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The win required an incredible finale of tenacious Wasps defending back on their own try line and ended with Will Helu, who enjoyed a fine Aviva Premiership debut, running the ball out when Wasps had turned it over.
Irish made a lively start, with James O’Connor featuring in a dangerous move down the right, before play came back infield and Wasps were penalised in front of the posts. O’Connor landed a simple kick, to give the home side the lead, with just under three minutes played.
Wasps were level within four minutes, following a powerful drive from a lineout, just inside the Irish 22. Irish were penalised for bringing down the maul, and Andy Goode made no mistake with his kick.
After Wasps had worked their way into a good position just outside the Irish 22, following another catch and drive, the flyhalf attempted a 35-metre drop at goal, but got underneath it and it dropped well short. Wasps remained camped in Irish territory, and a good scrum produced a penalty, a few metres outside the Irish 22 and well in from the left touchline. Good was again on target, to make the score 6-3, after 14 minutes.
Just over a minute later, Wasps were penalised at a scrum in a similar position at their end, but O’Connor’s kick was pushed to the right of the posts.
Almost immediately, Wasps were penalised for a dangerous tackle, on their ten-metre line. This time, O’Connor made no mistake with his kick, to level the scores.
From a scrum just outside the Irish 22, James Haskell made good ground before the ball was moved out to the left, then back across field. Christian Wade was lurking out wide on the right wing, but he took his eye off the ball and knocked on.
Wasps then produced their most threatening move of the afternoon, as they created space out on the left. Joe Launchbury joined the line, and took play almost up to the Irish 22, where the defence stopped him, and he was penalised for not releasing.
Wasps came close to breaking the defence, after Will Helu did well to chase and catch a Wasps high kick. Play came back out to the right, and a long pass found Christian Wade, just outside the 22. He tried to chip over the defence, but an Irish hand connected with the ball, knocking it on.
Wasps won a penalty from the scrum, and went for the corner.
They won the lineout and drove for the line. When the ball emerged, Goode sent a chip over the defence. After it crossed the line, O’Connor knocked the ball forward, away from Elliot Daly. After some consultation, the referee showed the fullback a yellow card and awarded a penalty try.
Goode’s conversion put Wasps 13-6 ahead, five minutes before halftime.
Irish responded immediately, with a Shane Geraghty penalty from 30 metres, to make the halftime score 13-9, after 40 minutes in which Wasps had had the better of things territorially, without being able to find a way through the defence.
Wasps started the second half well, with a fine run by Elliot Daly taking play deep into the Irish 22, before the home side were penalised, in front of the posts. Goode landed a simple kick, to stretch the lead to 16-9, three minutes after the break.
With O’Connor back on the field, Irish produced their best pressure of the game, coming close out on the left, before coming back out to the right, where a poor pass failed to go to hand, and the danger ended.
The Wasps scrum was now consistently getting the better of the Irish eight, and one powerful effort yielded a penalty, on the home 10-metre line. Goode decided to go for the corner, but Wasps lost possession at the lineout, and Irish were able to clear. Another promising position was created, when Charlie Hayter powered his way into the Irish 22, following a lineout on the left, but possession was turned over.
With the game entering its final quarter, defences were still very much on top. The closest thing to a score came when Goode dropped for goal from halfway, and his kick fell just short.
With seventeen minutes later, Irish pulled back three points, through a simple penalty from O’Connor, after Wasps offended at the breakdown. A minute later, Christian Wade did well to gather a bouncing ball, but was driven back 10 metres, and penalised for not releasing. O’Connor was just off target, with a kick from wide on the left, 12 metres inside the Wasps half.
With time ticking away and tension rising, play was stuck between the 22s, until another powerful scrum won Wasps a penalty, a few metres outside the 22. Frustratingly, Goode’s long penalty failed to find touch, and Irish were soon back in Wasps territory.
With five minutes left, Wasps were dealt a bitter blow, when Christian Wade was helped off the pitch, following several minutes of treatment.
Wasps then had another kickable penalty, but again opted to kick for touch. This time, the decision paid off, as possession was won, the ball was moved infield, and Goode was in the perfect position to drop a goal, from 35 metres.
Straight from the restart, Irish won a penalty and went for the corner.Another penalty followed and a ferocious onslaught followed, with the clock at zero. Penalty after penalty followed, before Charlie Hayter was shown a yellow card. A final Irish attack ended with Will Helu gathering a wild pass to break downfield. He was forced into touch on halfway, but the whistle went and Wasps’ epic defensive effort had won the day.
The next two weekends feature the back-to-back Amlin Challenge Cup pool games against Grenoble. Wasps are in France next Saturday night, and the home match will be on Sunday, December the 15th.
Wasps team: Elliot Daly; Christian Wade, Chris Bell (capt.), Charlie Hayter, Will Helu; Andy Goode, Charlie Davies; Matt Mullan, Carlo Festuccia, Jake Cooper-Woolley, Joe Launchbury, Kearnan Myall, James Haskell, Guy Thompson, Sam Jones
Replacements: Neil Cochrane, Simon McIntyre, Taione Vea, Tom Palmer, Ed Jackson, Joe Simpson, Joe Carlisle, Ben Jacobs
Irish: 15. James O'Connor*; 14.Topsy Ojo*; 13.Fergus Mulchrone; 12. Eamonn Sheridan; 11. Alex Lewington; 10. Shane Geraghty*; 9. Tomás O'Leary*; 1. John Yapp*; 2. Jimmy Stevens; 3. Leo Halavatau; 4. George Skivington (Captain); 5. Ian Gough*; 6. Jebb Sinclair*; 7. Blair Cowan; 8. Chris Hala'ufia*
Replacements: 16. Mike Mayhew; 17 Matt Parr; 18. Jamie Hagan*; 19.Nic Rouse; 20. Ofisa Treviranus*; 21. Guy Armitage; 22. Myles Dorrian; 23. Darren Allinson