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Irish were good value for their win, with their powerful pack setting the platform and their back row winning some crucial turnovers. Wasps’ hopes were raised, when they came back to 17-16 down, but the home side pulled clear in the last quarter and Wasps were left chasing a bonus point which was just out reach.
The visitors conceded an early try, after an opening passage of play which lasted nearly two minutes. Lachlan Mitchell was forced to carry the ball over his own line, after a dangerous kick through, and Irish had an attacking scrum. A loop move in midfield created an overlap on the left, and Sailosi Tagicakibau had a clear run in to the corner. Ryan Lamb’s conversion attempt went wide.
Within a minute of the restart, Irish were penalised just inside their own half and Danny Cipriani sent a kick straight through the middle of the posts to make the score 5-3.
After 11 minutes another penalty, this time just inside the Wasps half, gave Cipriani the chance to put his side ahead, but his long-range effort went just to the right of the posts. From a scrum near touch, Varndell came in to the line and sent Dom Waldouck through a gap, before Irish conceded another penalty just inside their half. This time Cipriani mis-hit his kick which landed short before bouncing up and hitting the bar. A minute later, he had a much simpler kick at goal, when Irish were caught offside in midfield. From just over 30 metres he made no mistake to put his side in front with 17 minutes gone.
A minute later, Irish were back in front when Ryan Lamb dropped a simple goal from in front of the Wasps posts - following an Irish counterattack from their own 22.
8-6 soon became 11-6, when Wasps were penalised at the breakdown 30 metres out and Lamb was on target with a straightforward penalty.
The Irish pack were beginning to get the better of things, stealing Wasps lineout ball and taking a scrum against the head, thanks to powerful shove. That led to another penalty against Wasps, near their 10 metre line, and Lamb stretched the lead to 14-6, with another well-struck penalty.
Wasps finally began to steady their lineout and another good run by Waldouck set up a promising position, but possession was lost and another counterattack put the Wasps defence under pressure. They managed to clear their lines, but immediately lost Richard Birkett to the bin, following another offence at the breakdown. Lamb missed his most difficult kick of the day, from near the left touchline.
Wasps then came close to a try, when the backs created space for Tom Varndell but he was stopped by the defence, ten metres short of the line. From the lineout an Irish knock-on set up an attacking scrum for Wasps, but, after several resets they were penalised, and Irish were able to clear towards halfway. There was further frustration for Wasps when they appeared to be building a series of phases, but were again penalised, near halfway. Irish chose to kick for position, rather than go for the posts, but Wasps managed to turn possession over and Simpson broke clear down the right, before being pushed into touch on his ten metre line.
The scrumhalf featured in the final play of the half, when a dangerous Irish attack broke down just inside the 22. He snatched the ball and broke away down the left, but was forced to kick ahead and the defence was able to gather and clear to touch.
The first half had been competitive but far from fluent, with the two sides cancelling each other out, and neither being able to put any sustained play together. Irish deserved their lead but Wasps were still very much in the game at 14-6.
Birkett’s return from the bin brought Wasps back to full strength for the start of the second half. Within a minute of the restart, Irish were caught offside and Cipriani’s third penalty, from just over 40 metres, narrowed the gap to five points.
Irish responded immediately, when Waldouck was adjudged to have made a late tackle on full back Peter Hewat, as he cleared from just outside his own 22. The penalty was taken from where his kick had landed, just outside the Wasps 22 and Lamb’s successful kick restored their eight point advantage.
Waldouck then seemed certain to score in the corner, as he chased a bouncing ball towards the line but an illegal challenge by Irish winger Adam Thompstone, which resulted in him being sent to the sin bin, saw a penalty try awarded by referee Dave Pearson. Cipriani converted, to make the score 17-16, with seven minutes of the half gone.
Wasps were boosted by this and lifted the pace of their game, but Irish stole another lineout near halfway, before winning a turnover to send a kick down to the corner, where Paul Sackey was forced into touch. Wasps counterattacked briefly before Paul Hodgson sent Steffon Armitage away down the left and Simpson got back to force the powerful flanker into touch, a few metres short of the line.
Irish extended their lead, with fifteen minutes of the half gone, when Hewat sent a drop kick sailing between the posts from just inside the Wasps half. Irish went further ahead three minutes later, when Wasps tried to run the ball from inside their own 22, but conceded a penalty, which Lamb had no difficulty in landing, to make the score 23-16.
Wasps then made two substitutions with Dave Walder and Dan Ward-Smith coming on for Mitchell and Betsen, who had undergone lengthy treatment for an injury a few minutes earlier. They immediately suffered a crushing blow, from a promising position on the right. An overlap seemed to be there, but Tagicakibau made a crucial interception, to run in from near halfway. Hewatt took the conversion attempt, but sent his kick wide.
Wasps came close to a second try, after another fine run from Waldouck took him deep into the 22, but his long pass out towards Varndell was just knocked back by the stretching fingertips of Seilala Mapusua ten metres out. A further substitution saw Charlie Beech come on for Tim Payne, but Irish immediately made a mess of a Wasps scrum and Hodgson’s kick took play deep into the Wasps 22.
With time running out, Wasps attacked from everywhere in an attempt to secure a bonus point and one thrilling raid down the left took play nearly the length of the field, before a frustrating knock on with the line in sight.
Tom Lindsay, Dan Leo and Bob Baker replaced Joe Worsley, Richard Birkett and Phil Vickery as the game entered its final few minutes, but they were unable to affect the result.
Next week, Wasps return to Adams Park, to face another of the early highfliers - Northampton Saints. Then Premiership then takes a back seat for two weeks, as European rugby takes centre stage, and Wasps begin their Amlin Challenge Cup campaign with a home game against Racing-Metro, from Paris.
Tickets for both these games are on sale now call 0844225 2990 or go online here.