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London Wasps started the new season disappointingly after the side lost 13-11, to local rivals Saracens, at Twickenham. Some would say that Wasps would have been hot favourites to win this game; history and statistics might tell you otherwise.
Going into the new season, the game plan was to get a good start, as traditionally Wasps are sluggish out the blocks. In fact going into this game, the side had won only one opening match of a season in the past six years &ndash coincidentally it was against Saracens in 2001. Also Saracens’ only previous competitive match at Twickenham was also against Wasps in the 1998-cup final when they carried off the silverware with a 48-18 win. To add even more statistical pressure, Wasps were bidding to be only the second reigning Champions to win their opening match of the new season in the past six years after Leicester did so at Wasps in 2000.
The first half saw Saracens totally dominate. A Kevin Yates try and a Thomas Castaignede penalty and conversion allowed the Watford-based side to secure an early lead. Their pack looked stronger and from the first scrum, Wasps were put under pressure.
A Mark Van Gisbergen penalty brought up the first points for Wasps but to be brutally honest, it’s wasn’t the same Wasps that finished so strongly last season. The England Elite Player Programme meant that Josh Lewsey and Joe Worsley were left on the bench until the second half and with an abundance of injuries, the side was depleted of the big guns.
Highlights from the first half from a Wasps perspective must be the performance of James Haskell. The young No.6 started in place of Worsley and looked solid around the rucks and mauls. Wasps’ fans can expect to see more of him this season.
Tim Payne suffered several blows to the head and left the field a little groggy under the guidance of the medical team. Early indications look like the prop will be okay. Alistair McKenzie replaced him after half an hour and Wasps went into the break 10-3 down.
The inclusion of the experienced Worsley, Lewsey and Alex King at the start of the second half gave Wasps a little more injection in going forward. In fact the combination of Ben Gotting and King set up Wasps’ only try of the match. Gotting made a wonderful break, offloaded to King who found a gap, which allowed Ayoola Erinle to run and score. Van Gisbergen missed the conversion, but Wasps were now on the front foot and looking to dominate.
Minutes later, Wasps took the lead when King was given kicking duties and he responded with a penalty. At 10-11 ahead, the side was looking to head to a narrow win but unfortunately it was not to be. King missed a penalty to possibly stretch the lead. Saracens replacement, Nicky Little, was given two penalties to retake the lead and missed his first, but slotted the second.
Wasps threw everything at Saracens to snatch a win and came agonisingly close at the death. Unfortunately, it was not to be and Wasps were left walking away with a losing bonus point.
Pen: Castaignede, Little
Pen: Van Gisbergen, King
Van Gisbergen: 0 pen, x pen, x con
King: 0 pen, x pen
Castaignede: 0 pen, x pen, 0 con
Little: x pen, 0 pen
Referee: Tony Speadbury