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London Wasps are champions of Europe, following an outstanding team performance to beat Leicester Tigers by 25-9 in the Heineken Cup Final at Twickenham. Wasps outplayed Tigers in every department. The defence ensured Wasps line remained intact, and tries for Eoin Reddan and Raphael Ibanez added to 15 points for Alex King secured Wasps their victory.
Showing ferocious pace from the off, Wasps opened the scoring within just four minutes as Alex King calmly put Wasps ahead slotting a straightforward penalty, after Tigers were guilty of coming in at the side of a ruck.
It didn't take long for Tigers to return the favour as Andy Goode levelled the scores with a straightforward penalty just minutes later. Unfortunately Alex King, striking the posts with his second penalty attempt, was unable to reinstate Wasps lead on the eight minute mark.
With a big hit on the Tigers winger Alesana Tuilagi, Paul Sackey forced Leicester to lose possession as the Samoan knocked on. The resultant lineout provided the Londoners with a move to secure their first try; Raphael Ibanez's quick line out on the Leicester 22 saw a short ball reach scrum half Eoin Reddan and sprint 25 meters to the try line. King was unable to add a further two points but Wasps had regained their lead moving 8-3 ahead after 13 minutes.A second successful penalty for Goode followed only three minutes later after a Lewis Moody dive saw Wasps penalised in front of the posts.
Wasps continued to keep Leicester on their toes mixing up play and narrowly missed an opportunity to re-establish their advantage as an Alex Kings penalty on the 19th minute dropped just short.
A period of attack followed from Tigers as Andy Goode turned down two attempts at the posts and opted to kick for touch but Wasps held their defence well and a short line-out followed as Raphael Ibanez exchanged passes with Simon Shaw to dive over the line. Kings conversion attempt hit the cross bar, but Wasps lead looked healthy at 13-6 on the brink of half time.
Goode bought Leicester back into the frame with another successful penalty and a drop goal attempt from Alex King fell just short moments before referee Alan Lewis blew the whistle for the break.
Wasps opened the scoring again in the second half as Alex King successfully slotted a penalty just two minutes in. Tigers were unable to respond as Goode missed a penalty attempt three minutes later and King continued to increase the margin with another successful penalty after Tuilagi was penalised for a deliberate knock on, taking Wasps 19-9 ahead on the 49 minute mark.
Captain Lawrence Dallaglio left the field on 50 minutes to a standing ovation as young gun James Haskell took the field. King pushed Wasps 13 points clear with a successful drop goal, his fourth in five Twickenham finals!
Tigers were not ready to roll over just yet though as they seemed to up the tempo, but academy star Danny Cipriani was on hand to make a crucial tackle on Tuilagi after Martin Corry fed him the ball in space.
Replacement James Haskell nearly added the try of the game, stealing the ball and sprinting 80 metres down field only to be stopped by Ian Humphries just short of the white wash. Wasps continued to batter the line and a successful penalty from Alex King secured Wasps fantastic victory with a 25-9 lead in the 73rd minute.
After the game, coaches and captain alike were absolutely delighted with the result and the performance of the entire 22. Captain Lawrence Dallaglio rated it as 'No1 without a doubt!' in his list of Wasps best games.
He continued, 'Everyone was telling us this was the best Leicester team ever, so that must make us the best Wasps team ever. To win this competition once is fantastic, so I'm delighted to win it again, and it puts us in a very elite group of clubs who have done that. It shows what we are about. Leicester Tigers have had a fantastic season and the strength and depth to compete on three fronts. They have done that fantastically well, but we targeted this competition at the start of the season and we've won.''Today was a great advert for the Heineken Cup. Finals can be a let down but I don't think today's game was, in any way, and an 81,000 record crowd just shows that this competition goes from strength to strength.'
Head Coach Shaun Edwards agreed with Lawrence's rating of the game and the team's performance. 'If it's not number one it's equal to it. We made some tactical alterations to our defence and it worked like a dream and Leicester didn't even get a point in the second half so that was doubly pleasing.
'We have had three weeks to prepare, which gave us the time to do that, but previously to today, every team who has had weeks off before going into a game like this has fallen short. I can't speak highly enough of our conditioning staff - and what a job they did with us to make sure that didn't happen. It was like we had been playing regularly, so there's huge credit to our conditioning staff there.
Dicussing two areas that became talking points in the game, - the line out moves that lead to Wasps two tries and the decision to play Tom French at loose head, Director or Rugby Ian McGeechan paid tribute to his coaching team as well as the players.
'We discussed doing something slightly different in the line out, and that both moves came off today is a credit to our Assistant Coach, Leon Holden. Shaun had been working hard on the defence too, and our conditioners take credit for the fact that after a three week rest, we were able to hit a peak today. Leicester have lifted their levels for each of their games in the last two weeks, but we knew we wanted to raise the level again I think we took everything up a notch this afternoon.
On the selection of Tom French, who has only one first team game to his name in his career to this point, McGeechan explained, 'It was Raf and Vicks call to go with Frenchy. They made the call that he was the strongest to combine with them, so that's what we did.'
On the performance of the two teams today, Dallaglio had the following observations: 'Leicester Tigers won their two trophies this season without being put under any real pressure whatsoever. We all look like good sides when we go forward all the time, but when you get smashed behind the game line that asks questions of you.
'You can argue that Harry Ellis was a big loss to Leicester, but equally Tim Payne was a big loss for us - not that you'd know it though, with the way that Tom French played today. Tom came up against once of the best scrummagers in the world in the shape of Julian White, and he came out on top.
'The way you win these games is with belief. We had the media saying we were second best in the scrum, line out, defence and the back three, but we had belief in our team and I think that's half the battle against Leicester.
'I think we showed maturity in the way we played in the second half to make sure Leicester didn't score a single point let alone a try says everything about our defence and if you defend well at the highest level you win trophies.'
Edwards continued: 'No other wingers in the competition have been able to stop those two Leicester wingers. Both our wingers were criticised for their defence before today's game but I think anyone would find it hard to claim that they can't defend after today: they were outstanding.'