London Wasps 29-29 Harlequins, Aviva Premiership, September 4
Wasps and Quins battle to a draw
Graham Jenkins at Twickenham
September 4, 2010
Winger Tom Varndell scores for Wasps against Quins at Twickenham
© PA Photos
London Wasps and Harlequins battled to a 29-29 draw in the London Double Header at Twickenham on Saturday.
Tries from big summer signing Andy Powell and Tom Varndell and some precision kicking from Mark van Gisbergen put Wasps in control at the break after an electric opening from Quins had brought a try for Nick Easter. But Quins rallied and a second half try from Mike Brown and the boot of Nick Evans conjured a turnaround before Van Gisbergen snatched a share of the spoils in the closing moments.
Quins set the tone of the clash from the kick-off with fast-paced start that brought them immediate reward. Evans carved through the Wasps defence after just two minutes, with veteran lock Simon Shaw the guilty party, before popping a simple scoring pass to Easter who coasted in for the opening try. Evans' conversion cemented their deserved lead but Wasps responded well and were soon on the board themselves courtesy of a penalty from the boot of Van Gisbergen.
Powell made his presence felt in the loose but it was the flair of Riki Flutey rather than brute force that created the next opening, with the fly-half putting centre Dom Waldouck away before play was called back for a forward pass.
There was not let-up in the pace of the game, with Quins dominating proceedings. Wasps' desperate attempts to shackle their rivals gave Evans the chance to stretch his side's lead with a penalty, an opportunity he duly took. Van Gisbergen was not so clinical moments later as Wasps continued to labour.
A crunching tackle from Quins centre George Lowe had the crowd on its feet soon after but he was adjudged off-side. Van Gisbergen atoned for his earlier miss but a penalty at the restart against Rob Webber for obstruction gifted Evans the chance to cancel that score out and edge his side further ahead.
However, Wasps were soon cranking through the gears with Flutey making big gains downfield only to be thwarted by some scrambling defence from Quins. The ball was recycled and Tom Rees wriggled free in the 22 before feeding Powell who celebrated his first game in English rugby's top flight with a try under the posts. Van Gisbergen's conversion levelled the scores with half an hour gone.
Quins' director of rugby Conor O'Shea reflects on the game%]
And Wasps were celebrating again just five minutes later following their second try - a score which again highlighted the exceptional skills of Flutey. Quins centre Jordan Turner-Hall spilled the ball in midfield before Flutey pounced and raced downfield. The England international did not have the pace to escape Lowe but found Varndell on his shoulder for the try. Van Gisbergen was once again on target with the conversion.
Wasps' joy soon turned to despair with flanker Joe Worsley shown yellow for deliberately killing the ball at a ruck and Evans punished Tony Hanks' side further with the penalty. Quins were hungry for more but were hit by a sweeping counter attack that should have resulted in Wasps' third try. A burst of pace from Van Gisbergen sparked the move and he found Ben Jacobs on a great line but Waldouck could only spill the ball in the Quins 22. But they did have the final say in the half with Van Gisbergen's third penalty giving them a seven-point cushion at the break.
Quins looked to hammer home their numerical advantage following the restart and closed in on Wasps' line only to be frustrated at every turn. Hooker Chris Brooker went closest to scoring following a strong break but was held up having managed to over-complicate the chance. In the end they had to settle for another penalty from the boot of Evans but their own indiscipline proved costly shortly after the with Van Gisbergen landing his fifth penalty.
The tit-for-tat exchange continued with Evans making it six from six before the intensity of the contest began to take its toll. A raft of replacements also helped stripped the game of any momentum while the capacity crowd entertained themselves with the obligatory Mexican wave.
But the game came alive again with Quins rediscovering the quick ball that brought them joy in the first half. Their pack, led by Easter and Will Skinner, made the initial incision with some superb close control before the ball was worked through the hands of Chris Robshaw and Turner-Hall to Brown who had the pace to go over in the corner. The conversion from Evans gave Quins a bit more breathing space.
They went for the kill as the game entered the final ten minutes with Brown picking another great line and bursting into space but the play was called back for another forward pass.
Forced to chase the game, Wasps made big gains through Varndell before Robshaw was penalised for slowing the ball. Van Gisbergen's kick then tied the scores with just over four minutes left. Quins were stung into action and piled forward as the clock ran down but Evans was wayward with a rather hurried drop goal attempt, ensuring that the bragging rights would be shared.