Guinness Premiership - Game of the Week
Wasps edge out Tigers
December 6, 2009
Wasps' Tom Varndell and Mark van Gisbergen compete for a high ball during the clash at Adams Park
© Getty Images
London Wasps claimed their sixth win of the Guinness Premiership campaign with a narrow 24-22 victory over Leicester Tigers at Adams Park.
Winger Paul Sackey crossed for the hosts before four penalties from the boot of Tigers fly-half Toby Flood put the defending champions in control. But Wasps centre Steve Kefu crossed just past the half hour to give the home side the lead at the break. Dave Walder's solid kicking increased the advantage and Wasps hung on despite a last-minute try from Jordan Crane, which earned Leicester a bonus point to keep them ahead of their rivals in the table.
Given torrential rain overnight, Wasps were relieved they did not have the embarrassment of having to call off a home game, having refused to play at Sale's Edgeley Park on November 27 because they deemed the pitch unplayable. The club faces a hearing to discuss the fallout from that match on Monday.
The capacity crowd were hopeful of seeing fly-half Danny Cipriani return to action for the first time since suffering a broken leg on October 4 - but he was an unused replacement. Instead it was England team-mate Sackey who had them on their feet after six minutes, thundering up the right wing after snaffling a tapped penalty by Joe Simpson and smashing through three poor attempted tackles. Walder missed the conversion.
Leicester chopped off three of those five points when Flood made no mistake with a penalty, which was awarded for offside. And, following a sustained period of pressure, Flood was handed another opportunity to go for goal in the 16th minute when Serge Betsen offended at a ruck, and was again successful.
Wasps conceded another stupid penalty three minutes later for a collection of offences attempting to halt a Leicester driving maul. Referee Chris White warned he was losing patience but Flood's standing foot slipped and his penalty sailed yards wide. The Wasps scrum was creaking under pressure, Tim Payne repeatedly going to ground. With 22 minutes gone, it went nose first again and Flood made no mistake this time, steering his penalty between the posts from 35 yards.
Wasps finally broke upfield from the restart and it was Leicester's turn to transgress, ball-killing in front of their posts. Walder reduced the deficit to one point with a 24th-minute penalty. It was clear Wasps were struggling in the scrum. Another collapse and another penalty to touch saw Leicester back in the home team's half, where they had spent the majority of the opening half-hour.
And, when White spotted a maul being pulled down on his blindside, Flood's fourth successful penalty after 33 minutes arrowed home from wide out on the left. Just when Leicester's followers were beginning to feel comfortable, Flood sliced a clearance horribly. Johne Murphy saved the day but only for a matter of seconds.
Walder then produced a great break before delivering an astute offload to Kefu who raced through to touch down between the posts in the 35th minute. Walder converted, and added a penalty three minutes later as a stunned Leicester found themselves trailing at the break in a game they had largely dominated.
Wasps began the second half with increased intent, rewarded in the 49th minute by a Walder penalty after Leicester made consecutive mistakes under pressure. And when Walder nailed his fourth penalty on the hour, only for Flood to reply in kind inside 60 seconds, the 10,116 crowd cranked up the atmosphere.
Flood then got the chance to close the gap further but hooked his 25-yarder and, with Wasps much steadier in the scrum now, they threatened to pull away. But you cannot bet against the champions. Crane scored a last-minute try from a drive and Aaron Mauger nailed the conversion, but it only served to earn a losing bonus point.
Wasps rugby director Tony Hanks hailed his forwards for the way they solved a chronic scrummaging crisis. "We had a few very tricky scrum problems first half, but the boys learned on the run, and it was definitely better in the second half. We went out there to play some rugby, and we tried to attack with width.
"Great to see Paul Sackey doing what he does best, and I am very pleased with the intent. With 79 minutes on the clock it was 2-0 on tries. Simon Shaw was immense, not least the way he commanded the restarts. He was one of a number of guys who stepped up because, had we lost this one, we would have slipped back to mid-table."
Wasps head coach Shaun Edwards added, "We tackled them manfully throughout the game. Chris White didn't think the scrum was wheeled so they pinched a try at the death, so I think the scoreline is a bit harsh."
Leicester coach Matt O'Connor said, "We let ourselves down and took the pressure off Wasps through errors. We were not accurate enough in our execution. We did well in the scrums, but not in areas where we could do maximum damage. There were a lot of unplayables out there, a lot of bodies over the ball not being blown, but you get that week-in, week-out.
"You simply cannot give the opportunities we gave Wasps, particularly a soft second try. But we started really well for the first half-hour before we allowed them to really get into the game. In fairness, their kicking from hand was better than ours which caused us to turn more than I'd have liked."