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London Wasps’ defence of the Heineken Cup suffered a serious blow after the side was beaten 35-27 by Leicester Tigers at Welford Road. It was a game that Wasps needed to win in order to stay in contention for a quarterfinal place but this loss means the team will now be relying on other results within Pool 1 to go their way.
One could be forgiven for having a case of Deja Vu as the first 20-minutes was almost as replica of the first 20 the week before in High Wycombe. Tigers raced ahead to a 19-nil lead after a great individual try from Harry Ellis and four penalties from flyhalf Andy Goode. Tigers came out firing on all cylinders and simply blitzed Wasps away. Ellis’s try came when he broke free and was left to run in from 30m out. The conversion from Andy Goode was added and the home side had Wasps on the backfoot from very early on.
After the onslaught subsided, Wasps started to secure some points with two Mark Van Gisbergen penalties. Minutes later more points came when a wayward pass from former Kiwi centre Daryl Gibson allowed Stuart Abbott to intercept and race away towards the tryline. The England international had the vision to realise he was going to be caught and offloaded to Tom Voyce who ran in under the posts. The conversion was easy for Van Gisbergen and he made it 19-13.
Unfortunately, the celebrations were short lived as Tigers hit back from a try form George Chuter. The hooker crossed in the corner and after the Television Match Official ruled it was a try, any hope the away Wasps’ fans had of a comeback were severely dashed. If that wasn’t bad enough, Leon Lloyd added the home side’s third try of the match after Wasps came close to scoring one of their own. A break from Abbott saw Wasps camped on the Tigers’ tryline, however, a lucky break from the Tigers’ backs saw them race 95m and score. The conversion of the second and third try was missed by Goode but at 29-13 down, Wasps left themselves a mountain to climb if they had any hope of winning.
The second half saw the visitors fight back and it started when Joe Worsley stretched over to score Wasps’ second try. It came from several minutes of sustained Black & Gold pressure. The conversion from Van Gisbergen was also good and the flame of hope was relit at only 29-20 down.
Penalties were something that referee Alain Rolland was not afraid to give away and Goode added his fifth from long-range effort on 57-minutes. The penalty was well struck and sailed well over from 55m out. Wasps made their first replacements just after the hour mark when Ayoola Erinle limped off with a quad strain. Rob Hoadley replaced him. Minutes later, Harvey Biljon came on for Matt Dawson while James Brooks took over from Alex King.
The replacements brought on some fresh legs and set the ball in motion for the thrilling final minutes of the game. The Biljon-Brooks combination worked well and they set up a try for Will Green. The conversion was good and now at only 35-27 down, Wasps went looking for a bonus point. Unfortunately it was not to be and Wasps went away with nothing but a 35-27 loss.
Warren Gatland said: “Tigers were too good for us as they are a quality side. Once again we gifted them too many points within the first 20 minutes and we left ourselves a mountain to climb. You can’t do that against the two-time champions.
“I was proud at how we came back at 60 minutes after their initial onslaught but the damage had already been done. I’m very disappointed at the loss as now we are relying on other results to go our way in order to qualify for the next round. All we can do it hopefully try and win in Biarritz and at home against Calvisano and fight for the Premiership again.
Leicester Tigers scorers
Tries: Ellis, Chuter, Lloyd
Pen: Goode 6
London Wasps scorers
Tries: Voyce, Worsley, Green
Con: Van Gisbergen 3
Pen: Van Gisbergen 2