Match Date: Sat 02 Aug 2014, Kick Off:
Wasps secure final place in European Rugby Champions Cup
Stade Francais 6 – 20 London Wasps (35-50 Aggregate)
After three frustrating years away from Europe’s premier competition, Wasps earned a place in the inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup with their finest performance of the Dai Young era. Many doubted whether the one-point advantage from the first leg would be enough, but the Men in Black and Gold took an early lead which they never lost, and they ended up comfortable winners, despite having two tries ruled out by the TMO.
The game started at a frantic pace. First, Elliot Daly created space for Tom Palmer to make ground down the right, only for his pass to Will Helu to be intercepted. Stade launched a counterattack, with skipper Sergio Parisse blasting through the midfield, before possession was lost just outside the Wasps 22.
With three minutes gone, a superb flowing move ended with Andrea Masi coming close to a score in the right corner, following excellent work by skipper Chris Bell.
In the seventh minute, Wasps opened the score with a magnificent try by Tom Varndell, in the left corner. It began when Will Helu showed superb skill to gather a high kick on the Stade 22. The ball came infield, and James Haskell made ground before play was moved out to the left. Andrea Masi joined the line to send Varndell over. Andy Goode added the extra points with a fine kick from the touchline, made even harder by the blustery wind. 37-29 to Wasps on aggregate.
Six minutes later, after some more excellent play by Wasps, with James Haskell again featuring prominently against his former club, Stade were penalised at the breakdown, just outside the 22. This time, Goode sent his kick to the right of the posts, 15 metres in from the right touchline.
Within a minute, it was Wasps’ turn to be penalised, just short of their 10-metre line, in midfield. Jules Plisson made no mistake with his kick and the score was 7-3 on the day, 37-32 overall.
Both sides were intent on attacking and the game was being played at tremendous speed, with Stade looking dangerous on the counterattack and Wasps displaying excellent continuity. With 23 minutes gone, Wasps took a quick tap from a free kick, just outside their 22. They moved the ball wide, but Elliot Daly was caught in possession 35 metres out and a penalty was conceded. Plisson went for the posts, but his kick sailed just wide.
The Wasps defence was severely tested, after Parisse burst downfield deep into the 22. When the ball was recycled, Jonathan Danty chased a kick ahead, which Joe Simpson tried to touch down, but it was left to Andy Goode to win the race to the ball, to concede a five-metre scrum. Parisse broke from the scrum , but Wasps won a turnover. Stade then regained possession, only for Tom Varndell to intercept a wild pass and feed Joe Simpson, who raced away from just inside his own half to touch down between the posts.
The home crowd were incensed by what they saw as a high tackle before Wasps had broken away. Although referee Nigel Owens had earlier signalled that Guy Thompson’s tackle had been legitimate, he referred it to the TMO and the try was eventually ruled out. The officials also studied a clash between James Haskell and Alexandre Flanquart after Simpson had touched down. The replays showed that Flanquart had gone in on the scrumhalf with his knees and Haskell had retaliated. As a result, both players were sent to the bin.
Once order was restored, Plisson made no mistake with the penalty from the site of the high tackle, and the score was now 7-6 on the day, 37-35 on aggregate.
From the restart, a blindside dart by Joe Simpson gave a hint of a chance. He fed Tom Varndell, who came in from his wing, but there was a knock-on as the Wasps forwards arrived. Stade then won a penalty from the scrum and Plisson’s clearance found touch, a few metres inside the Wasps half.
The home side then made a mess of the lineout, Wasps gathered the loose ball and put in a kick downfield. It was gathered by Hugo Bonneval, close to his own line. He made a few metres, before throwing a wild pass out towards Julien Arias, which sent the ball into touch. Ashley Johnson arrived, looking for a quick throw, but Arias threw the ball away, an action which won Wasps a penalty, and Andy Goode was on target to put his 10-6 ahead on the day, 40-35 overall.
There was no further score before Haskell and Flanquart returned from the sin bin, two minutes before the break, and the half ended with Wasps on the attack but Stade clearing to touch, after Ashley Johnson sent a hopeful kick towards the right corner.
The second half started with the same attacking ambition of the first, with both sides guilty of erratic passing as possession swung to and fro. Wasps thought they were away after Elliot Dally scooped up a loose ball and made an arcing run before feeding Andrea Masi, who had oceans of space in front of him, but the pass was adjudged to have gone forwards, just inside the Stade half. The home side then won a penalty at the scrum, and Plisson’s kick towards the corner set up a threatening position, 10 metres from the Wasps line. They won the lineout, but the Wasps forwards stopped the drive and were rewarded with the put-in to a scrum.
After 51 minutes, Wasps won a scrum penalty on halfway. Andy Goode went for the posts but his kick dropped short. A minute later, the fly half was floored by a late challenge by Antoine Burban, as he tried to launch an attack down the right. The flanker was shown a yellow card.
Wasps went for touch, rather than the posts, and a sweeping move featuring one glorious offload by Matt Mullan, stretched the depleted Stade defence, only for possession to be spilt a few metres from the line. Wasps were then penalised at the scrum and Stade were able to relieve the pressure.
Plisson’s kick failed to find touch. It was gathered by Will Helu, who fed Andrea Masi. He hoisted a kick downfield which he leapt to gather, and the ball was deflected into the hands of Tom Varndell, who raced over between the posts from 35 metres. Once again, though, Wasps were denied by the TMO who ruled that Masi had knocked on as he went up for the ball.
Wasps continued to apply the pressure and forced Stade’s replacement scrum-half, Julien Dupuy, to throw a wild pass which went dead, giving them a five-metre scrum as the clock reached the hour. A series of drives for the line were repulsed, before James Haskell broke through a tackle to feed Ashley Johnson, whose offload sent Guy Thompson over near the posts. Goode landed the conversion, to stretch the lead to eleven points on the day, twelve overall.
With heavy rain now falling, Wasps withstood the next period of Stade pressure, and were eventually rewarded with a penalty, when Julien Dupuy was caught offside at a scrum and were then sent back another ten metres for dissent. A Joe Simpson kick to the corner then bounced awkwardly for Hugo Bonneval, hitting his leg and ricocheting into touch five metres short of the line.
Wasps won the lineout and a strong drive was stopped illegally, giving Andy Goode a penalty to put his side more than two scores ahead on aggregate, with just over six minutes left. Agonisingly, he sent his kick wide. A minute later, the home side were penalised on their ten-metre line, in the centre of the field. This time, Goode made no mistake and the aggregate score was now 50-35, with under five minutes left.
Wasps continued to control possession well and were able to bring on all their replacements in the closing minutes. The final whistle went, to scenes of jubilation from the players and the sizeable contingent of supporters who had made the trip to the French capital.
Roll on next season!
London Wasps team to play Stade Français
15. Andrea Masi
14. Will Helu
13. Elliot Daly
12. Chris Bell (c)
11. Tom Varndell
10. Andy Goode
9. Joe Simpson
1. Matt Mullan
2. Carlo Festuccia
3. Phil Swainston
4. Joe Launchbury
5. Tom Palmer
6. Ashley Johnson
7. James Haskell
8. Guy Thompson
16. Tom Lindsay
17. Simon McIntyre
18. Taione Vea
19. Kearnan Myall
20. Ed Jackson
21. Charlie Davies
22. Joe Carlisle
23. Charlie Hayter
Stade Francais Team
1. Van der Merwe
5. Papé (cap.)
16. Van Vuuren
19. Van Zyl