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Leicester Tigers have beaten London Wasps 37-31 in a game that was equivalent to Test match level. The Tigers outscored Wasps three tries to one, but Warren Gatland’s side fought back strongly and came close to winning the game in the dying seconds.
Tigers scored three tries within the first 19-minutes and had Wasps well and truly on the ropes. Their first try came from a Wasps lineout; the ball was stolen, sent down the backline and into the hands of Lewis Moody. The England flanker dived in to score within the first minute. Andy Goode made sure of the conversion and Tigers were on their way.
Minutes later Goode stepped up to bang over the first of his five penalties and at 10-nil ahead, Tigers pressed on with their tails up. Mark Van Gisbergen hit back with a penalty to bring some points on the board for Wasps, but within minutes, Tigers did a replica move of their first try on the other side of the field, this time scoring in the opposite corner courtesy of Ireland fullback Geordan Murphy. The conversion was missed but the damaged had already been done. Van Gisbergen was given the opportunity to slot his second penalty, which he did, but three minutes later, a cross kick from Austin Healey found the hands of Martin Corry and he went over for the visitors’ third try. The home fans were left stunned and were left in awe of the power and pace, which this Leicester side had produced within the first quarter. At 22-6 up, and well in control, Tigers pressed on, but possibly a little too much as Harry Ellis was shown a yellow card and spent ten minutes in the sin bin.
Wasps knew this was their chance and hit back with a try from Josh Lewsey. The England winger handed off Daryl Gibson on his way to scoring and with the conversion from Van Gisbergen, Wasps’ fans breathed a little sigh of relief.
At this stage of the game and another penalty from Goode, the visitors decided to give away penalties like there was no tomorrow and the Wasps fullback kindly obliged to bring Dallaglio and Co back into the game and thankfully only 25-19 down at half-time.
It was a case of the first twenty minutes belonging to Tigers and then the next to Wasps, a seesaw battle with the 10’000 crowd watching a game at Test match level.
The second half saw Wasps’ Van Gisbergen slot penalties on the 44th and 51st minutes to level the game and at 25-all, the game still had a about an half hour to go. Ben Gotting replaced Phil Greening at hooker as Greening suffered an injury to his knee.
However, just as Wasps got level, Goode punished the side with two further penalties that gave the former Heineken Cup champions the lead again. It was edge of your seat entertainment and Van Gisbergen was not to be outdone by Goode and duly responded with two of his own to once again level the scores at 31-all. Unfortunately, the Tigers’ flyhalf had the final say as he slotted his fifth penalty and a drop-goal to win the game 37-31.
In the dying moments of the game, Wasps threw everything at the Tigers tryline and were close to being awarded a penalty try, but it was not to be and Tigers walked away with the win and Wasps with a bonus point.
Gatland said: “It was a game that was Test match level. They blew us away in the first twenty minutes but we were brave and fought back. Our scrum suffered today and we will need to address it this week. I was proud at how we never gave up and almost won it in the end. Next week will be another huge battle and I can guarantee you, we will not give up our crown easily.
Con: Van Gisbergen
Pen: Van Gisbergen 8
Leicester Tigers scorers:
Tries: Moody, Murphy, Corry
Con: Goode 2
Pen: Goode 5
Man of the Match:
Nigel Williams (W)