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Match Report

04 Mar 2006: Wasps v Leicester Tigers

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Match Report
Tigers's Badge Leicester Tigers 17
Wasps's Badge Wasps 22
Fixture Type: Anglo-Welsh Powergen Cup Venue: Millennium Stadium
Match Date: Sat 04 Mar 2006, Kick Off: 14:30
Referee: Nigel Owens

Twickenham bound!

Twickenham bound!

London Wasps have booked a place in the Powergen Cup Final in convincing style, beating arch rivals Leicester Tigers by 22 points to 17 at the Millennium Stadium.

In a performance that has a strong claim to be called Wasps' best of this season, Dallaglio and his men dominated the first hour, though a final quarter comeback by the Tigers elicited a defensive performance of courage and discipline by McGeechan's men.

Despite a try count of 3 to 1 in Leicester's favour, there was no doubt that the best team won. Jeremy Staunton, who took on the place kicking reponsibilities at the last possible moment after Mark Van Gisbergen withdrew from the starting fifteen after struggling with a sore back in the warm up, showed composure in slotting four penalties in the first half to keep the scoreboard ticking over, and Wasps in front at the half way mark.

The second half saw Leicester come out with all guns firing and throw all they had at the English Champions. But, as Shaun Edwards knows, defence wins championships, and his side's organisation and tackling commitment allowed them to soak up inordinate amounts of pressure before a handling error between Goode and Vesty allowed Raphael Ibanez to scoop up the fumbled ball and spin it wide, Ayoola Erinle racing 80 metres and swatting off the desperate tackle of Goode before sliding in under the posts to seal the victory for Wasps.

Raphael Ibanez said to me, 'Now I know what it is to be a Wasp,' and I concur. It's a great feeling - McGeechan

That this game was important to both teams, after the Powergen Cup had suffered a slip in kudos in recent years, was in no doubt from the very outset. The tension before kick off was palpable, but the opening minutes of the game suggested Leicester were the more nervous of the two sides. Andy Goode and Sam Vesty both made early handling errors, and Goode scuffed a clearance kick, Leicester's errors handing Wasps territorial advantage and a promising attacking platform. However, though Tigers were pinned back in their own half for much of the first 20 minutes, and Wasps go forward attack looked the more dangerous, the men in black failed to capitalise on the first of several overlaps and the Leicester scramble defence kept them in the match.

Jeremy Staunton kicked the first of his penalties, a straightforward chance from the 22, in the 9th minute. With the pressure piling on, Leicester's discipline suffered, and after giving away penalties outside Staunton's kicking range, they twice got marched back 10 metres, handing the Wasps man two more kicking chances from just inside the half way line, Staunton slotting the former but pushing the latter wide.

As the game entered it's second quarter Leicester breached the Wasps 22 for the first time, thanks to a weaving run from Irish winger Geordan Murphy. Wasps were able to close down the threat however, and were soon back on the attack. Erinle gathered a territorial punt from Goode in his own half and, after everyone in black appeared to stop - waiting for the referee's whistle, recovered to embark on a counter attack. Progressing into the Tigers' half, he passed to centre Stuart Abbot who sold the dummy and drifted through the defence. A great pick up from Worsley following Abbott's offload looked to have set up a scoring platform, but the Wasps man was ajudged to have held on when tackled and Goode cleared the danger from the ensuing penalty.

Staunton kept Leicester in defensive mode with some good kicking to the corners as Wasps continued to dominate, and slotted his third penalty on the half hour to give his side a 9-0 lead. The Wasps' man looked to maintain the pace, throwing in to himself and kicking back at Leicester from his 22 following Goode's restart kick, but Leicester - handed possession on the counter - moved the ball wide, attacking down the left into Wasps 22. Winning a scrum in the Wasps half, Healey chipped a ball blind over the scrum for Varndell to chase, and as Lewsey fumbled the catch, the Tigers Express mopped up the loose ball and then stepped outside the tackle of full back Voyce to touch down for Leicester's first score.

Twickenham bound!

Goode failed with the conversion and his restart kick allowed Wasps to again retain possession and set up another attacking platform, with a line out in the Tigers 22. Another overlap went begging from the consequent attack, but lock Simon Shaw soon had the crowd on their feet. The Wasps giant chipped over the Leicester defence and ran on to gather the ball himself and take play again into the Midlanders' 22, from where their defence conceded another penalty for Staunton to give Wasps a 12-5 lead at half time.

Leicester came out in the second half determined and focussed on playing to their strengths. Vesty's early break gave them field position from where the first of a series of rolling mauls tested Wasps' organisation and strength in the pack. With his team at last on the front foot, Healey was again the orchestrator of Leicester's second try. His lateral run and offload to Leon Lloyd, running the angle, was enough for the centre to slide through, though there was more than a suggestion of crossing, which prevented Worsley from pulling down Healey and averting the score.

Though Goode could not convert from the touch line, Leicester had gained some confidence and started to get their forwards' game going. The pick and drive policy threatened to take them straight through the guts of the Wasps defence, but a massive hit by Lewsey on Vesty handed Wasps back possession, from where Voyce and Lewsey combined to take play into the attacking quarter. Goode's clearance allowed Shaw to go on another counter attacking gallop in front of a roaring Wasps section of the crowd. Voyce took the attack on from the breakdown, and as Tigers conceded another kickable penalty, Staunton slotted his fourth 3 pointer of the day for a 15-10 lead a minute short of the hour.

However, the Leicester scrum was asserting their superior strength and weight, and with the Tigers camped in Wasps 22, they looked to turn the screw with some driving plays and narrow running, thumping into the Wasps fringes. Some heroic tackling, notably from Staunton, Shaw and Ibanez, ensured Wasps held the Midlander's at bay, and tenacity was rewarded in the 73rd minute, when Goode's bullet pass bounced of Vesty's chest, allowing Ibanez to launch Erinle to the try line.

Staunton's conversion stretched the lead to 12 and ensured that Leicester's final efforts to score were of the consolation variety only, referee Nigel Owens awarding a try to Hipkiss in the 80th minute and Goode's conversion the last action of the match.

<3>After the match, coaches and captain were mighty pleased with the result. Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan, looking forward to his first trip to Twickenham at the Wasps helm, informed the press that, 'Raphael Ibanez said to me, 'Now I know what it is to be a Wasp,' and I concur. It's a great feeling.'

'I thought we played very well in the first 40,' he continued. - though in the second half we had to dig in. Leicester did what they do well and it is a credit to our defence that we held firm.

'Jeremy Staunton delivered for us with some tremendous long distance kicks. Those penalties in the first half were vital in keeping the scoreboard going for us and reflecting our dominance at that time.'

Captain Lawrence Dallaglio was also pleased with his team's big match performance. 'We have played some rubbish rugby in the last few weeks, but I think today you saw the true Wasps. We were playing with the ball going forward and able to put some pace on the game, and when we do that, it allows us to showcase the silky skills of the backs that we have.

'In the first half we got our noses in front and played some excellent stuff. For the first 60 minutes I think Leicester were hanging on as we were able to put pace and width on the game. We got enough on the board though, as in the second half Leicester decided to play tighter and they really took it to us, but in the final stages we were able to turn defence into attack and seal the result.

'Today's is the result of a massive effort from everyone.'

Information on how to book your tickets for the Powergen Cup Final at Twickenham on April 9th will be released by the club via the website on Monday 6th March

HT: 12-5

Referee: Nigel Owens

MOTM: Joe Worsley