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London Wasps turned in a masterful second half performance to outshine Leinster in all areas and win a place in the Heineken Cup Semi final, against Northampton Saints in three weeks time.
Leinster's start studded back line stuttered in the face of Wasps rush defence, and starved of possession in the second half they wilted as Wasps ran in three tries to finish comfortable 35-13 winners.
At half time, the result was by no means in the bag however, as a nervy start by both sides and an opportunistic try apiece left the scores close at 13-10 to Wasps after 40 minutes.
The nerves were evident from the start, Leinster captain Felipe Contepomi failing to make the required 10 metres with his kick off, and Wasps scrum looking fragile at the first two set pieces. However, two more early infringements by Leinster, D'Arcy failing to roll away and Bernard Jackman launching a punch at Lawrence Dallaglio, allowed Alex King to slot two well struck penalties to give Wasps a 6-0 lead within 11 minutes.
King had a third chance, minutes later, and though it was on target, the 45 metre distance was right at the edge of his range and the ball dropped under the bar. His opposite number Contepomi, wearing the captain's armband in the absence of the injured Brain O'Driscoll, was not so on song with the boot however, hitting both his two very straightforward penalty chances of the half very poorly.
Contepomi was on the scoresheet before the first quarter was out however, slotting a simple conversion after Chris Whitaker had exploited a rare defensive error by Wasps to dart round the side of a ruck and dive over the line in the 16th minute.Now trailing 6-7, Wasps were being tested in some physical contests at the breakdown that resulted in Fraser Waters leaving the pitch with a cut head after a quarter of an hour, Tim Payne hobbling off with a knee injury on the half hour and Alex King leaving the field five minutes before half time to receive nine stitches to his head before returning for the second half.
With Waters back on for the last ten minutes of the half however, it was his thundering tackle on Leinster No8 Jamie Heaslip that dislodged the ball, which cannoned off Gordon D'Arcy and into the arms of Wasps scrum half Eoin Reddan, who raced 70 metres to the line to reclaim the lead for Wasps in the 32nd minute.
Leinster finished the half the stronger side though, Whitaker's step and half break taking them to within 5 metres of the line where their forwards attempted to smash their way over from close quarters. Wasps defence remained resolute, and though captain Lawrence Dallaglio was sent to the sin bin for killing the ball on the stroke of half time, Leinster failed to cross the whitewash again and Contepomi has to settle for a penalty, closing the gap back to just three points at the break.
Despite being a man down at the restart, Wasps came out for the second half firing. Ian McGeechan had instructed his men to adjust their attacking tactics at the interval, and the home side wasted no time in making those changes count. James Haskell, on for Joe Worsley at half time, burst over the line from close quarters just two minutes after the restart, and with confidence building and the forwards winning more than their fair share of possession for the backs to attack from, Wasps were the team going forward. Waldouck, Lewsey and Rees all gave Wasps the go forward, with Alex King also finding space to take Wasps into their attacking 22, from where the ball came out to Simon Shaw on the wing. Shaw popped the ball inside to Haskell, whose pass found Danny Cipriani running at pace and he was unstoppable in his dive for the corner and Wasps third try of the evening.
Leinster were being forced to dig deep, as Wasps rush defence and solid tackling kept knocking them back, but they did launch a dangerous attack down the right as the hour approached. The move fizzled out as Dominic Waldouck made an ill-timed tackle on Contepomi that earned him a yellow card, and the Leinster captain's ensuing penalty kick narrowed the score to 25-13. However, a surging run by Lewsey took Wasps back into the attacking third, allowing King to respond in like terms, and with Dan Leo coming on for Dallaglio in the 63rd minute, Wasps pack continued to show power and pace in attack and defence.The home side's fourth and final try came thanks to a turnover won by Tom Rees. Teammate James Haskell capitalised on the possession, breaking blind before finding Eoin Reddan and putting him in for his second score of the game. King's conversion took Wasps out to 35-13, and with the home side back to full strength as Waldouck returned to the pitch, they were tenacious in defence to the end. Leinster threw everything they had into the final 10 minutes, but it was to no avail as Wasps defended their try line with a stubborn pride, and celebrated a well earned and accomplished win at the final whistle.
Referee: Nigel Owens
MOTM: Simon Shaw