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Match Report

10 May 2008: Wasps v Leeds Carnegie

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Match Report
Carnegie's Badge Yorkshire Carnegie 28
Wasps's Badge Wasps 45
Fixture Type: Guinness Premiership Venue: Headingley Carnegie
Match Date: Sat 10 May 2008, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Andrew Small Touch Judge: Alan Hughes
Match Official 4: Martin Fox Touch Judge: Don Helme

Wasps bag a home semi

London Wasps have done it! A six try win, allied to a 8-6 win for Gloucester have secured Wasps a home semi final at Adams Park next Sunday, kick off 2pm

Wasps supporters celebrate getting into the play offs with Mark McMillan

Wasps supporters celebrate getting into the play offs with Mark McMillan

A home semi final against Bath next week is the reward for a remarkable comeback that has seen Dallaglio and Co, languishing in 10th place before Christmas, win 11 of their last 13 games and claw their way into the plays offs with home advantage..

Wasps, who were without ten of their 34-man 1XV squad during the World Cup, won just one of their first six games, and for one day in early October found themselves at rock bottom 12th in the table.

The remarkable comeback marks a first in Premiership history - Wasps are the first club ever to reach the top four after occupying a place in the bottom half at the midway point in the season, and following yesterday's decisive win, captain Lawrence Dallaglio praised the outstanding efforts of the squad:

'We've done nothing but give this season: ten players to England, a coach to Wales and yet we've still come back to get to second in Premiership,' said Dallaglio.

'That's a great achievement and testament to everyone at the club: coaches, staff and players. We were 10th at the end of the World Cup, so I think it's monumental effort and nothing short of what we richly deserve.

'This is a team full of very exciting players, and its great that we're in the play offs with a home semi. It's a wonderful effort from everyone and I'm delighted.

'It's been a squad effort to get here, and we've had to really fight and get some important away wins, because we were on the back foot at the start of the season when we lacked experience and results went against us.

'Recently we've won the close games and I think the coaches will agree with me that the crucial period was during Six Nations, when we won three tough games without our top players.'

Fraser Waters goes over for Wasps thrid try on the stroke of half time

Fraser Waters goes over for Wasps thrid try on the stroke of half time

Even with full squad to draw on, the end of season run in wasn't much kinder to Wasps, who had to accommodate two re-arranged fixtures into a crowded end of season schedule.

And though, on the face of it, a trip to the already relegated Leeds on the final day of league action may have looked like an easy chance of five points, it was the third game in seven days for Wasps, and that was always going to be a big ask for McGeechan's men. In addition, Leeds are a proud Yorkshire team, who were determined to bid farewell to the Premiership and two of their favourite sons - captain Stuart Hooper and coach Stuart Lancaster - with a suitably impassioned performance.

However, a signifcant number of the Wasps faithful had made the trip to Leeds, and the atmpsohere in the stadium was superb - at times there was so much noise for Wasps in the stands that it could have been a home game!

But with Leeds wanting to sign off in style, it was no real surprise that, on a hot and close afternoon at Headlingley, Leeds game out firing. They made all the running in the opening quarter, and were 9-0 up before Wasps found their feet and mounted their first coherent passage of attack that allowed Tom Voyce to score on the 20 minute mark.

Leeds were not about to collapse in the face of one score however, and when five metres later Tom Biggs raced 60 metres to the line having snatched an interception, his team found themselves 16-7 ahead.

Tom Voyce trots in for his hat-trick

Tom Voyce trots in for his hat-trick

The heat was on, literally and metaphorically. But Wasps didn't panic, and when the midfield conjured a little bit of space for Voyce on the left flank, he grabbed his chance to show off some fancy footwork that left full back Leigh Hinton flat on his backside and Voyce cantering under the posts for his second of the day. The score represented Voyce's 200th point for Wasps in 102 appearances, with only Josh Lewsey of the current squad having scored more tries in black and gold.

Wasps third try came on the stroke of half time when good work by Staunton and Flutey paved the way for Fraser Waters to run a simple, but well timed switch off Flutey at pace to open up Leeds midfield and zip over the line.

23 - 16 ahead at the half way mark, Wasps had still not done enough to secure home advantage for the semi finals. Gloucester were leading Bath 8-6 at Kingsholm, but without the bonus point, Wasps were still looking at a third place finish.

With scrappy play and mistakes dominating the start of the second half, a fourth try looked by no means inevitable, but then Mark McMillan, on for Eoin Reddan at the turn around, sniped round the side of a maul and put Raphael Ibanez away for a simple but crucial score. Ibanez marked the bonus point with a trademark dive over the line and Wasps had done all they could to secure their semi final spot. Now they were reliant on Gloucester staying ahead to ensure them the home draw.

Raphael Ibanez celebrates scoring the bonus point try with a trademark dive!

Raphael Ibanez celebrates scoring the bonus point try with a trademark dive!

Leeds were not done with this game though, and a miss pass from fly half Alberto Di Bernardo created enough space for replacement Jonny Hepworth to go over in the corner for Leeds second try of the day.

Wasps then showed what they had in reserve. Seemingly able to put their foot on the gas and up the pace of the game when they needed to, a flowing move from the restart allowed Joe Ward, on for Ibanez, to pile over for Wasps fifth try in his fifth minute on the pitch.

Di Bernardo's cross kick paved the way for Hendrie Fourie to score for Leeds minutes later, and the end to end action remained fast, but also loose.

With less than ten minutes remaining, Wasps again put their foot on the accelerator and as they built up a pacy attack, a mistake in the Leeds defence allowed Tom Voyce a simple chance to clinch his hat-trick.

But was it enough? As the final whistle went at Headingley, there were still a nervy two minutes of play remaining at Kingsholm. Remarkably, there had been no score in the second half, and Gloucester were still 8-6 ahead.

It was a very different story at Welford Road where, finishing off a dramatic in a late recovery by the Tigers, Tom Varndell produced a try from nothing to score in the dying minutes to beat Harlequins. Thanks to Sale's inability to win against London Irish, the Tigers therefore crept improbably through the back door and into the top four. There they will meet Gloucester, who held on for that 8-6 win and thus ensured Wasps finished above Bath, who they will now host at Adams Park next Sunday.

Dallaglio thanks the Wasps supporters, who had turned out in force at Headingley

Dallaglio thanks the Wasps supporters, who had turned out in force at Headingley

Looking back on the game afterwards, Dallaglio said, 'Every game in Premiership is tough, especially when it's your third in seven days.

'The start wasn't in the script, I can assure you of that, and if we start like that in any of our remaining games, we won't be going off the pitch as winners.

'But I think we know that, and we showed great composure to recover which is the sign of a good side.'

Commenting on the game and the very hot conditions at Headingley, Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan said, 'To work as hard as we did for as long as we did under those conditions was actually very impressive, and I think there's a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into that performance. But as Lawrence said, that reflects what has happened since we all came back together in October, and it's been a fantastic effort by the squad ' the smallest squad in the league.'

Looking ahead to next week's home semi final against Bath, Dallaglio said, 'We've got the advantage there's no doubt about it - no-one's won an away semi final yet.'

McGeechan added, 'Things go up a level now. It's a different ball game in the play offs, and there are four very good sides competing, so we know we got to go up a level again for next Sunday's game.'

Can Wasps make it to Twickenham? Be at Adams Park next weekend to cheer on the team! Tickets for Wasps v Bath go on general sale to all supporters at 9.15am on Monday, 12th May.

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