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An entertaining game saw Wasps record their best start to the season for ten years last night. A second win in succession meant McGeechan's men topped the table after defeating London Irish 23-17.
The try honours were even at one a-piece and both from wingers, Josh Lewsey and Topsy Ojo, but the excellent kicking of both Alex King and Jeremy Staunton ensured Wasps went ahead and stayed ahead to run out 23-17 winners.
Late changes to both teams saw Alex King and Rob Hoadley come into the midfield for Wasps, whilst for London Irish there was no Mike Catt (calf) or Olivier Magne (unwell).
The new look Wasps got off the mark early, King kicking his first penalty after just 3 minutes, and he added two more before the quarter hour was up, the second following a yellow card offence by Irish's Danie Coetzee in front of the posts..
We are very competitive, and we are going to stay very hard to beat.
While Wasps were taking advantage of the exiles indiscipline, they weren't able to put together a fluid passage of play themselves however. That was left to the Exiles. Their line out was getting the better of Wasps, and with that came possession and they enjoyed a good period of possession as the game entered its second quarter. Topsy Ojo showed how dangerous he is on the wing, but a blinding tackle from John Hart snuffed out the wide man's first dangerous dart for line, and Alex King cleared Wasps out of danger. King then had a penalty attempt hit the post.
Irish again progressed into Wasps 22, Flutey connecting with some good territorial kicks. A quick line out allowed the Exiles' fly half to put up an inch perfect cross kick, and Ojo, out on the wide right, collected it unopposed slide over the line for the first try of the evening.
Irish were growing in confidence, Flutey mixing up territorial punts and chip kicks to keep Wasps defence on their toes, and another cross kick saw Tagicakibau come close to scoring Irish's second. No8 Juan Leguizamon was starting to make a good impression with a couple of barnstorming runs down the middle of the park, and Flutey made the most of his team's continued territorial advantage to slot a long drop goal just before half time to draw his team back to 9-8.
However, Wasps were to have a final say before half time. With a promising attack building, Alex King attempted a long pass to left winger Lewsey. The pass bounced but Lewsey scooped it up. Fending off the covering Ojo, the Wasps man put up a deft little chip over the head of full back Armitage and beat his man for pace to dive on the ball for his try. Though King's conversion was on target it dropped short, as Wasps went in at half time 14-8 to the good.
There was a lively start to the second half, with a series of exciting attacks. First Sackey broke out from his own 22 and chipped ahead, and then a another chip ahead down the left saw Dan Leo in a race for the corner with Tagicakibau. The winger got the best of the Wasps man however, and an attack minded Irish back three ran the ball out of there own 22 to keep the excitement high. However, the move petered out as the Exiles conceded a penalty, but King was unable to convert.
There was not long to wait for another slice of excitement. Responding to London Irish's show of ambition, Josh Lewsey found space to speed out of his own 22 and away to half way before being scragged by the last of the cover defence. Stripping Lewsey of the ball in the tackle, Irish mounted a counter attack that took them back to within metres of the Wasps line before the home side reclaimed possession and Erinle came bursting out of his half. Wasps were able to recycle ball quickly and it looked as if Lewsey was going to be in for his second try of the night, but Armitage and Danaher bundled him in to touch just short of the line. However, Wasps did get something out of the attack as referee Sean Davey had been playing the advantage and came back for a penalty, which King converted to send Wasps 17 '8 ahead in the 49th minute.
Flutey had chances to narrow the lead with two penalties in the next ten minutes, but was off target for both. In contrast, replacement Jeremy Staunton was spot on with his first attempt, just a minute after taking the field, making the score 20-14.
Rob Hoadley was shown a yellow card in the 63rd minute, but again Flutey could not split the posts, and a drop goal from Staunton was Wasps reward for a good five minutes of pressure that, with ten minutes remaining, took Wasps further ahead, 23-14.
The game did anything but peter out however. Irish came surging back into Wasps 22 from the restart, and there was controversy as Sackey and Armitage crossed swords at the breakdown, after which a penalty allowed Flutey to pull his side back to 23-17. In the final minutes Wasps were again in possession, and after Staunton's kick put them in their opponents 22, made a concerted forwards drive for the line, though excellent defence from the Irish denied any further score.
After the game Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan said, 'We are still not playing as well as we want to, and we'll make no excuses for that. We know there's a lot more to come, but the important thing is that we are very competitive, and that's what I want from us. If nothing else we are going to stay very hard to beat, and I thought in the last 20 minutes we played some sensible rugby and really forced the result.
'Obviously the line outs were a disappointment, but to be fair London Irish defensive line out work was very good, I think our players took a lot of kudos for the way they played, knowing that we didn't have the confidence of our line out call. Apart from that our scummaging has been strong and today I thought we scrummaged very well - and that is a base that we can work from.'
Talking about try scorer Josh Lewsey, Shaun Edwards said, 'You don't often see Josh putting such a lovely little chip in, its usually his power or pace that gets him the try, but it was a lovely bit of skill and it shows that he's got a lot to his armoury.'
Referee: Sean Davey
MOTM: Dan Leo