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Mark van Gisbergen's fifth penalty levelled the scores in the final minutes
An intriguing match, played in front of a record attendance for the London Double Header, ended all square, as Mark Van Gisbergen’s fifth penalty five minutes from time earned his side a share of the spoils. Wasps recovered from an early Quins score to lead at the interval, but Quins had the better of the second half and must have thought they’d sealed victory, with Mike Brown’s try, deep into the final quarter.
Quins went ahead within 90 seconds when Nick Evans’s sidestep created a gap in the Wasps defence. He fed Nick Easter who galloped over unopposed between the posts. Evans converted, to make it 7-0.
After some good attacking thrusts down the left, Wasps were awarded a penalty, and Mark Van Gisbergen landed a fine kick from near the touchline, to narrow the gap. This was followed by a promising period of pressure, following a penalty kick to the corner. The forwards combined well through several phases, but possession was turned over, and Quins counterattacked well, through skipper Chris Robshaw, before Evans found touch in the Wasps 22.
Wasps then put together their most fluid backs move, started when Richard Haughton fielded a long kick. Riki Flutey showed his running skills, and combined well with Dom Waldouck, but the pass was ruled forward..
Andy Powell celebrates with Tom Varndell after scoring on his debut for Wasps
With fourteen minutes gone, Wasps were penalised for not rolling away, a few metres outside their 22, and Evans made no mistake with his kick, to put his side 10-3 in front.
From the restart, Quins were penalised for obstruction, but Van Gisbergen’s kick was short of the target, from 40 metres. A minute later, George Lowe was caught offside, giving the Wasps fullback a slightly easier kick, from 35 metres out, and almost in front of the posts. This time, he sent the ball between the posts, to make it 10-6. But Rob Webber was penalised for obstruction from the restart, and Evans had a simple kick to restore the seven-point lead, as the game entered the second quarter.
Wasps responded immediately with a fine try. Van Gisbergen launched a counterattack from near his 22. Flutey and Tom Varndell combined well, before Ben Jacobs cut inside and fed Dom Waldouck, 20 metres out. He was stopped by a last-ditch tackle, but the ball was recycled quickly, Tom Rees made a charge for the line. The ball was dislodged in the tackle, and popped up into the grateful hands of Andy Powell, who went over from close range to score a debut try. Van Gisbergen’s kick levelled the score, with 16 minutes of the half to play.
Wasps had half a chance to go ahead, when an Ugo Monye pass went astray, and Haughton almost got his boot to the bouncing ball, with no Quins defenders back, but Wasps were penalised, and Quins were able to clear the danger.
Ten minutes before halftime, Wasps took the lead for the first time after a strong tackle in midfield forced a handling error. Flutey pounced on the loose ball, and raced clear. He was stopped a few metres out, but managed to offload to Tom Varnell, who strolled over by the posts. Van Gisbergen landed the simple conversion, to make the score 20-13. The gap was immediately cut to four points, and Wasps reduced to 14 men, when Joe Worsley was shown the yellow card, for an offence at the breakdown, and Evans landed his third penalty of the afternoon, with six minutes left before the break.
Tom Varndell beats the tackle of Harlequins' Mike Brown
Wasps almost went further ahead, after another Van Gisbergen-launched counterattack. Jacobs again found a gap in the defence, but his inside pass was just out of the reach of Waldouck, who agonisingly knocked on, with the line just a few metres away.
In the final minute of the half, Quins were penalised at a lineout, on their 10-metre line. Van Gisbergen’s kick hit the left post, before bouncing into the arms of the chasing Varndell, who was stopped just short. Quins were penalised for not rolling away, and Van Gisbergen had a simple kick, to give his side a deserved 23-16 halftime lead.
Wasps made two changes at the start of the second half, with Dan Ward-Smith and Serge Betsen coming on for Richard Birkett and Powell.
Quins started strongly and set up two tryscoring opportunities in the first two minutes of the half. First, a Flutey kick was charged down, and Varndell did well to get back to touch down. Then Chris Brooker juggled the ball and raced through a gap to cross the line, but was miraculously held up by the Wasps defence.
Quins kept up the pressure, and were rewarded with a penalty, when Rob Webber transgressed on the floor. Evans had another simple kick, to make the score 23-19, in the 47th minute. Three minutes later, Quins were penalised, and Wasps came close to scoring, as Tom Rees launched another powerful charge, with the referee playing advantage. The ball was lost, so Van Gisbergen had the chance to go for the posts, and he landed another sweetly-struck kick, to restore the seven-point advantage.
Wasps captain Tom Rees bursts through a gap in midfield
Four minutes later, the deficit was back to four points, as Waldouck was caught offside, a few metres out from the line, and Evans landed another easy kick, to make the score 26-22.
Tension rose, as the game entered the final quarter, and Wasps missed an excellent opportunity to set up a good position, when Flutey overhit his penalty into touch in goal. Wasps brought on Zak Taulafo for Tim Payne, and Walder came on in place of Richard Haughton, with Ben Jacobs moving out to the wing.
With thirteen minutes left, and Quins applying all the pressure, they regained the lead, when Mike Brown went over, following a patient buildup, before the ball was moved out to the left, and the fullback was on the end of an overlap.
Brown thought he was in for his second try, when he raced through a gap, with ten minutes left, but the ball had gone forward. Further Wasps changes brought Tom Lindsay and Ben Broster on for Rob Webber and Phil Vickery.
With time running out, Wasps finally began to create some incisive rugby, and they forced the Quins defence into conceding a penalty in front of the posts. Van Gisbergen levelled the score, with under five minutes to go.
Quins threw everything at Wasps, and set up the chance for Evans to land a winning drop goal, but his kick was well off target. Wasps mounted a final attack, with Zak Taulafo showing his power, but the final whistle came with the score level at 29-29.
Wasps visit Newcastle Falcons next Friday night, before taking on arch-rivals and Premiership champions Leicester Tigers at Adams Park on Saturday 18th September, KO 3.05pm.