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London Wasps won ugly to claim the silverware at Twickenham in the Powergen Cup Final on Sunday.
A stop-start first half saw both teams go in level pegging a half time but Wasps, with well timed forays for the line before and after half time, proved their big game form to stretch ahead in the final quarter for a 26-10 win
The game was not without drama though, and that was present from the start. From the kick off, Eoin Reddan looked sharp, taking a quick penalty and grubbering through, but as Llanelli moved the ball away to the right, an apparently innocuous tackle resulted in flanker Jonny O'Connor being stretched from the pitch following an awkward challenge.
The game restarted with a lengthy period of aerial ping-pong, as the kickers probed with the boot. However, in the dry conditions both teams displayed safe hands and there was no significant advantage to either team.
As referee Alan Lewis embarked on a string of penalties, Wasps discipline looked fragile, and it was a penalty to the Scarlets that lead to the first score. Recycling quick ball the Welsh looked dangerous and Wasps were scrambling to defend when Jeremy Staunton missed a tackle on Scarlets full back Barry Davies, and the No15 was through for the first try after 10 minutes.
From the restart, hooker Raphael Ibanez broke round the fringe to make 20 metres, but as Wasps found it difficult to look after the ball in contact, a turnover followed by a penalty for holding on gave the Scarlets a chance to further their lead. Hercus' kick from the 10 metre line was wide, and though further indiscipline by the English Champions handed Hercus another chance at three points shortly after, once again he was off target.
It's a great feeling and its actually the first club trophy I've ever won, so it is a bit special.
Wasps' best opportunity to date came in the 20th minute. A loose ball was gathered by Voyce, who found McKenzie. The prop showed good hands to collect the pass, but with a four on one beckoning, the ball went to ground and the chance was lost. However, Wasps were able to salvage something from the position, as a penalty gave Van Gisbergen his first points of the day in the 21st minute. Unfortunately, Llanelli were able to answer almost immediately with three points of their own, Hercus taking advantage of continued Wasps indiscipline on the floor to land his first penalty and give his team a 10-3 lead in the 24th minute.
Another lengthy stoppage then occurred as, almost in the same spot as O'Connor had suffered his injury; Simon Easterby was knocked unconscious following a hefty collision with Van Gisbergen. Easterby was stretchered from the pitch after recovering consciousness.
Wasps' Ali McKenzie was shown a yellow card shortly before the half hour, as referee Lewis adjudged Wasps to have committed serial handling offences on the floor. With a man advantage, Llanelli were growing in confidence, and a driven maul took them 15 metres into Wasps half before scrum half Clive Stuart-Smith almost broke away round the side, but Wasps scrambled well to catch him.
A high tackle from Simon Shaw handed Hercus his next chance, but from 45 metres he was again off-target.
A handling error from full back Davies following a spiralling kick into the 2 from Staunton gave Wasps good pitch position from where, despite being a man short, they put together their first concerted period of attack in the game. As the Llanelli defence buckled under the increasingly pressure the space looked to have opened on the wing. However, Joe Worsley's flip pass behind his back for Van Gisbergen was intercepted by Davies, who raced away into the Wasps half unchallenged. The Englishmen's covering defence got across well to shut him down, and as the ball was recycled, Wasps replied with an interception of their own.
Staunton's steal saw him break away into the Scarlets 22 where, with the defence on his heels, he was able to offload to Voyce in the clear, the winger sliding over near the posts. Van Gisbergen made sure of the extras to bring Wasps level at the half way point.
Following a change of referee, Alan Lewis unable to continue due to injury, the second half started at a cracking pace. Staunton was starting to find space in the 10 channel, and a break from the fly-half, with support from Voyce and Shaw put Llanelli under pressure. Sackey made good ground too on the counter attack, and though Llanelli conceded a penalty on the 22, Van Gisbergen was inches wide with the kick, leaving the teams level as the skies darkened overhead.
As the rain set in, Wasps adapted their tactics to the weather and mounted a forwards attack to push into the attacking half. From a scrum centre-field, Reddan and Staunton went blind, Abbott cut though on the angle and Voyce in support finished off the move for Wasps second try of the day, Van Gisbergen conversion then gave Wasps the lead for the first time in the game, as they went ahead 17-10.
The wet conditions took their toll on the game, as both teams started to play with less width and handling errors crept in. A penalty in the 67th minute for Van Gisbergen gave Wasps some breathing space, and Alex King sealed the victory with a 30-metre drop goal in the 77th minute, stretching his side's lead to 23-10 at the final whistle. It was only left for a final flourish for Van Gisbergen, kicking a final penalty with the last action of the game, to round off the win for 26-10 at full time.
After the game, Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan was thrilled with his first club silverware of his career.
'It's a great feeling and its actually the first club trophy I've ever won, so it is a bit special. I knew that when I woke up this morning, as I was pretty nervous, which I think says it all!
'There's a great atmosphere at the club and it's good to be part of it. Winning this trophy has been very important to all of us.'
Captain Lawrence Dallaglio said of the Powergen Cup experience, 'It's a super competition; still in its infancy but certainly from the knock-out stages it has had the public captivated. We have a trophy in the cabinet and a place in the Heineken Cup next year. That puts us in a very satisfactory position, and we've now got a real chance in the next six weeks to up our game and be back here at the end of May.'
Tries: Voyce (2)
Con: Van Gisbergen (2)
Pen: Van Gisbergen (2)
Llanelli Scarlets Scorers
Referee: Alan Lewis, (rep Simon McDowell)
MOTM: Tom Voyce