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Match Report
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04 Jan 2009: London Wasps v Harlequins

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Match Report
London Wasps's Badge London Wasps 24
Quins's Badge Harlequins 18
Fixture Type: Guinness Premiership Venue: Adams Park
Match Date: Sun 04 Jan 2009, Kick Off: 16:00
Referee: Sean Davey Assistant Referee: Roger Baileff
TV Match Official: John Burtenshaw Assistant Referee: Bruce Robertson

Wasps take the spoils in London derby

Wasps got the New Year off to the best of starts with a morale-boosting 24-18 win against their London rivals Harlequins.

They were 21-3 up at the break, but a stirring fightback by Quins meant the game was in the balance, right up until the final play. The win was built on characteristically aggressive defence, a solid performance by the pack, and ferocious work at the breakdown, with the back row of James Haskell, Dan Leo, and man-of-the-match Serge Betsen pressuring the visitors into a series of errors and turnovers.

Wasps were forced into two changes before the kick-off, both the result of injuries suffered in the win against Saracens. Paul Sackey was replaced by Chris Bishay, because of concerns over an ankle injury. In the back row, Dan Leo came into the starting lineup, with Tom Rees being moved to the bench, as a precaution following the laceration to his nose.

Wasps went ahead in the sixth minute after Quins were penalised at a scrum near their line and Danny Cipriani made no mistake with the kick. The fly half added a second penalty, on twelve minutes, after Wasps turned over Quins possession to send a kick downfield, which saw Tom Williams bundled over the line, to force a scrum, from which Quins were penalised. Four minutes later, it was 9-0, after Quins transgressed at the breakdown and Cipriani slotted a straight kick from 40 metres.

After twenty minutes, Quins lost their England number 8 Nick Easter, who hobbled off suffering from back spasms to be replaced by Tom Guest.

The first try of the game came five minutes later, after Cipriani decided against a simple penalty choosing instead to put in a crossfield kick, which found Tom Voyce who was stopped just short of the line. Wasps recycled the ball and went close in the right hand corner. A scrum followed, and a powerful Wasps shove saw referee Shaun Davey award a penalty try, which Cipriani converted to take the score to 16-0.

A Nick Evans penalty opened Quins’ account before Wasps scored their second try after a delightful reserve pass from Cipriani sent returning Dominic Waldouck slicing through the defence on a superb angled run to be stopped just short of the line. Eoin Reddan was on hand to send Chris Bishay in at the corner. Cipriani was off target with the difficult conversion, but Wasps now led 21-3, with eleven minutes of the half left.

As the game went into injury time, Quins were reduced to fourteen men, when prop Aston Croall was sent to the sin bin and Cipriani’s long-range penalty dropped just short, before Quins’ England winger Ugo Monye was replaced by De Wet Barry, after suffering a jarred neck.

As injury time neared ten minutes Wasps came close to a third try after another counter-attack, which saw George Skivington fly hacking downfield and heading off on a long chase to the line. He was foiled by some subtle blocking from the Quins defence, which gave fullback Mike Brown the time to skilfully gather the rolling ball and kick to touch

The first half had been anything but a classic, but that will not have concerned Wasps fans, who had seen their side pressuring the visitors into a series of mistakes, while applying pressure and control, and taking their chances, with an encouraging eye for the counterattack. The scoreboard was certainly a welcome sight to the home supporters eager to see the side back to winning ways after the Boxing Day trip to Sale.

Wasps had their first scoring chance of the second half after five minutes, but Cipriani was well wide with a long-range kick from near the right touchline. Quins then mounted their best period of sustained pressure of the game after a charged down Cipriani clearance saw Mark Van Gisbergen forced to carry the ball over his own line. This time, it was Quins who put in a powerful scrummage, and referee Davey awarded the second penalty try of the game, which Evans converted to make the score 21-11.

Wasps then lost Simon Shaw to the bin and began ringing the changes with Richard Birkett and Joe Ward coming on for Leo and Rob Webber. After they survived several minutes of pressure, the defence was eventually breached, when Danny Care raced through a gap at the end of a lineout, chipped ahead and gathered his own kick to dive over near the posts. Evans missed the straightforward conversion.

Wasps then made another change, with Dave Walder coming for Cipriani, and there were further cheers when Tom Rees came on for Skivington with just under twelve minutes remaining, at the same time as Shaw returned from the sin bin. Those cheers immediately turned to groans, when Rees was helped off the field, suffering from an injury to his left leg.

With just six points between the sides the nerves were now jangling but Wasps kept their cool and a sustained passage of play, deep inside the Quins 22, ended with Walder kicking a simple penalty to give his side some breathing space with just over five minutes left.

Almost immediately, Serge Betsen went down injured and the immediate whistle sparked concerns of something serious. To the relief of the capacity crowd, the French veteran rose to his feet, after an anxious couple of minutes, and was able to play out the rest of the game - rewarded with the Man of the Match award.

Home fingernails were being chewed again when substitute Chris Malone landed a 35-metre penalty, to bring the gap back to just six points, with under two minutes left. Time was up, when Quins were awarded a penalty near their own line, leaving them with no option but to run the ball. All Wasps supporters were well aware of the fact that no game against this current Quins outfit is won until the final whistle – ask Stade, ask Leicester - but, this time, there was to be no great escape for Dean Richard’s side. Ferocious tackling kept them pinned down, inside their own 22, for over three minutes, and seemingly endless phases, before Quins resigned themselves to the inevitable, and kicked the ball to touch, ensuring that they hung on to the bonus point, rather than risk conceding another try which would have left them with nothing.

For Wasps the game marked a welcome return to winning ways and in front of a 10,000 sell out crowd.

Eyes now turn to a hard run of fixtures as the remainder of January sees an away trip to Bath next weekend and the Battle of the Capitals at Twickenham as Wasps go head to head with Leinster.