London Wasps 21-16 London Irish, Guinness Premiership, March 8
Game of the Week: Wasps keep hopes alive
March 8, 2009
London Wasps' Tom Rees in action at Adams Park on his return to action following injury
© Getty Images
Danny Cipriani punished an indisciplined performance from London Irish as Wasps edged to a seventh successive home victory.
England fly-half Cipriani, who has recently found himself out of favour with Martin Johnson, kicked 11 points with the boot while a first-half penalty try and a second-half touchdown for prop Pat Barnard enabled Wasps to edge the Exiles and continue their recovery from a poor start to the season. Shane Geraghty, who is also on the fringes of the England squad, contributed 11 points for the Exiles, whose solitary try came from Anthony Thompstone.
The game was 10 seconds old when Wasps conceded a penalty at the first ruck, but Geraghty, who was switched from fly-half to fullback in a late re-shuffle which saw veteran player-coach Mike Catt brought in at No.10 following wing Topsy Ojo's failed fitness test, was off target.
He made amends in the fourth minute after the hosts were penalised for hands in the scrum, but seven minutes later, Wasps took the lead with their penalty try after the Irish scrum repeatedly malfunctioned. Wasps applied the pressure at four successive scrums near the Irish line, spurning a free-kick and a penalty shot at goal in favour of further drives.
The Irish pack were penalised by French referee Romain Poite as Wasps powered them back over their own line and Cipriani added the conversion from in front of the posts. There was further trouble for the visitors from the re-start when flanker Declan Danahar was sin-binned for taking out an opponent off the ball.
Irish's struggling forwards continued to fall foul of the referee and two more ruck offences resulted in penalties for Cipriani, in the 17th and 25th minutes, with Geraghty missing one for Irish in the 22nd. Geraghty kicked his second penalty in the 32nd minute before the Irish forwards, failing to heed a warning from referee Poite, were punished when they packed down for a scrum. Cipriani, however, sliced his penalty attempt wide.
Geraghty had the chance to reduce the deficit to four points when Wasps infringed yet again at the ruck but he pulled his kick off target. Geraghty kicked a penalty eight minutes into the second half after a sloppy, wayward pass from Cipriani conceded possession, allowing Irish to mount the attack which led to the offence.
The Exiles then paid a huge price for the indiscipline of Chris Hala'ufia, who was penalised for a blatant late challenge on Wasps replacement scrum-half Eoin Reddan. Three forward drives produced a scrum and the home side unleashed a wave of attacks which saw hooker Rob Webber, flanker Serge Betsen, centre Dominic Waldouck and fullback Mark van Gisbergen all halted just short of the line.
But Wasps moved the ball out wide for Barnard to force his way over by the left-hand corner flag for a try awarded after lengthy deliberations by the video replay official. Irish hit back with a fine 66th-minute solo try by right-wing Thompstone, who outstripped the Wasps cover with an excellent burst of speed down the right touchline.
Geraghty converted to reduce the arrears but the Exiles could not breach the Wasps defence again and claimed a losing bonus point.
Wasps director of rugby Ian McGeechan knows his side must keep winning if they are to keep their title hopes alive. "We've got to keep winning as many of the outstanding games as we can," he said. "We're on a decent run at the moment - two defeats since November - and there's some tough games to come. There's a lot of head-to-heads in the top eight or nine teams so there's still a lot to play for."
Cipriani hopes leading a Wasps resurgence can help him reclaim his England place. "For me it's just about playing well for Wasps and hopefully it will happen from there," the 21-year-old said. "If I'm playing the best in the country at 10 then hopefully I'll get picked."
McGeechan declared himself pleased with Cipriani's form, adding, "He's playing well. His game management was good, he's muscling up in defence and the last 20, 25 minutes was very well managed in not an easy game to be able to control and dictate," said the Scot.
Irish's challenge has slipped as they have taken only 13 points from their last seven matches and Head coach Toby Booth rued his side's shortcomings. "I was very disappointed with some of our basics. You can't question the effort but rugby's a simple game. You want a good platform to play-off, you want quick ball to give yourself scoring opportunities and for large parts of that game we had neither. We crafted our way back to get in the game but made it far more difficult than it should be."
Wasps: Van Gisbergen; Mitchell, Waldouck, Lewsey, Voyce; Cipriani, Robinson; Payne, Webber, Barnard, Shaw, Skivington, Betsen, Rees, Hart.
Replacements: Reddan for Robinson (44), Birkett for Barnard (64). Not Used: Ward, Holford, Leo, Walder, Hoadley.
London Irish: Geraghty; Thompstone, Seveali'i, Mapusua, Tagicakibau; Catt, Hodgson; Dermody, Buckland, Lea'aetoa, Hudson, Johnson, Danaher, S Armitage, Hala'ufia.
Replacements: Richards for Hodgson (57), Coetzee for Buckland (54), Skuse for Lea'aetoa (48), Thorpe for Hala'ufia (57), Fisher for Skuse (64). Not Used: Gower, Homer.
Sin Bin: Danaher (11).
Man of the Match: Pat Barnard (Wasps)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)