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A second half onslaught, lead by the backs, saw London Wasps to a 19-34 win over the Bristol Shoguns at the Memorial Stadium on Easter Sunday. In all, Wasps scored six tries, five of them coming in the second half.
This win stretches Wasps’ unbelievable unbeaten run to nine consecutive games and moves Warren Gatland’s team into second position on the league table with 62-points, one point ahead of nearest rivals, The Sharks.
The side came into this game knowing that a bonus point victory over the Shoguns would move them above The Sharks, who on Friday night drew 30-all with league leaders Gloucester. <1>
The Shoguns put up a brave fight and even lead 9-7 at half-time, but Wasps’ superior fitness and power saw them through, and continue the quest for Silverware and Europe.
Returning to the side for this game were Josh Lewsey, Simon Shaw and Phil Greening who had missed the Pontypridd match due to injures. However, Fraser Waters was not fit to play after water retention on his knee forced the centre out. Ayoola Erinle took his place, and the big Nigerian-born centre, grabbed the opportunity with both hands by putting in an outstanding performance and scoring Wasps’ fifth try.
Shoguns fullback, Shane Drahm, opened the scoring with a penalty in the fifth minute. Drahm was instrumental in controlling the back and keeping the Wasps attack at bay. However, with almost half an hour gone, centre Stuart Abbott, broke free and scored Wasps’ first try of the afternoon. Abbott’s elusive and jinxing runs in the midfield have seen him play outstanding rugby lately and his try settled Wasps, and allowed them to gain better control of the game. Alex King slotted the conversion and Wasps lead 3-7.
However, with half-time approaching, two Drahm penalties kept the West Country side in the hunt and allowed them to take a slender 9-7 lead into the break.
Wasps knew that if they were going to make an attempt to overhaul the Sharks in the league, they needed to come away with a win and score four tries. Whatever was said at half-time by the coaching staff to the players must have hit home as Wasps came out firing on all cylinders. Straight after the break, flanker Paul Volley grabbed Wasps’ second try of the afternoon. The burley No.7 has been one of Wasps’ most consistent players during the season, and his presence gives The Men in Black a much greater physical edge to the team. Unfortunately, a rush of blood to the head in the 73rd minute, saw Volley yellow-carded for having his hands in the ruck one too many times and he was given 10-minutes in the sin-bin to contemplate his mistake. Volley’s try did, however, pave the way for Wasps’ onslaught.
England fullback, Josh Lewsey, scored Wasps’ third try and when Mark van Gisbergen rounded off another brilliant backline move, the writing was on the wall that Wasps were now most certainly going to spoil the Shoguns’ Easter. King converted the Lewsey try but failed with the Van Gisbergen attempt.
King has been in top form with the boot over the past month. However, the England A flyhalf had a rare ‘off-day’ with his kicking by only converting two of the six tries.
With 10-minutes left, Drahm added another penalty to take the score to 12-24. That penalty saw Wasps bring on the replacements with Kenny Logan coming on for John Rudd, Martyn Wood for Rob Howley and Phil Greening for Trevor Leota.
Greening’s impact was immediate and the hooker caused more havoc for the Shoguns pack. Greening, who was returning after missing last weekend’s game due to a knee infection, was instrumental in creating overlaps and setting up the final tries of the afternoon.
After Erinle scored, with five minutes left, the only worry from a Shoguns perspective was by how much Wasps would win. The final nail in their coffin came when a neat backpass by Wood allowed for Joe Worsley to score the side’s sixth and final try.
The Shoguns scored a late conciliation try by Brendan Daniel, Drahm added the two points but it was to no avail as Wasps’ five tries in the half sent the Shoguns back to the bottom of the league table and moved Wasps into second.
The players will be given Monday and Tuesday off and will return to training on Wednesday, ahead of Friday night’s Parker Pen Challenge Cup semi-final, second leg, visit to Pontypridd.