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Wasps surrendered a first half lead, leaking two third quarter tries under torrential rain, to allow Saracens to claim a 26-15 win in the EDF Energy Cup on Friday night.
With Cardiff Blues beating London Irish 31-7 at the Arms Park, Wasps were never in a position to win qualification to the EDF Energy Cup semi finals, but after having played some good rugby to establish a lead, it was disappointing for the team to concede two quick tries and let Saracens back in the game.
Wasps started well. Steady in the set piece, the pack were setting up some good driving mauls and as the rain started to come down, fly half Dave Walder played the conditions well. The Wasps No10 put on an impressive display of kicking from hand in first 40 minutes, mixing up good touch kicks with grubbers and cross field kicks to keep Wasps on the front foot and playing in Saracens territory.
The first try came after thirteen minutes. Tom Voyce coming off his wing made ground into the 22, where centre Dominic Waldouck's driving run took his team closer to the try line, and though no one could hang on to his good offload in the wet conditions, full back Danny Cipriani scooped up the loose ball and smuggled it out to Voyce who slid in at the corner.
Though pressure from Saracens No9 Dickens was making life difficult for Wasps scrum half Eoin Reddan at the back of the scrum, Wasps were becoming dominant in the rest of their game and showing patience in their build up despite the worsening conditions. Thomas Castaignede got his team on the board with a penalty early in the second quarter, but Wasps replied with another five pointer before the half hour. Another good kick from Walder gave his forwards a line out near the Saracens line and the pack went for the catch and drive, Joe Ward slipping round the fringes to dive over for the try. Walder was unlucky with the conversion though, which bounced back off the post.
Saracens came back with a penalty five minutes later to pull back to 6-10 and put together a good period of attacking play, despite the driving rain, at the close of the half. Wasps defence played with composure however, and went in at the whistle with a four point lead.
Six minutes into the second half, and that lead was gone, as two quick tries from Saracens put them 20-10 in front, as Castaignede took over from Walder in the driving seat.
First, centre Rodd Penney's storming run into the 22 gave flanker Ben Russell an easy run in to the corner from close quarters, and then a sweeping Saracens attack, almost from the restart and involving forwards and backs, ended in a popular score under the posts for their returning hero Richard Hill, in his first senior game since returning from long term injury.
Wasps began to struggle for possession as Saracens took over control at the set piece, and Castaignede increased his side's lead with a drop goal after 53 minutes to go 23-10 ahead.
With both sides drenched from an hour of unremitting rain, Wasps did well to come back with a try from a well built attack of their own on the hour. Youngsters Waldouck and Cipriani were both involved in the move, but it was Voyce who finished things off in the corner. Walder again hit the post with his conversion attempt.
A Castaignede penalty in the 65th minute was the last score of the game, though Wasps were unlucky not to score in the final minutes. Waldouck's interception in his own 22 set up the platform for a flurry of Wasps attack, and though some good work created the space to score, Wasps handling - understandably difficult in the conditions - prevented them from converting the opportunity.
Director or Rugby Ian McGeechan was upbeat about his team's performance however, despite the result.'We'd have liked to have gone better as I never like losing, whatever the situation, but overall I was pleased with our team, and I thought we did a lot of good things tonight. We scored some good tries in pretty atrocious conditions.
'Unfortunately we had sloppy ten minutes after half time and let them back into the game, but we finished well, and outscored them three tries to two.
'We didn't get the rub of the green with the referee, and missing our kicks did hurt us, especially with Castaignede not missing a thing, but we were pleased with the performances of a lot of the youngsters. This was a good opportunity for us to give them some game experience. They weren't intimidated, I thought they were good on the ball and it was them that manufactured all three tries.
'We've now got five game in 21 days coming up over Christmas, which is going to be a challenge, and we want to be able to call on all of the squad through that period. We will need players who are match hardened, and games like this give them the experience that allows them to put themselves in contention for first team places.'
Referee: Ashley Rowden