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Wasps missed the chance to go back into the top six of the Aviva Premiership, despite being up against 14 men for much of the second half.
After going 17-3 down inside the first quarter, Wasps rallied after the break. They seemed on course for a win, when Irish scrum-half Tomas O’Leary was shown the red card with 30 minutes to play, but they were unable to capitalise on their numerical superiority. Shane Geraghty’s snap drop goal, six minutes from time, gave the visitors a thoroughly deserved win.
After four minutes of pressure, the visitors opened the scoring through a try by Ian Humphries, after Elliot Daly’s clearance was charged down following a lineout near the Wasps line. James O’Connor added the extra points, to give his side the perfect start.
Four minutes later, Wasps were penalised as they tried to stop an Irish drive, from a lineout just inside the 22. O’Connor was again on target, to stretch the lead to 10-0.
From the first sustained period of Wasps possession, Andrea Masi sent James Short away down the left. The winger rounded his opposite number and made 15 metres, before play came back infield. Irish were penalised at the breakdown, and Joe Carlisle landed a well-struck penalty, from just short of 40 metres.
Wasps were then penalised for obstruction, following a hoisted Irish kick, just inside the home half. O’Connor struck his kick well, but it went narrowly wide.
Ian Humphries then found touch near the Wasps left corner, with a huge kick from his own 22. Wasps lost the lineout, Irish then hammered away at the line, severely stretching the defence, until they appeared to get over, but the TMO ruled that the ball had not been grounded.
From the scrum, Ofisa Treviranus broke on the blind side. He was stopped just short, but the ball was worked back infield and hooker David Paice forced his way over for their second try. O’Connor’s conversion stretched the score to 17-3, with 22 minutes gone.
From the restart, Elliot Daly gathered an Irish clearance and produced a glorious crossfield break through the middle of the Irish defence. When he was stopped just short of the 22, Wasps won quick ball, Joe Carlisle sent a kick to the corner and James Short won the race to the touchdown for his first try in Wasps colours, with the score being awarded by the TMO. Carlisle’s touchline conversion dropped just short.
The flyhalf then produced a wonderful, mazy run, to break the Irish defensive line. He found Ashley Johnson in support, but the ball squirted out of the ruck and Irish were able to gather and clear.
Inside the final five minutes of the half, Andrea Masi was on the wrong end of a heavy and illegal tackle, deep inside the Irish 22. Wasps kicked to the corner, but the long throw to the lineout was not straight. Irish were penalised at the ensuing scrum, and Wasps again went for the corner. This time, they threw to the middle of the lineout, but the Irish defence withstood the drive. The ball was moved out to the backs, but the ball was lost in contact, and the visitors were again able to clear, leaving them 17-8 ahead at the break.
By the start of the second half, the wind had eased. Wasps made one change to their lineup, with Esteban Lozada replacing Tom Palmer, who had briefly left the field in the first half, for a concussion check. The half began with another glorious run by Daly, which took play deep into the Irish 22. They kept the ball alive through several phases, before Irish were penalised out near their left wing. Wasps went for the corner, and won another penalty, in a similar position. This time, Joe Carlisle went for the posts, and a fine kick narrowed the gap to 17-11, five minutes into the half.
Three minutes later, Wasps appeared to have conceded a simple penalty, inside their 22, but the referee’s attention was drawn to a piece of foul play, in which Tomas O’Leary clearly stamped on James Haskell’s head. The referee showed him a red card, leaving the visitors to play the final 30 minutes with 14 men.
Almost immediately, Elliot Daly produced another superb piece of skill, leaping high to gather a hoisted kick, before racing through the Irish defence. The pressure produced another penalty, and Carlisle was again on target, to reduce the lead to just three points.
Despite being a man down, Irish dug in, with their scrum exerting considerable pressure on the Wasps eight. From a penalty to the corner, they put in a mighty drive which yielded another penalty, this time inside the 22. O’Connor made no mistake, and it 20-14 to the visitors, with 18 minutes to play. Carlisle pulled back three points, with a low trajectory penalty from 42 metres.
Wasps were now making full use of the bench, and Tom Lindsay’s arrival in the action, with 13 minutes left, saw him reach the milestone of 100 first team appearances. Two minutes later, Carlisle levelled things, with a sweetly-struck penalty from 38 metres.
A sustained period of pressure by the Irish forwards then set up Shane Geraghty for a close-range drop goal, to put Irish back in front, 6 minutes from time. Wasps were unable to respond, and the visitors held out for a gutsy win.
Next Saturday, Wasps are away to Bath, in the Aviva Premiership. They will be back at Adams Park on Saturday, March the 1st, when Sale Sharks are the visitors.
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