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Richard Haughton scored a try in the 80th minute
The Wasps scrum dominated throughout the game
London Wasps gave themselves the best possible chance of an Amlin Challenge Cup quarterfinal place, with a bonus point 11-32 win against a dogged Rovigo side.
With only ten minutes left, the result was still in doubt, and a bonus point had seemed unlikely – but two tries, the second coming in the final play of the game, made the final score 11-32 leaving Wasps two points clear of Bayonne, and knowing that a win against Bordeaux next week will see them through to the last eight.
The first threatening attack came in the fourth minute, when Wasps fielded a long clearance, around their ten-metre line. The ball was fed infield to Richard Haughton, who embarked on a long arcing run, deep into the Rovigo half. He linked with Riki Flutey, who fed James Harris, just inside the 22. The ball was recycled quickly, and Hugo Southwell sent a kick towards the corner, but it went into touch in goal.
A fine run by Ryan Davis then set up another good position. After the ball was recycled, he chipped towards the left corner, and the bounce just beat Jack Wallace. Jonathan Poff was the next to threaten, with a barnstorming 30-metre run down the centre of the field. Wasps again won quick ball, and attacked on the right, but Rovigo were penalised, just short of their line. Wasps went for the lineout, which they won, but good defensive pressure forced Nic Berry back towards the 22, and possession was lost.
After 12 minutes, completely against the run of play, the home side went ahead through a simple penalty from flyhalf Davide Duca.
Wasps responded superbly, with a try within two minutes. Sam Jones leapt high to win a lineout, inside the 22. Nic Berry darted through a gap in the home defence, and Jones was in support, to crash over for a well-worked score. Ryan Davis’ conversion attempt drifted to the left of the posts.
The Wasps pack was beginning to exert the pressure, and an explosive scrum sent the Rovigo front row skywards, a few metres inside their half. Elliot Daly stepped up to go for the posts. His long-range effort had the distance, but went just to the left of the posts.
Rovigo came close to scoring, with a powerful drive, from a lineout on the Wasps 22. They were stopped just short. From the resultant scrum, solid defence forced a penalty at the breakdown, and Wasps cleared to near their 10-metre line. They won the lineout, but immediately conceded a turnover in midfield. Duca sent a long kick to the corner, which bounced awkwardly for Jack Wallace. He lost his footing, as he tried to evade the chasers, and was caught in possession, a few metres from his line.
Rovigo continued to apply the pressure, and eventually won a penalty inside the Wasps 22. Duca made no mistake, with a simple kick, to restore the lead, eight minutes before the break. Wasps could feel rather aggrieved as the front row was continually forcing their opposite numbers into the air, without winning penalties.
Wasps were back in front within two minutes, after some wayward passing just inside the home half. The Wasps backs applied the pressure, and Elliot Daly reached out to knock the ball upwards. He then managed to gather it before it hit the ground, and accelerated away from the defence, to run in for a try from 40 metres, touching down between the posts. Davis converted, to make the score 12-6.
A good move down the left almost brought another try, when Hugo Southwell sent another kick towards the left corner, but it went just beyond the reach of Jack Wallace.
Half-time came with Wasps looking strong. Their pack was giving the home eight a torrid time at the scrums, and a six-point lead did not reflect the way the first half had gone. They had looked the more threatening side with ball in hand, and the defence had comfortably dealt with the rare moments of Rovigo pressure.
After forty minutes played in glorious sunshine, the first signs of mist began to come in during the interval. Wasps began the second half with another strong scrum, a few metres inside their half. Nic Berry broke down the blind side, and made 30 metres before being stopped. Rovigo were penalised, but the referee played advantage, and Ryan Davis kicked towards the left corner, but no advantage accrued. Further good pressure almost created a try, as James Harris made a powerful drive for the line, but was penalised for not releasing, a couple of metres short.
Rovigo came back with an opportunist breakaway try, following a strong run by Joe Van Niekerk, who burst through a weak tackle in midfield. He kicked ahead, forcing Richard Haughton to turn. The winger lost his footing, as he went to gather the awkwardly bouncing ball, and it fell perfectly for Samuele Pace, who crashed over near the left corner. Duca was unable to convert, leaving the score at 12-11 to Wasps, nine minutes into the second half.
A mazy run by Richard Haughton put the home defence under pressure, and led to a penalty, inside the 22. Ryan Davis landed the kick, to make the score 15-11.
With nearly an hour on the clock, Duca missed a long-range penalty, as Rovigo began to find some momentum, with some strong running from their forwards setting up a series of promising attacking positions.
Matt Everard was now on, in place of James Harris, and he featured prominently in one sustained passage of play, as Wasps tried desperately to breach the home defence, and give themselves a cushion.
With thirteen minutes left, Duca had another long-range penalty attempt, from just inside the Wasps half, but his kick was short and wide. Joe Simpson then took the place of Nic Berry.
Three minutes later, Wasps finally put together a threatening attack, when the ball was moved out wide to the left, where Hugo Southwell joined the line. He beat one defender, and made his way into the 22. He had players in support, but lost his footing at a crucial moment. Wasps were immediately awarded a penalty. Ryan Davis went for the posts, but sent his kick wide.
Wasps came close when they moved the ball wide to the right, following a patient buildup, following a superb break by Ryan Davis. Elliot Daly seemed certain to score, but a last-ditch tackle sent him into touch at the corner. Play was called back, for an offence in midfield, and Davis again went for the posts. This time, he was on target, to make it 18-11, with just over five minutes left.
Two minutes later, Davis produced another magnificent 40-metre break, to go over for a superb solo try under the posts , which Joe Simpson converted, with a quick drop kick. With precious little time left to claim the bonus point, Wasps threw caution to the wind. A glorious Simpson break seemed to have created a chance. Sam Jones arrived at pace, but could not get clear.
With the clock at zero, and dense mist descending, Wasps produced one final effort, and Richard Haughton forced his way over, to finish a move which had begun deep inside the Wasps half. Davis landed the conversion, to make the final score 32-11, leaving them in pole position in the pool.
Wasps complete their Amlin Challenge Cup programme next Sunday, when they face Bordeaux-Begles at Adams Park.
Wasps team: 15 Hugo Southwell 14 Richard Haughton 13 Elliot Daly 12 Riki Flutey 11 Jack Wallace 10 Ryan Davis 9 Nic Berry 1 Tim Payne 2 Rob Webber 3 Ben Broster 4 Joe Burton 5 Marco Wentzel (capt.) 6 James Harris 7 Jonathan Poff 8 Sam Jones
Replacements: 16 Nathan Morris 17 Bob Baker 18 Jeremy Castex 19 Simon McIntyre 20 Matt Everard 21 Joe Simpson 22 Charlie Davies 23 Chris Mayor
Rovigo: Stefan Basson; Samuele Pace, Joe Van Niekerk, Roberto Pedrazzi, Riccardo Pavan; Davide Duca, Mattia Merlo; Alessio Ceglie, Luke Mahoney [capt], Otis Lombardi, Daniele Tumiati, Jean Francois Montauriol, Aaron Persico, Edoardo Lubian, Matteo Ferro
Replacements: Davide Giazzon, Giuseppe Datola, Massimiliano Ravalle, Andrea De Marchi, Michael Wilson, German Bustos, Lorenzo Lubian, Tommaso Reato