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Wasps were downed by a Leicester side that was far too strong, and ran in five tries to Wasps’ one.
Wasps deserve credit for a spirited final quarter, in which they produced their best rugby of the day. They managed a fine try by Elliot Daly, and kept the home side scoreless for the last 22 minutes.
After four minutes of sparring, in which both sides showed a willingness to move the ball, Leicester posed the first serious threat, when Anthony Allen gathered a hack ahead, 10 metres inside his half. He managed to break through some weak tackling, to emerge inside the Wasps half, before hoisting a diagonal kick towards the left corner, which Elliot Daly ran into touch.
From the lineout, the Leicester pack tried to set up a driving maul, but the Wasps defence held firm, until the ball was released to the backs, only for Toby Flood to knock on.
From the resulting scrum, Nick Robinson found a good touch near halfway, but Tigers won the lineout, and made good ground, until Wasps were penalised, in midfield, just outside their 22. It looked a simple kick for Toby Flood, despite the tricky wind, but he sent the ball wide of the right post.
Three minutes later, Wasps were penalised on almost exactly the same spot, after Billy Vunipola tried to charge away from a breakdown, but conceded a penalty for not releasing. This time, Flood made no mistake, to put the home side ahead, with 13 minutes played.
Wasps then produced their first piece of attacking threat, when they moved the ball out to the right, following a powerful charge by Vunipola. The centre passed back inside to Tom Varndell, who had come off his wing, but the pass adjudged to have gone forwards.
A typically powerful scrum won Leicester a penalty. They kicked into the Wasps 22, and took play through several phases, without threatening the line. The referee decided to take play back for a deliberate knock-on by Nick Robinson, as he attempted an interception, and Flood had a simple kick, from in front of the posts, to double the lead, after 19 minutes.
Two minutes later, with Robinson down injured, after taking a heavy knock in an attempted tackle, Leicester pressure set up the first try of the game. After a series of forwards went for the line, it was Ben Youngs who managed to dive over, near the right corner. Flood missed the conversion, but Leicester were now beginning to look ominously confident.
Within a minute of the restart, Robinson, who had needed several minutes of treatment, left the field, clearly suffering from an injury to his right arm. His place was taken by Tommy Bell.
It took just two minutes for Leicester to add a second try. It came from an attack which first went out wide to the right, and then came back across the field, where Graham Kitchener took a long pass to force his way through Christian Wade’s tackle and crash over in the corner. Flood missed the touchline conversion.
A minute later Wade left the field, to be replaced by Jack Wallace. Wallace came on as Tommy Bell lined up a long-range penalty attempt, from 45 metres, wide on the left. He produced a magnificent kick, to finally put Wasps on the scoreboard, with half an hour gone.
Leicester came straight back with another flowing move which ended with Adam Thompstone going for the left corner, only to be forced out by some desperate last-ditch cover defence.
A thrilling burst by Elliot Daly then took play well into the Leicester half. He had Tom Varndell inside him, but his pass was intercepted by Niall Morris who streaked away down the right, and seemed certain to score, before a magnificent cover tackle by James Cannon forced him into touch, a few metres from the line.
Four minutes before the break, Leicester added a third try, with an unstoppable drive from a lineout, a few metres out. Hooker Rob Hawkins was beneath the pile of bodies which powered their way over the line. Flood’s conversion attempt hit the right post.
In the final minute of the half, a second Tommy Bell penalty, from almost in front of the posts, made the halftime score 21-6.
Within a minute of the restart, Leicester turned down a simple three points, after Wasps were penalised just outside their 22. They chose to kick for the corner, to set up another driving maul. The Wasps defence kept them out, and the ball was moved out to the backs. Tommy Bell went for an interception, and was penalised for a deliberate knock on, although he appeared to gather the ball, before it went to ground. He was sent to the sin bin, Leicester opted for a scrum, and Ben Youngs darted round the blind side for his second try of the afternoon, to secure the bonus point. Flood’s conversion stretched the lead to 28-6.
Despite being a man down, Wasps came close to a try, when Tom Varndell gathered a ball which had come out of a ruck, on the Leicester 22. He broke down the blindside and fed Charlie Davies. He had Jonathan Poff inside him, but the defence forced them into touch, just short of the left corner.
Wasps were then forced into another injury replacement, as a shaky looking Tom Lindsay left the field, to be replaced by Nathan Morris.
An Elliot Daly penalty, from near halfway, narrowed the gap to 28-9. Lorenzo Romano and Simon McIntyre then replaced Will Taylor and Zak Taulafo.
It was now all Leicester and the inevitable fifth try came after 58 minutes following a steady build up, in which Thomas Waldron and Martin Castrogiovanni both punched big holes down the middle. The ball was then moved out to the left, and Adam Thompstone produced a blistering burst to take him clear of the defence, and over the line. It looked as if he might have gone over the dead ball line before touching down. The TMO was asked to adjudicate, and he ruled that the try was good. Flood’s conversion took the score to 35-9.
Wasps struck back with a fine individual try by Elliot Daly, who showed pace and footwork to race through the defence and go over wide on the right, before coming back infield to touch down under the posts. Tommy Bell converted.
Wasps then put together their best period of the game, with Ashley Johnson showing some impressive handling, but a sustained move broke down when a pass was knocked on, in midfield.
With thirteen minutes left, Wasps brought on all their remaining replacement. They had a great chance to add a second try, when they won a turnover in midfield. Quick passing set up an overlap on the left, but Charlie Hayter came back inside, and the chance was lost.
Wasps had a final chance of a consolation score, after George Ford’s clearance, from inside his 22, went dead at the other end. Play was brought back for a scrum, Vunipola broke strongly, but his pass was just out of the reach of Joe Simpson, who knocked on, deep inside the 22.
The game ended on a sour note, with the officials being called in to separate an unsightly flare-up, 8 metres inside the Wasps half. The referee consulted the TMO, who decided that Tigers’ replacement prop Fraser Balmain had been guilty of foul play. Wasps ran the penalty, but lost possession, and the final whistle blew.
Next Sunday, Wasps play their final home game of the season, when they take on Exeter Chiefs, in an Aviva Premiership game, which will be vital to both sides’ aspirations of Heineken Cup qualification.
15. Elliot Daly 14. Christian Wade 13. Chris Bell (c) 12. Charlie Hayter 11. Tom Varndell 10. Nick Robinson 9. Charlie Davies 1. Zak Taulafo 2. Tom Lindsay 3. Will Taylor 4. James Cannon 5. Tom Palmer
6. Ashley Johnson 7. Jonathan Poff 8. Billy Vunipola
Substitutes: 16. Nathan Morris 17. Simon McIntyre 18. Lorenzo Romano 19. Alex Rae 20. Matt Everard
21. Joe Simpson 22. Tommy Bell 23. Jack Wallace
15 Mathew Tait 14 Niall Morris 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi 12 Anthony Allen 11 Adam Thompstone
10 Toby Flood (c) 9 Ben Youngs 1 Logovi’i Mulipola 2 Rob Hawkins 3 Dan Cole 4 Ed Slater 5 Graham Kitchener
6 Steve Mafi 7 Julian Salvi 8 Jordan Crane
Replacements: 16 George Chuter 17 Fraser Balmain 18 Martin Castrogiovanni 19 Brett Deacon 20 Thomas Waldrom 21 Sam Harrison 22 George Ford 23 Matt Smith