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London Wasps suffered a heavy home defeat to the Leicester Tigers in the final league game of the season. The side went down 17-48 and have now finished second in the league, which means Warren Gatland’s side will face the Northampton Saints in next Sunday’s Zurich Premiership semi-final.
It’s not often Wasps go down this heavy and this result is the equal heaviest home defeat for the side. The previous worst result was when Wasps lost 3-34 to Harlequins at Sudbury in 1996, a margin of also 31 points.
<1>The first half and particularly, the first 25 minutes, Wasps looked well in control scoring two penalties and a try. Flyhalf, Alex King was on song with his first two penalty kicks and when Stuart Abbott crossed for the opening try of the game, it looked like Wasps’ day. The Abbott try was well worked after a catch and drive from the lineout saw the ball flung down the backline and into his hands. The England international found a hole that was created by King and duly went over for the five points. The conversion was missed, but Wasps led 11-3.
No sooner had Wasps scored their try, had Tigers hit back with one of their own. A high up-and-under kick saw the ball bounce around and into the hands of Ollie Smith. The centre got a very lucky bounce and ran in under the poles. The conversion was never a problem for Andy Goode as he added the extra two points to the three he scored from an earlier penalty which made the score 11-10.
King struck another penalty soon afterwards to make it 14-10, but it seemed as soon as Wasps scored points, Leicester hit back. This time, the visitors struck with their second try, courtesy of Austin Healey. It started from a Wasps clearance that Leicester counter-attacked. Wasps were caught napping as the ball was passed down the backline, which allowed Healey to run onto it and score his first of two tries. Goode made sure of the conversion that allowed his side to take the lead. He added another penalty just before the break, which was well over 50m as Lawrence Dallaglio led his side in trailing 14-20.
After the break, King closed the gap to 17-20 with his fourth penalty of the game. Those three points proved to be Wasps’ last of the game, as soon afterwards Leicester took full control. Healey scored his second try under the posts after a well worked catch and drive from his forwards gave him the platform to score. Goode’s conversion made it 17-27. With one eye on the Bath game at The Rec, knowing Gloucester had to beat Bath in order for Wasps to finish first, the news filtered down to the touchline that Gloucester were also getting punished. Gatland started to make the replacements with this in mind.
<2>On the hour mark, Tigers scored their fourth and bonus point try via Goode, who converted his own try. At this stage Dallaglio, Rob Howley, Josh Lewsey, Richard Birkett and Will Green all made way for the replacements. Tigers score made it 17-34.
If Wasps’ fans thought it couldn’t get worse it sadly did. Goode scored his second try of the afternoon, an intercept from 60m out that allowed him to run in under the sticks and add his fifth conversion. To round things off, Harry Ellis added salt into the Wasps’ wounds as he ran in for the visitors’ sixth and thankfully final try. Goode’s conversion made it 17-48 and with it inflicted Wasps’ second defeat in two weeks.
The result means Wasps will need to beat Northampton in order to secure a place in the Zurich Premiership Final.