Season Tickets are valid for this Parker Pen Challenge Cup match.
It's often said that a match has been a game of two halves. This frequently fractious A League final first leg was a game of four quarters, three of them belonging to Wasps. Incisive back play, on the back of a solid forward effort, had seen them build up a 34-6 lead. At this point, Leicester - who had seemed dispirited, dead and buried - mounted a ferocious fight back to cut the lead to just seven points ahead of the final meeting at Welford road in three weeks time.
Wasps took the lead with a superb try after just two minutes as Leicester fly half Ian Humphreys, off target with a penalty kick to the corner, sent the ball dead nowhere near the touchline. From the scrum back near halfway, Ayoola Erinle, Rob Hoadley and David Doherty combined to make ground down the left. The ball then came back infield and Dave Walder jinked his way over between the posts, adding the conversion to make it 7-0.
Three minutes later the fly half had a chance to extend the lead with a penalty from just inside the Leicester half but his kick drifted just wide of the posts, however it was only two minutes before Wasps notched up their second try. Chris Bishay fielding a kick deep inside his own half embarked on a searing run through the Tigers defence to launch a move which ended with Leicester-bound Ayoola Erinle powering his way over. Walder's conversion attempt was narrowly off target.
Leicester had a chance to open their account after referee Tim Beddow decided that Rob Hoadley was the worst offender in a flare-up involving several players - the first of a number of scuffles which punctuated this lively encounter. Ian Humphreys sent his 45-metre penalty attempt to the right of the posts. A counter-attack, ending with a long run by Leon Lloyd, then stretched the Wasps defence but Edd Thrower managed to get a hand to a potential scoring pass. The referee ruled that it was a deliberate knock-on and Humphreys sent his penalty into touch in goal.
Humphreys was finally on target after 26 minutes with a well-struck penalty from just near 50 metres. The fly half landed another successful kick six minutes later, after Matt Corker was penalised for not releasing Tigers' scrum-half Ben Youngs, whom he'd scragged just outside the 22.
Wasps responded immediately, after John Hart's powerful run from a lineout inside the Tigers 22 set up the possession from which Walder danced over for his second try of the night. Another simple conversion made it 19-6. Edd Thrower then burst through the Leicester defence to be stopped just short of the line. At the resultant breakdown, Tigers flanker Luke Abraham committed an offence which earned him a yellow card. Wasps chose to kick to the corner and won the resultant lineout mounting a drive for the line, but an infringement gave the visitors the chance to clear their lines with the final action of the half.
In the first minute of the second half Mark McMillan's darting run down the left took play deep into the Leicester territory. The ball was swung back across the field and a fourth try was prevented by another Leicester offence. Wasps kicked for touch at the corner and clean lineout possession set up a powerful drive which saw Nick Adams cross the line. A large-scale punch-up followed before Walder was able to attempt a conversion, which was off target.
Leicester were then reduced to 13 men, when centre Tom Youngs was shown the yellow card. Moments later the ball was spun wide for Bishay to go over in the corner, prompting another flare-up. Edd Thrower took over the kicking but he sent his conversion attempt to the left of the posts.
From the restart, Richard Birkett appeared to be taken out in the air and landed heavily. Clearly shaken, the experienced lock, who'd been combining effectively with Martin Purdy, was forced to leave the field.
Fourteen minutes into the half, a good night looked even better after another strong run by Hart, from a scrum near the Leicester line, set up quality possession. The ball was moved quickly out wide for Thrower to stroll over for another fine try. The full-back was unable to add the extra points from the touchline.
That was as good as it got for Wasps, as the tide began to turn Leicester's way when Abraham went over for a try near the corner. Humphreys made it 34-13 with a fine kick from near the touchline seemingly sparking the side into action. After Doherty became the first Wasps player to see yellow, Leicester immediately added a second try when New Zealand flanker Ben Herring powered his way over from a lineout. Another magnificent conversion by Humphreys brought his side back to within two converted tries.
That gap was down to seven points, after a Humphreys kick ahead bounced obligingly into the hands of skipper Matt Cornwell, who had a clear run to the line from 25 metres. The conversion was a formality for Humphreys.
The game ended with Leicester pressing hard and the final move of the night saw them come close to another try in the right-hand corner.
Head Coach Shaun Edwards acknowledged the quality of the Leicester fight back, but he felt that injuries had seriously affected the second half performance. As well as the injury to Richard Birkett, Rob Hoadley left the field with a huge shiner to his left eye, caused accidentally by Ayoola Erinle, and Ali McKenzie limped off with a leg injury. 'Richard Birkett going off was crucial. After that, we just had no possession. Our defence, which had been outstanding for the first 60 minutes just fell to pieces in the last 20.'
Despite his disappointment at the way things had turned in the final quarter he remained defiant. 'Leicester will certainly think they're the favourites to win now going into the second leg. It's up to us to make sure that doesn't happen and go up there and prove them wrong.''
So a night which had looked so promising ended with Wasps defending a narrow lead. There's no doubt a seven-point advantage will be hard to defend, in front of a large crowd at Welford Road - but a repeat of the rugby which saw Tigers torn to shreds in the opening hour of the game would give them a great chance of avenging the final defeat of two seasons ago.