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London Wasps secured their first ‘double’ of the season and won the battle of the Thames Valley with a comprehensive 35-11 victory over local rivals London Irish. More importantly, Wasps managed to score four tries to secure the vital bonus point.
The sides ran out onto Adams Park with two different agendas, Irish needing to escape the clutches of a relegation battle and Wasps focusing on a European place.
A lunchtime shower made the conditions slippery but in spite of the damp conditions the crowd of 8,590 witnessed some good running rugby.
It took 10 minutes for the first points to be scored and it came courtesy of a Josh Lewsey try. Joe Worsley brilliantly made the try from a lineout, which saw him slip two tackles, keep the ball in play and still pass it to Lewsey who in turn pinned his ears back and scored. Alex King slotted the conversion and the home side led 7-0.
Minutes later, King’s opposite number, Barry Everitt, got his side’s first points on the board when he slotted an easy penalty. Wasps were penalised for being offside and Everitt made no mistake to add the three points.
One of the highlights of the first half was seeing Wasps move a rolling maul more than 30m, which started from a lineout. Wasps’ powerful pack have used the rolling maul to good effect this season and once again nearly scored under the posts. However, a knock-on at the crucial moment denied the try. <1>
Moments later the Irish found themselves in front when wing, Paul Sackey, crossed in the corner for his side’s only try of the game. It was a well-worked try that saw the ball fed down the backline and into the hands of Sackey. Everitt missed the conversion but the Irish took the lead 7-8.
However, it was short-lived when King lined up a 20m penalty and sailed the ball between the posts, which allowed Wasps to put their noses in front again.
As half time approached, Wasps dealt a massive blow to the Irish when Mark van Gisbergen scored the side’s second try. Lewsey started the movement as his brilliant running down the wing saw him feed his fullback within his own half and van Gisbergen was given a clear run to score. King converted and referee Paul Honiss blew for the break with Wasps leading 17-8.
Wasps knew that a bonus point was vital today and went on the hunt looking for it.
An Everitt penalty in the 49th minute made up for an earlier miss, however King added his second of the day to stretch the lead to 20-11
Everitt missed a number of penalties during the game and with the Irish out of luck, a change in kicker was decided. Mark Mapletoft was handed kicking duties, however the fullback missed yet another penalty.
With frustration building up in the Irish camp, Wasps took full advantage of it. King slotted his third penalty of the day when Mapletoft was penalised for kicking the ball away at a Wasps lineout. That penalty stretched the lead to 23-11 and with 20 minutes left, Wasps were looking for the bonus point.
First Fraser Waters touched down under the posts in the 68th minute and when Craig Dowd was bundled over in the last 10 minutes for Wasps’ fourth try, the vitally important bonus point was secured. King landed the Waters conversion but missed with Dowd’s as The Men in Black ran out comfortable 35-11 winners.
Asked what he felt about the team’s performance, Warren Gatland surprisingly said, “ I was quite disappointed with the way we played, I was happy with the bonus point, but I feel we made too many errors. Our lineout was poor in the first half but did get better in the second. However, we did defend pretty well and the win does keep us in touch. The bonus point was important for us. <2>
Lawrence Dallaglio said, “ We accomplished what we wanted to. We got the bonus point and maintained the pressure but not quite in the manner that we wanted, but it was still impressive enough and this win sets us up nicely for the rest of the season.
The side will have two weeks off before facing the re-scheduled Newcastle Falcons on 1 March.