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London Wasps got their Heineken Cup campaign off to a solid start after brushing aside last season’s finalists, Perpignan 28-7.
The sides ran out to crisp clear conditions in front of a crowd of 8133. Alex King was given kicking duties and was soon racking up the points with two early penalties. Wasps came out charging and unsettled the French side with some strong tackles and powerful srummaging. It didn’t take long before the first try was scored and it came from England fullback Josh Lewsey. The move was started when Trevor Leota was nearly bundled over, but Perpignan turned over the ball and cleared their lines. Manny Edmonds cleared the ball for the visitors but the Wasps backs brought it back into play. Rob Howley was on hand to pick up, dart away and create a fantastic pass to Lewsey who was never going to be stopped from five meters out. King made certain of the conversion and Wasps lead 13-0.
Wasps continued to press on, looking for more points. However, in the initial onslaught, Lewsey was brought off needing 11 stitches in his head and Joe Worsley was replaced with a thumb injury. Early indications look like he will be out for a few weeks. Paul Volley replaced Worsley.
Approaching half-time, Wasps scored their second try, this time from another England international, Stuart Abbott. The try was once again created form Rob Howley who set up Abbott nicely for the five-pointer. All Abbott needed to do was sell the dummy, which he did, and cross the whitewash. King added the extra two points and Wasps were in full control.
King added another penalty on the stroke of half-time and Lawrence Dallaglio led his side in with a comfortable 23-0 lead.
Wasps started the second half from where they left off - scoring points. Lewsey was once again on hand to score the game’s best try. It started when Wasps secured possession from a lineout and drove towards the Perpignan line. The ball came out from the maul, which allowed Howley to feed it into the backline and allow Lewsey to score in the corner. It was a try straight from the textbook. King missed the conversion but the try would secure the win and at 28-0, the visitors were never going to come back.
Warren Gatland brought on his replacements with about 20 minutes left in the game. Ben Gotting, Martin Purdy and Peter Richards replaced Trevor Leota, Simon Shaw and Howley respectively.
Wasps knew they had to score the fourth try, which would secure the bonus point, and when hunting for it. With time running out, Wasps ran everything, which resulted in the visitors scoring their only try and first points of the game. Perpignan flyhalf, Manny Edmonds, was on hand to score with fullback, Frederic Cermeno, adding the conversion. It was a consolation try which the Wasps players protested, saying that Edmonds lost the ball while crossing over.
However, Wasps still kept going, looking to score, but to their credit, Perpignan’s defence and skills kept Wasps at bay during the second half, which allowed them to ‘win’ the second half, 7-5.
Unfortunately time ran out for Wasps and they walked away with a 28-7 win, knowing they had got their European season off to a solid start.
Howley was named Man of the Match.
Warren Gatland said, “The way we trained this week, I thought we would score 30-points. On Wednesday we were ready to play and I said to Lawrence lets pull the pin on this and do it. This week in training, the boys were on fire.
“We played well, the only frustrating thing was losing out on the bonus point. However, they are not a bad side and will be very tough to play in France. I came away with a lot more respect for them.