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They’d secured the bonus point well before half time and led 33-13 at the break after scoring five tries. They went slightly off the boil in the second half, before adding three late tries, against a Roma side which was much more competitive than it had been on home territory back in October.
The result puts them ten points clear of Racing-Metro, who visit Bayonne this weekend, before taking on Wasps next Thursday night. They need a bonus point win in the Basque Country, to have any hope of progressing. If they manage that, they’d need another bonus point victory over Wasps. Even then, a losing bonus point would take Wasps through.
Wasps made one late change to their squad. On the bench, Rob Webber was replaced by Tom Lindsay.
Despite the extreme weather conditions which had hit the Wycombe area, the pitch looked in superb condition, thanks to the magnificent efforts of the Adams Park ground staff. The only concern, as kick-off approached, was the thickening mist. Mercifully, it lifted well before kick-off and visibility was excellent as the game began.
Wasps had a glorious chance to go ahead, after just two minutes, when a jinking counterattacking run by Mark Van Gisbergen found space down the right. Lachlan Mitchell made his way into the 22, with support on either side. He chose to pass inside, to Steve Kefu, but the centre knocked on, with the line at his mercy.
The full back soon produced another scything run, to set up a good position, but the opportunity was lost when skipper Serge Betsen was unable to hold a pass on the Roma 22. It was no surprise when the Roma line was finally crossed in the 8th minute. After a penalty kick to the corner, patient play by the forwards set up a great position for the backs and Tom Varndell came into the line. He spun out of a series of tackles, and was then helped over the line to score his tenth try of the season between the posts. Danny Cipriani added the extra points.
Within two minutes, the visitors drew level, after scrumhalf Giulio Toniolatti took a quick tap near the line to catch the defence napping, and centre Juan Gauthier crossed for an opportunist try, which was converted by Maximiliano Freschi.
It took just three minutes for Wasps to regain the lead. Following a lineout near the corner, Mitchell’s fine run was stopped just short of the line, the ball was recycled quickly and Bob Baker crashed over for his first senior try, which Cipriani was unable to convert.
Freschi narrowed the gap to 12-10, with a penalty, after 18 minutes. Wasps came straight back and could have scored their third try, after a powerful run by Hugo Ellis. They created an overlap on the left, but fullback Paulo Buso deliberately knocked on, to cut off the scoring pass. The referee played advantage, and Cipriani hoisted a kick towards Paul Sackey’s wing, but the ball bounced over his head and into touch. The referee then sent Buso to the sin bin.
Varndell came close to his second try, in the left corner, being stopped on the line. He couldn’t find Mitchell with his inside pass and the ball was touched down by the defence. Wasps’ third try came on 23 minutes, following excellent work by James Honeyben. He spoiled Roma ball from a scrum near their line and fed Dan Leo, who forced his way over. Cipriani’s kick made it 19-10.
The bonus point try came on 28 minutes, after another dazzling run by Van Gisbergen. The ball was spun out along the backs, Dan Leo joined the move and passed to Sackey who was at top speed when he received the ball, and he raced over for a superb score near the corner, which Cipriani converted with an excellent kick.
With seven minutes of normal time left, Freschi, who had just attempted an ambitious drop goal from inside his own half, reduced the deficit with a long-range penalty. Wasps wasted no time in responding, after Kefu split the defence to send George Skivington crashing over near the posts.Cipriani was again on target to add the extra points and make it 33-13.
Although the chilly conditions had produced a series of handling errors, this had been an enterprising half, with Wasps showing plenty of attacking intent and producing some flowing rugby.
Freschi landed the first points of the second half, with another penalty, after 43 minutes. A blistering run by Honeyben took play deep into Roma territory but there was nobody in support.
Eight minutes after the break, Wasps were forced into a substitution, when Paul Sackey, who’d gone down in a crunching collision, a few minutes earlier, left the field, to be replaced by Ben Jacobs. Several minutes of sterile rugby followed, before Steve Kefu burst out of the Wasps 22. He had Tom Varndell outside him, but play was called back, as the referee had spotted a forward pass.
George Skivington and Hugo Ellis made way for John Hart and Will Matthews and Wasps immediately tried to attack from near their own line, but Ben Jacobs couldn’t hold an awkward pass. Wasps finally found their way out their 22, when the visitors were penalised, and Cipriani found touch on the ten metre line.
The next Wasps substitutions brought Dom Waldouck into the action, in place of Steve Kefu, and Gabriel Bocca replaced Martin Rice. The home side finally found their way into the Roma 22, and a long pass from Cipriani was gathered by Van Gisbergen, who sent Varndell in at the corner, for his second try of the night. Cipriani missed the difficult conversion.
Waldouck then produced a brilliant piece of play, to come inside and send a kick downfield. He won the race to the ball, but, couldn’t quite ground it, just before it went dead, and he was denied an outstanding solo try. Will Matthews then burst out of a maul and kicked downfield. Varndell did well to gather the ball, near the Roma 22, but the defence was back in numbers, and he was unable to complete his hat-trick.
James Honeyben, who’d had an excellent game, and was deservedly named Man of the Match, was replaced by Mark Robinson with eight minutes left. Dan Leo scored his second try, when the ball squirted out of the Roma scrum, and he was on hand to dive over. Cipriani’s conversion made the score 45-16. There was still time for Dom Waldouck to bring up the half-century, when he stooped to gather ball from his toes, before racing through for the eighth try of the night.
Wasps’ next home game will be on Saturday 30th January when they take on Llanelli Scarlets, in the LV=Cup. The match kicks off at 5.45 pm - book tickets now on 08452252990.