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Match Report

23 Oct 2005: Wasps v Edinburgh Gunners

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Match Report
Edinburgh's Badge Edinburgh Rugby 32
Wasps's Badge Wasps 31
Fixture Type: Heineken Cup Venue: Murrayfield
Match Date: Sun 23 Oct 2005, Kick Off: 13:00
Referee: Christophe Berdos

Wasps outgunned by Edinburgh

London Wasps suffered defeat in the opening game of their Heineken Cup campaign by just one point, losing 32-31 to the Edinburgh Gunners at Murrayfield on Sunday.

Van Gisbergen on his way to Wasps first score

It was three tries a-piece for each team at the final whistle but Wasps, who led 20-13 at half time, and should have had the match wrapped up at that point, attempted to play too much open rugby with not enough accuracy in the second half, and were perhaps fortunate to be only one point behind at full time. Edinburgh profited from a more conservative, but ultimately a more successful game plan. Fly half and Man of the Match Phil Godman played a measured and patient kicking game that ensured his team enough territorial advantage to win and convert more scoring opportunities than Wasps, whose tactics in the second half were acknowledged as misplaced by both their coaches after the match.

For Wasps, Mark Van Gisbergen missed only one kick throughout the afternoon, failing to convert his team's final try. In contrast, Edinburgh's Chris Paterson missed a potential 13 points with the boot, including one conversion in front of the posts. In addition, Gunners full back Hugo Southwell contrived to hand the ball to Van Gisbergen when over the try line, squandering another potential seven points to take to twenty the number of points Edinburgh could realistically have added to their final tally. However, Wasps profligacy in possession, coughing up ball at line out, breakdown and in open play - ensured that Paterson's men had enough chances to grab a victory, albeit by the slimmest of margins, at the final whistle.

It was Van Gisbergen who had put Wasps ahead, 13-3 after twenty minutes. Paterson gained the first attempt at goal, after only five minutes, but pushed his kick wide and it was the Wasps man who put his side into a 6-0 lead after 11 minutes with his first two place kicks. Paterson countered with a 3-pointer of his own on the quarter hour, but a wonderful weaving run from the Wasps full back just two minutes later saw him find a way through the forwards' mêlée and into acres of space. He was hauled down by a last gasp Mike Blair tackle 5 metres from the line, but flanker Jonny O'Connor was on hand to scoop up the ball and dive over, Van Gisbergen's conversion putting Wasps 10 points ahead.

Wasps profligacy in possession, coughing up ball at line out, breakdown and in open play - ensured that Paterson's men had enough chances to grab a victory

From a position of control however, Wasps contrived to allow the home side to draw level on the half hour. First, the front row were penalised for illegal binding in the 22nd minute, and Paterson kicked another three points. Then, just as Wasps were looking to play like a cohesive unit, putting together the phases and applying pressure to the Edinburgh defence, a loose pass from the English champions was intercepted by Gunners full back Southwell. His chip forward allowed Paterson to motor past Matt Dawson and touch the ball down, the winger converting his own try to draw Edinburgh level.

Wasps were ahead again after a further three minutes however. The Englishmen won a penalty following a good clean line-out 'their first of the day - and drive from the forwards. Van Gisbergen's attempt bounced off the post, but Josh Lewsey was alive to the opportunity, racing through to scoop up the loose ball skillfully and touchdown, Van Gisbergen's conversion sailing cleanly through to give Wasps the seven point lead at the turnaround.

The second half saw Edinburgh off to a lively start, competing hard at the breakdown to force another penalty opportunity, though Paterson could not convert it into points. On the 46th minute the points were forthcoming though, Godman going blind to feed Southwell who streaked down the far touchline, diving though the final tackle to close the gap to 18-20, though Paterson was not able to bring his team level with the touchline conversion.

Wasps continued to look untidy in their play, and furthermore were reduced to ten men in the 52nd minute when Peter Bracken received a yellow card for a high tackle. Paterson kicked a further 6 points during the next ten minutes to put his side ahead by 24-20, and though a Van Gisbergen 3 pointer took Wasps back to 24-23, his team continued to play fast and loose. Clearly it was too loose however, this fact underlined by a sloppy restart that saw Wasps surrender possession to Edinburgh, Godman chipping through for Southwell to collect and cross the line. He did not spot Van Gisbergen though, who helped himself to the ball from Southwell's outstretched hand and raced off up field with his well gotten gains - a lucky escape.

Lewsey feels the determination of Edinburgh's defence

With 15 minutes remaining, Wasps were back to fifteen men, two of them with fresh legs as Tom Rees and George Skivington took the field for John Hart and Simon Shaw respectively. But the mistakes were still prevalent in the Champions' game, the Gunners dispossessing their opponents once more to kick on and win another penalty, Paterson knocking it over for 27-23.

The cohesive play that had eluded the visitors for much of the game made a brief appearance as the clock ticked into the 73rd minute and the pressure on Wasps increased. They enjoyed a good period of pick and drive play, Peter Bracken driving up to create the crucial quick ball for the backs to run off. King worked the ball wide to Voyce, who had come across to the right, making the extra man that attracted the last of the Gunners' defence, and offloading to Sackey, the left winger's pace seeing him over in the corner. Van Gisbergen missed the touchline conversion however, and his side entered the final five minutes with just a one point lead.

This was Wasps chance to turn the screw, and Alex King's up and under following Dallaglio's line out win allowed Josh Lewsey to pressure Paterson into a knock on. A blind side move at the ensuing scrum led to a yellow card for Gunners' No8 Simon Taylor and a penalty attempt for Van Gisbergen, which he converted to give Wasps a modest 4 point cushion in the 79th minute.

Wasps created more pressure as the clock ticked into injury time, though this became their undoing, as another Wasps attack became a turn-over in midfield. Godman and his men pounced on the opportunity, substitute Simon Webster running a beautiful line off his fly half to scream through the ragged Wasps defence, step last man Van Gisbergen and slide under the posts for a dramatic extra time score. At 32-31 ahead, Paterson's conversion in front of the posts looked like a formality. However, the Gunners' captain drove the kick under the posts and it seemed the door might still be ajar for Wasps to snatch a last minute penalty to win.

Urgency led to mistakes however. Twice Wasps knocked on good opportunities to go forward inside the Gunners half, and it was Paterson who was able to snaffle loose ball following a poor pass and threaten the Wasps line in the last move of the game. The danger was averted and a penalty given, but on Wasps' own five metre line it was too little too late, the referee blowing for full time and the Scots celebrating another of their giant killing achievements.

Director of Rugby, Ian McGeechan and Head Coach, Shaun Edwards both acknowledged their team's shortcomings after the game.

'Tactically we didn't get it right.' said Edwards. 'We tried to play too much fancy rugby between the two ten metre lines. We played pretty dumb. We didn't execute our kicking game and so gave Edinburgh the field position from which to play.'

McGeechan felt that 'Edinburgh didn't have to play hard to get the ball - we gave it to them. We played with some composure in the first half and went in ahead, However, Edinburgh played well in the second half, and played with the ball in the right parts of the pitch, whilst we turned over ball and couldn't create any momentum. We are not playing with enough accuracy, and that accuracy is important to the way we play. We know what we've got to get back to. The problems are fixable, but it is important that we fix them.'