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Match Report
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10 Sep 2005: Wasps v Leicester Tigers

Concessions apply to children only in the Family Enclosure.

Match Report
Wasps's Badge Wasps 29
Tigers's Badge Leicester Tigers 29
Fixture Type: Guinness Premiership Venue: Adams Park
Match Date: Sat 10 Sep 2005, Kick Off: 14:45
Referee: Dave Pearson Touch Judge: Peter Huckle
TV Match Official: Geoff Warren Touch Judge: Bob Mullis

Wasps play generous hosts to Tigers

<1>The score was even at the end of the match but the honours were with Wasps, who had the opportunity to win another thrilling tussle with the Tigers at the Causeway Stadium on Saturday.

Wasps created all the chances, but Leicester capitalised on the home side's mistakes, as the two sides drew, 29-29 in what was most definitely a game of two halves.

A thrilling first half saw two spectacular tries from Man of the Match, Tom Rees countered by two from Leicester, Tom Varndell and Harry Ellis both catching Wasps on the hop to snaffle tries. Mark van Gisbergen and Andy Goode matched each other kick for kick, and the match was set up perfectly, at 23 all at half time, for a dramatic second half.

And dramatic it was - though not, alas, for the rugby. The rain came down in droves for the last half hour, and the team without the ball played the better rugby in atrocious conditions. Rees, who had lifted the crowd to their feet with two explosive scores in the first forty, was helped from the field after 47 minutes. Pundits suspected a broken ankle, and Ian McGeechan was certainly worried about the youngster's injury after the match, but x-rays last night revealed no break, and the medical team are hoping to get the flanker back on the pitch in 2-3 weeks.

This is excellent news for the player and the team, as Rees and Worsley had done so much to punch holes in the Leicester defence in an the exhilarating first half. But Wasps had also done too much to help the opposition to parity at the half time whistle.

Goode's opening penalty had galvanised the home team in to action. Clean line-out ball saw King spread the ball wide for Tom Voyce to find some space. Brought down five yards short, Wasps produced quick ball, Rees took the ball flat and at pace and blasted through the tackles to touch down under the posts.

Minutes later, a floated pass from Leicester looked to be easy pickings for an interception, and though winger Paul Sackey got fingers to it, he couldn't hold on to a chance that would undoubtedly have seen him over the try line unopposed.

Wasps were about to make a game of it however, King offering a up a long pass of his own on the 12 minute mark which young Tigers winger, Tom Varndell did take advantage of, sprinting away without a tackle made to put his side back in the lead.

Goode's conversion stretched the Tigers to 13-7, but van Gisbergen narrowed the gap with a penalty on the 17 minute mark, after Leon Lloyd was penalised for an unsubtle obstruction of Joe Worsley.

Wasps were putting together the phases and the pressure was building. Tigers did the utmost to slow down Wasps supply of quick ball, and the crowd's disquiet mounted.

An exchange of penalties saw the lead change hands until on the half hour the teams were level at 16 a-piece, and Leicester found themselves down to 14 men as flanker Shane Jennings was sent to the sin-bin after Tigers were found guilty of persistent killing of the ball.

Looking to capitalise on the advantage, Alex King skied a high ball into the Tigers half, and with Stuart Abbott and Fraser Water advancing, Geordan Murphy gathered the ball and went to ground early. With men on hand, Wasps cleared out. Rees was on hand to take the quick ball and slice through the Tigers covering defence, stepping through tackles in another inexorable advance to the whitewash, van Gisbergen's conversion taking Wasps out to 23-16 lead.

Wasps should have been in the ascendant, but again handed a gift-wrapped chance to the visitors. Richard Birkett tapped down a line-out under pressure, and the ball landed in no-man's land. Harry Ellis, alive to the opportunity, skipped through the line to scoop up the ball and scamper to the line, Wasps bemused defence flat footed and in askance as he touched down. Goode's conversion drew his team level once again at 23-23.

<2>Wasps had two good chances to go ahead again before the break. In the first, Reddan broke blind side from a scrum and made good ground into the 22m, but the ball ricocheted into touch at the ruck and Leicester cleared their lines from the line-out. For the second, a beautifully judged King cross kick again gave Wasps a platform with the throw in on the Leicester line, but a controversial decision from the referee awarded Leicester a penalty when the whistle went for half time, Wasps went in at 23 all knowing they should have been well ahead.

With the game poised for an electric second half, the weather obliged. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. The players slipped and slid around the greasy pitch, and no-one could establish a platform from which to play, though Goode and van Gisbergen added six points each with the boot. As the game entered the final minutes, King had missed a difficult drop goal opportunity, but Goode had a gilt edged opportunity to snatch victory with a drop goal opportunity of his own from close range. Wasps supporters watched with their hearts in their mouths, but the ball flew wide and the game finished even.

The Wasps will view the final score of 29-29 as ultimately disappointing, and Leicester will go away knowing they have not lost at the Causeway in their last four visits, though this time there will be relief in their minds as they depart High Wycombe.

Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan shared the view, saying after the match "We are disappointed. We defended the line well and I thought the referee was harsh with us, but you can't afford to give away points like that to a team like Leicester."

Captain Joe Worsley agreed, "We leaked tries through a lack of communication. That's often our weakness at the start of the season, other teams struggle with the rugby, but we always seem to play well but not talk too well."

The plaudits were reserved for Rees, however, Worsley describing him as, "phenomenal". McGeechan agreed, and asked whether he thought Rees would figure in Andy Robinson's future plans, answered, "I don't think he is far away."

The injury report is good news then, for the player and the team. Meanwhile, Wasps travel to Leeds next Sunday, and will be hoping register a less generous performance as the visitors than they did as the hosts.

HT: 23-23
Referee: Dave Pearson