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Match Report
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29 Aug 2003: London Wasps v Worcester

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Match Report
London Wasps's Badge London Wasps 13
Worcester's Badge Worcester 16
Fixture Type: Friendly Venue: Away
Match Date: Fri 29 Aug 2003, Kick Off: 19:30

Wasps beaten by late penalty

Five minutes into injury time at Sixways, Worcester's fly-half Tommy Hayes - a new recruit from Glasgow - landed a penalty goal which secured a win for the Worcester Warriors over Wasps.

It was a tightly-contested encounter that was always going to be a difficult game for Wasps.

One area where both sides did well was the lineout, where honours were pretty even.

It was from a 4th minute lineout that the home side took the lead. A catch and drive, 15 metres out, came to a halt about five metres from the Wasps line. To the surprise of most people on the ground, the referee David Rose showed indecent haste in charging off to award a penalty try. There seemed no immediate danger of a try, but if the ref says penalty try, a penalty try it is. Hayes landed the conversion to make it 7-0 to Worcester.

A few minutes later, Tom Voyce did well to clear a dangerous situation near his own line, after Wasps conceded turnover ball in midfield.

Any scrum with an ex-Gloucester prop in its number deserves to be treated with respect. It was Worcester's Tony Windo who spearheaded a powerful scrummaging display. The young Wasps front row were put under constant pressure and will have learnt a great deal from the experience. Worcester's constant wheeling proved highly effective at disrupting Wasps possession. With worrying frequency they also - in the view of Mr. Rose - succeeded in turning the scrum on the Wasps put-in.

Wasps pulled three points back with a Mark Van Gisbergen penalty on 14 minutes.

The Worcester backs had clearly not encountered anything like the Wasps rush defence in National League One. They were often reduced to kicking - more than in the whole of last season, was the view of one local. For their own part, Worcester denied the Wasps’ backs time and space. They were particularly effective in defending around the fringes, where Rob Howley had no chance to show off his characteristic sniping runs.

In one Wasps attack, a Mark Denney grubber kick was hacked up to the other end, where Tom Voyce again did well to clear the danger.

Wasps wasted a golden opportunity to go ahead after 31 minutes. A poor clearance kick was picked up by Mark Van Gisbergen in midfield. He saw that there were oceans of space down the right and made good ground before passing to Fraser Waters. With a clear overlap, and a try beckoning, the centre knocked on.

Two minutes before the break, Shane Roiser looked to have been put clear down the right, but the referee correctly ruled that the pass had gone forward.

Just before the break, Fraser Waters made up for his earlier error. Worcester fumbled the ball in midfield, Waters hacked through to near their line. The defence managed to keep Wasps out, but a loose ball was then picked up by Rob Howley just outside the 22. His long pass sent John Rudd in for a 30-yard dash to the corner. Van Gisbergen's superb touchline conversion made it 10-7 at the break.

After the pressure exerted by the Worcester scrum, it was no surprise when Craig Dowd - just back from holidaying in New Zealand - was brought on for Sean Phillips early in the second half.

Wasps upped the tempo and threatened the Worcester line on a number of occasions, but couldn't force their way over.
After 49 minutes, Worcester lost a man to the sin-bin. A minute later, Mark Van Gisbergen kicked a penalty to make it 13-7 to Wasps.

On 57 minutes, the home side produced a neat scissors move to send another Gloucester old boy - centre Duncan Murray - in under the posts.

As Hayes lined up the conversion that he thought would give his side a 14-13 lead, the touch-judge drew the referee's attention to foul play earlier in the move. The result was another Worcester yellow card and a disallowed try, and 13-7 it stayed.

By now, Worcester were adjusting to the pressures of the Wasps defence, and Hayes and Murray both began to find worrying gaps. Wasps were also beginning to haemorrhage penalties.

With 12 minutes to go, it was Wasps' turn to receive a yellow card. Mark Lock, another second half substitute, being the unlucky man. The normally phlegmatic back-rower was clearly incensed by the decision. Yes, he was lying on the wrong side, but he was outside the ruck and nowhere near the ball. In addition, he was on the wrong end of some vigorous footwork from two Worcester forwards.

In Lock's absence, Hayes kicked two penalties to level the scores. A draw looked on the cards, but - crucially, Mark Van Gisbergen had to leave the field with a nasty cut to the head at the end of normal time.

This caused a backline reshuffle, with several players moving out of position. Before they could settle, Murray's good break began the buildup to the decisive penalty."

There was time for Wasps to win a lineout in the Worcester 22, but the move came to nothing and the referee blew the final whistle - to the visible delight of Worcester's players and fans.

They deserved their win, which will have given them huge confidence ahead of the new League season. They start their campaign at Otley next Saturday, but it's the following week's home game against Orrell, which could provide an early indication as to who might be joining the big boys next season.

Wasps Director of Rugby Warren Gatland was, perhaps surprisingly, happy that his side had lost - but his reasoning was sound: "If we'd won or drawn this game, our guys would have said to themselves ‘We’ve got out of it, and we're capable of doing it again.' As it is, they all need to take a long hard look at themselves and put in a lot of serious work before we kick off against Quins in two weeks time."

Gatland wasn't, however, happy with the refereeing of the scrums and breakdown. He felt that allowing Worcester to continually wheel the scrums made "a farce of the game". He also felt that a lot of slowing down of the ball went unpunished. But he wasn't making excuses: "We made far too many unforced errors, and if you do that you don't deserve to win".

He also praised Worcester's performance:"Their set-pieces went well, they defended well. They did nothing flashy, but they did a lot of good things".

Before anyone gets too depressed about losing a friendly, remember that we took a couple of pastings in last year's pre-season games - and look what happened. As it is, Warren Gatland prefers having things to work on in the next two weeks.

Roll on September the 13th!