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London Wasps have topped the Zurich Premiership table for the first time this season with just one round of the Zurich Premiership League remaining, after four tries and a bonus point saw them beat Worcester 32 &ndash17 at the Causeway Stadium. Wasps victory, combined with Leicester’s defeat by Saracens at Vicarage Road see a change of places at the head of the table, with Tigers sliding to second.
Wasps began today’s game against Worcester having not beaten them in the last two encounters: a pre-season friendly plus November’s giant-killing encounter at Sixways. The home side started the game knowing they had something to prove and prove it they did, coming out of the traps in similar fashion to last week’s classy display against Saracens, Josh Lewsey getting Wasps off to a flying start with a try after just two and a half minutes. Greening picked up at the back of a ruck and fed Lewsey, who powered past Worcester flat-footed close defence and into space, scorching round full back Thinus Delport to touch down from Wasps first meaningful attack, Mark Van Gisbergen slotting a straightforward conversion for 7-0.
Wasps score began a period of open and fast rugby from both sides, culminating in a disallowed try for Wasps, Voyce adjudged not to have applied sufficient downward pressure after having been driven over by the supporting forwards. Voyce received the ball at the end of an exciting passage of play, Premiership debutante Thom Evans fielding a Worcester clearance kick and running it back before quick recycled ball went to Erinle for the initial break, the Wasps centre then feeding Voyce, who stepped the midfield before being swept over the line by the supporting Wasps pack.
Wasps were unable to capitalise on the ensuing five metre scrum, a skilful tackle on the line from Worcester’s defence denying Captain Dallaglio, but Worcester did go on to concede a penalty under the pressure, Van Gisbergen doing the honours for a 10-0 lead after 13 minutes.
Wasps were again on the attack from the restart, Voyce’s sidestep once again to the fore as he made 30 metres to take Wasps back into Worcester territory. Voyce collected a clever flipped pass behind his back from Worsley and fed Thom Evans, but another heroic tackle from Worcester pushed the young winger into touch just short of the whitewash.
With 20 minutes on the clock, Worcester’s forwards were already showing signs of fatigue, but it was at this point that Wasps momentum began to stutter, Worcester dominating a series of lineouts, and muscling themselves back into the game over the next ten minutes, pushing the ball up field and winning Wasps line-outs when they did kick to touch.
However, on the half hour Wasps again had the fans on the edge of their seats. Voyce took a quick lineout to himself after Worcester had found touch just five meters short of Wasps try-line. Although he was caught in possession, Wasps recycled and good hands from Rees put Sackey into space, the winger stepping past two Worcester defenders and break up to the half way line. Quick ball went wide but more determined Worcester defence forced Wasps into touch in their opponents twenty-two.
Worcester’s determination finally paid off as the clock showed 40 minutes, when an extended period of re-set scrums meters from Wasps line culminated in a drop goal from fly half Brown to get the visitors on the score-board on the stroke of half time.
Worcester came out strongly at the start of the second half, and interception try from centre Thomas Lombard on 45 minutes, converted by Brown, bringing the Warriors level at 10 all. Minutes later Worcester were on the attack again, setting up a 3 on 1 from which a score appeared inevitable. However Rasmussen, clean through and with two to pass to, looked on in disbelief as Lombard knocked on his pass and the chance went begging.
Worcester were keen to crank up the pressure on Wasps in the next few minute - keen to deny the Zurich Champions the possession and quick ball with which Wasps had threatened to run riot in the early past of the game. However, Worcester captain Pat Sanderson found himself sent to the sin-bin after 54 minutes for persistent handling in the ruck, and the next ten minutes were to prove Worcester’s downfall. During their captain’s absence, the Warriors conceded a total of 17 points. Van Gisbergen bagged the first three, kicking the penalty that followed Sanderson’s card. Dallaglio crossed the line four minutes later, barging through Worcester fly half Brown to touch down. Van Gisbergen again added the extras, and Wasps continued to turn the screw, Worsley cantering in for Wasps third on 65 minutes after Wasps had overstretched the visitors 14 men by moving the ball wide, first one way then the other, Worsley receiving the ball with no-one between him and try line.
The departure of Josh Lewsey on the 73rd minute prompted Wasps second replacement, Leota having come on for Greening after 62. Lewsey came off as a precautionary measure with a sore calf, replacement Warren Fury coming on as scrum-half with Matt Dawson moving into the centre berth for Lewsey.
Wasps contrived to finish the game off with true style on 82 minutes with probably the best try of the game. Running out of their own twenty-two, Erinle found Van Gisbergen who put Sackey onto space. The on-form winger streaked up the sideline, brushing off the attentions of Dale Rasmussen’s covering tackle and touching down to rapturous cheers from the crowd and the dugout. Van Gisbergen missed with the conversion, and though on 83 minutes Hinshelwood scored a last consolation for Worcester, the game was well won.
Director of Rugby Warren Gatland said after the game, "I was very pleased with the way we began. We had Worcester on the ropes in the first quarter but to give them their due, they didn’t crack and came back into the game well. I’m very pleased to have secured the win."
Tries: Lewsey, Dallaglio, Worsley, Sackey
Cons: Van Gisbergen 3
Pens: Van Gisbergen 2
Tries: Lombard, Hinshelwood
Cons: Brown 2
Drop Goals: Brown 1
Man of the Match: Lawrence Dallaglio