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Wasps produced a performance of great spirit and determination, to finally end their long losing streak, with a deserved win against a London Irish, which had threatened to steal the points through Sailosi Tagicakibau’s second-half try. But the Men in Black and Gold dug deep, and two late penalties by Nick Robinson secured a precious victory.
Sadly, victory came at a cost, as the appalling run of injuries continued, with Joe Simpson suffering what looked like a serious shoulder injury.
Irish threatened from the start. With just two minutes gone, they moved the ball out wide to the right, and Topsy Ojo managed to round jack Wallace, but the defence got across to force him into touch.
It was then Wasps’ turn to attack, after an excellent chase caught Delon Armitage in possession, after he’d fielded a high kick. The ball squirted out of the ruck, and Dom Waldouck gathered, before chipping down the touchline, but he was forced out, ten metres short of the line. Wasps stayed in the 22, and stretched the defence on both sides of the field, with a sustained attack, which ended with Tom Prydie being tackled into touch. Several minutes of pressure followed, with Hugo Southwell, Joe Simpson, Jonathan Poff and Joe Launchbury all going close, before Irish were penalised, near the line. From 15 metres in from the left touchline, Nick Robinson sent his kick just wide of the posts.
A minute later, Irish failed to deal with another hoisted kick from Robinson. They played the ball in an offside position, just outside the 22. This time, the flyhalf’s kick was on target, to give Wasps a deserved lead, after 13 minutes of enterprising play.
Three minutes later, a powerful Irish scrummage produced a penalty, 12 metres inside the Wasps half. After the ball fell off the tee, Steven Shingler kept his nerve to land the kick which levelled the scores.
Almost immediately, Robinson restored the lead with a penalty from just inside the Irish half, to make it 6-3, after 21 minutes.
Two minutes later, the rain which had been threatening, ever since the kickoff, began to come down, and the wind strengthened. Wasps then had a double piece of bad luck. First, they charged down a clearance kick, a few metres from the Irish line. Agonisingly, the ball bounced into the arms of Jonathan Joseph, who had acres of space in front of him. He made 30 metres, before kicking downfield, and Joe Simpson did well to get back and gather the bouncing ball. Tragically, it was to be his last contribution to the action, as he went down injured, and left the field, in obvious pain, clutching his shoulder. Nic Berry came on in his place, and Wasps were immediately on the attack, when Delon Armitage fumbled a towering up-and-under from Robinson, a few metres from the line. He was immediately enveloped by chasers, but Wasps were penalised, and Irish were able to clear the pressure.
With under two minutes left, Shingler had a great chance to put Irish ahead, but he missed a simple kick, from just to the left of the posts, after Wasps had been penalised, inside their 22. Halftime came with the scores tied at 6-6. Ominously for Wasps, the half ended with Dom Waldouck requiring treatment, before hobbling from the field.
During the interval, the rain stopped, and bright sunshine returned.
To the relief of the home crowd, Waldouck took the field with the rest of the team, and the one Wasps replacement saw Ben Broster coming on for Simon McIntyre.
Wasps began the second half with the same enterprising approach they’d shown at the start of the first half, and a long run by Waldouck took play deep into the Irish 22, before the referee took play back for a penalty, on the 10-metres line. Robinson landed a fine kick, to put Wasps back in front.
With the game now so finely the , play became less adventurous, until a scrum, a few metres inside the Irish half, saw the visitors penalised for wheeling. Nick Robinson was again on target, to give Wasps a 12-6 lead, as the game entered the final quarter. Joe Launchbury then went off with a blood injury, to be replaced by Thinus du Plessis.
From a breakdown in midfield, Nick Robinson spotted some space out on the left, and made 20 metres. Wasps recycled quickly, but were penalised for crossing. It proved to be a costly offence, as Irish found touch with a long penalty. From the lineout, they took the ball through several phases, before Sailosi Tagickibau powered his way through some weak tackling, to go over near the corner. Shingler’s fine conversion put the visitors 13-12 in front, with under a quarter of an hour to go.
Wasps refused to lie down, and an excellent breakaway led to Robinson kicking ahead, and the chase forced a scrum near the line. Irish were penalised, and the flyhalf landed a fine pressure kick, to put his side back in front, with just eight minutes left.
Tigerish Wasps tackling then pressured Irish into a handling error in midfield. At the scrum, 30 metres out, Irish were penalised, and Robinson’s sixth penalty stretched the lead to 18-13.
There was then a moment of panic, when the restart came out of the sun, and Wasps allowed it to bounce into Irish hands, but a knockon ended the threat. A series of reset scrums in midfield then allowed Wasps to run the clock down, and it was appropriate that Robinson’s boot should deliver the final act of the game, when he thumped the ball joyfully into touch for a win which was rapturously acclaimed by the loyal home support. Sam Jones, who’d worked tirelessly all afternoon, was named Man of the Match, and the sun shone down on a happy Adams Park.
Wasps return to Adams Park on Sunday, April the 1st, when they take on Gloucester, in the Aviva Premiership.
15 Hugo Southwell (capt) 14 Tom Prydie 13 Elliot Daly 12 Dom Waldouck 11 Jack Wallace 10 Nick Robinson 9 Joe Simpson 1 Tim Payne 2 Rob Webber 3 Simon McIntyre 4 James Cannon 5 Richard Birkett 6 Joe Launchbury 7 Jonathan Poff 8 Sam Jones
16 Tom Lindsay 17 Zak Taulafo 18 Ben Broster 19 Ed O'Donoghue 20 Tinus Du Plessis 21 Nic Berry 22 Ryan Davis 23 Paul Emerick
15. Delon Armitage; 14. Topsy Ojo; 13. Jonathan Joseph 12. Daniel Bowden; 11. Sailosi Tagicakibau; 10. Steven Shingler; 9. Ross Samson; 1.Max Lahiff; 2. James Buckland; 3. Faan Rautenbach; 4. Nick Kennedy (Captain); 5. Matt Garvey; 6. Declan Danaher; 7. Richard Thorpe; 8. Jebb Sinclair
16. Brian Blaney; 17. Clarke Dermody; 18. Paulica Ion; 19. Kieran Roche; 20. David Sisi; 21. Tom Homer; 22. Jonathan Spratt; 23. Darren Allinson