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Wasps’ first win of the new season came in fine form as Warren Gatland’s side ran out comfortable 33-10 winners over the Leeds Tykes.
The game, played in front of a crowd of over just over 5,700, took a while to get going as both sides struggled to break their opponents’ defensives lines. It took more than 18 minutes before flyhalf, Mark Van Gisbergen, had the opportunity to land his first penalty kick of the day. In fact the Kiwi made no mistake with his attempts at goal and Wasps built up a handy 9-0 lead courtesy of three penalties.
Wasps dominated the half with some powerful scrums and great breaks from the backline. Centres Mark Denney and Fraser Waters, together with wing John Rudd, punched holes in the Leeds defence but somehow failed to cross the tryline. However, as half time approached, Phil Davies’ side broke the Wasps defence, and scored the first try of the game through centre Dan Scarborough. It was Leeds’ first real attacking opportunity and came via a good break from Duncan Hodge. The flyhalf offloaded to his centre, Liam Botham, who in turn fed to Scarborough who scored under the posts. The try came against the run of play and the Yorkshire side were back in the game as half time beckoned. Hodge landed the conversion and Wasps went into the break leading 9-7.
If Wasps were going to take hold of the game they needed to score early in the second half and this they did. It came after Leeds changed direction during a backline move. Hodge fed the ball out wide only for Rob Howley to intercept and run half the length of the field and score Wasps’ first try.
Gatland said, “We were under a little bit of pressure at half time, but the pleasing thing was how we came out and scored points after the break. It was something we were really concentrating on.
Van Gisbergen landed the conversion and the lead stretched to 16-7. Minutes later Leeds were penalised for playing the ball from an offside position and Van Gisbergen once again made no mistake with his fourth penalty kick. At 19-7 ahead, Wasps looked in control and started to open up more holes in the Leeds backline. Wasps’ second try of the game came from a Waters/Van Gisbergen move. The two combined and Van Gisbergen ran in to score under the posts. He was never going to miss his own conversion and at 26-7 ahead, Leeds looked dead and buried.
However, if fans cast their memories back, last season Wasps were leading 27-6 only to throw it all away and allow Leeds to force a 27-all draw. If that was going to happen again, something special would have to happen from Davies’ side. However, this time Wasps were up to the task and could easily have scored another try when a great move between Jonny O’Connor and Shane Rosier set up Waters. Unfortunately Waters knocked on going over the try line.
Leeds brought on Tim Walsh for Hodge and he was immediately called into action as the Tykes were awarded a penalty. Walsh made no mistake but it was of little consolation as Wasps still had a healthy 26-10 lead.
After 73 minutes, Peter Richards replaced Howley and the former Bristol scrumhalf was soon on the scoresheet, scoring in the corner to close out the game. Van Gisbergen landed his third conversion and Wasps won 33-10.
The flyhalf was faultless with his kicks at goal; the only blemish being two restarts that he kicked too long but the ‘skater boy’ did enough to be named Man of the Match.
Gatland added, “Leeds threw everything at us for the first 40 minutes. It was a tough physical game but I think in the end we were a little bit stronger and had better conditioning as they just tired out