possession and they were nearly punished after Skivington showed bags of pace to rip through their defence and take play into their 22. Simpson arrived and spread the ball but a speculative looped pass to Lemi disappeared into touch, taking the opportunity with it.
Betsen returned to the fray as Gower missed a shot at goal, but Wasps were immediately down to 14 men again when Skivington was shown yellow for using a knee at a ruck. With the impressive lock kicking his heels Bayonne upped the tempo and should have had the first try but for an overcooked chip to the corner from Manny Edmonds. The ball skidded into touch as Gerber chased and another spell of pressure was wasted with a knock-on soon after. A hospital pass to Lemi in midfield gifted Bayonne their first points as Garcia found his range.
Paul Sackey injected some trademark pace into proceedings with a powerful midfield run and the wing's incision was rewarded when Walder restored Wasps' six-point cushion with a well-judged drop-goal before sealing victory with his third penalty just after 70 minutes.