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London Wasps maintained their good run of form with a 25-17 win over Leeds Carnegie in the Guinness Premiership at Adams Park. The win, by three tries to two, allows Wasps go four points ahead of Newcastle and rise to 7th in the table, but with Wasps unable to secure the bonus point and the Falcons due to play on their home turf against struggling Worcester tomorrow, Wasps will slip back to 8th if the North-Easterners win.
Cipriani v Leeds 04/01/2008
The game ensured McGeechan's men retained their record of only having lost one game since 20th October, but with bottom placed Leeds having struggled to win just one game in 2007/8, there was disappointment in the Wasps ranks at having not kicked on when the third try came with half an hour still remaining.
At that point Wasps were 25-3 ahead, tries having been scored by Joe Worsley, Fraser Waters and Man of the Match, Josh Lewsey. Worsley opened Wasps try account to celebrate his return from injury and, though the score had an unprepossessing start when Dallaglio did well to get the ball out of a scruffy scrum, Reddan's dummy did for Leeds centre Lee Blackett and Worsley was on hand to dive over in the tackle. Lewsey's score, Wasps third and last, was very much a solo effort as he weaved his way through the middle of the Leeds defence after having sprinted onto a pop ball from Reddan to score near the posts. The pick of the bunch though was Waters effort, an end to end display involving forwards and backs that captain Dallaglio described after the game as 'worth the entrance fee alone'.
Tom Palmer v Leeds 04/01/2008
Beginning with cheeky 22 restart from Riki Flutey, a short drop out that kicked up into the hands of Dominic Waldouck, the winger then found Tom Rees on his shoulder to take the attack on. With Rees running out of space, Josh Lewsey came hammering up on his shoulder to blast out of his own half and into Leeds 22. The supporting Danny Cipriani had to stretch for the pass from Lewsey, both at full pace, but despite this he recovered to pirouette through one tackle before being floored by the second. Fraser Waters outstretched hands as he appeared on Cipriani's left suggested that he thought his young fly half had left it too late, but somehow Cipriani got the ball away at the last moment, Waters collected and darted the final few metres to score. It was a try from the top drawer, and certainly one to challenge Paul Sackey's effort against Clermont as Wasps try do the season
It was a try and a lead well earned. Wasps had enjoyed the thick end of territory and possession for that first 50 minutes, and with it Cipriani had got the back line moving well. His sleight of hand and dummy passes kept the Leeds defence honest, but nevertheless the visitors remained well organised and worked hard in defence to deny Cipriani the gaps he was looking to open up.
Indeed, Wasps best chances came from Leeds mistakes. Following his dummy to create Worsley's try, Reddan was the centre of the action minutes later when, deep in his own 22 he intercepted a pass from Leeds centre Rob Vickerman to set off on a 60 metre sprint up field. Flutey and Waldouck were on hand to keep the move alive when Reddan was eventually caught by the swift full back Leigh Hinton, but though Wasps moved the ball from touchline to touchline Leeds defence again prevented a score, driving Lewsey into to touch in the right corner.
Joe Worsley scores in first game back against Leeds 04/01/2008
Indeed, Lewsey was a real live wire, earning his Man of the Match Award with a series of blistering, weaving runs, the best of which was central to that excellent second try for Waters.
Rees and Cipriani also hunted down loose ball to threaten another score before the half way mark, though the final pass or the supporting run that would convert breaks into scores were frustratingly absent.
So, with a commanding 25-3 lead, did Wasp take their foot off the gas? What is certain is that Leeds dug in and fought their way back. After having coughed up too much ball in the first hour, often following promising attacks, the Yorkshire outfit, belied their reputation of fading out of games in the second half by knuckling down, scoring two tries and staying organised and belligerent in defence to deny Wasps the bonus point.
Leeds tries weren't pretty but the first was memorable as a front row special, as tight head Tom McGee put up a chip kick in the 22 and then supported winger Tom Biggs to put fellow prop Mike MacDonald over in the corner. The second came after ten more minutes of good play by Leeds. Paul Sackey had had his work cut out, sprinting the length of the field to just about outstrip Biggs as they gave chase to the Leeds man's fly hack down field, Sackey inching out his man to touch down first and prevent the try. However, the ensuing scrum gave Leeds to platform to push on, and though Wasps worked hard in defence Anitelle'ia Tuilagi finally broke through to allow supporting scrum half Joe Bedford to burrow over near the posts for Leeds second.
Josh Lewsey, Man of the Match v Leeds 04/01/2008
With ten minutes remaining, Wasps reasserted themselves to secure a good attacking platform in the Leeds 22, but despite a series of line out and scrums close to the Yorshiremen's try line, it was to no avail and one again the fourth try had eluded them.
Reflecting on the game, Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan said, 'It is disappointing, one again we got to three tries and didn't quite finish it off. We'd made some changes to the team, so we had to re-adjust, but we didn't adjust as well as we would have wanted to. Give credit to Leeds they are fighting hard for every point that can get in this league and they worked hard in that last 30 minutes.
Captain Lawrence Dallaglio agreed, 'Mentally, we've got to look at why we are relaxing. We played some outstanding rugby at times today, and the second try alone was worth the entrance fee. But we are relaxing a bit, casual I think is the word, and suddenly we concede some sloppy tries and put ourselves under pressure
Fraser Waters scores try v Leeds 04/01/2008
"But to look at it from the positive side, this will keep us focused in training this week for the game against Llanelli, and we have only lost one game in the last 11 -and that was to a dubious TMO decision in France. So we will go away and look at why we aren't killing sides off, but in terms of the results, one loss in 11 against quality sides is particularly pleasing."
Referee: David Rose
MOTM: Josh Lewsey