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London Wasps have lost their opening 2004-05 pre-season game, 35-7, against French side Biarritz Olympique. The game, played in hot sunny conditions, was not the start to the season the champions would have liked, especially after conceding five tries in what was a very open game.
Biarritz, last season’s Heineken Cup semi-finalists, looked strong on attack from the start and quickly got the first points on the board with a try from speedster Traile in the 16th minute. Demitri Yachvili added the conversion and the home side took a 7-nil lead. Minutes later they added the second, when hooker, Augich, dotted down. With the conversion successful, the crowd of about 5’000 saw the French side stretch their lead to 14-nil.
Wasps unfortunately leaked more tries before half-time when Traile added his second five-pointer of the match and Philippe Bernat-Salles crossed for his side’s fourth with a superb solo effect. At 28-nil down at the break, it was looking rather bleak for the champions.
However, no sooner had the game restarted, that Tom Voyce rounded off a sensational break from Peter Richards to score Wasps’ only try of the game. Mark Van Gisbergen added the conversion to restore the damage to 28-7.
However, bad news followed as Martin Purdy suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder and was taken to a local hospital.
In the 52nd minute, Gatland brought out his big guns as Matt Dawson, Joe Worsley, Will Green and Trevor Leota took to the field. This marked the first time that new signing Dawson, would take the field in his new club colours.
The big-guns’ inclusion resulted in a shift around and Richards found himself on and off the field and in various positions. Gatland used the entire bench to give everyone a ‘run’ but unfortunately it was to no avail as the home side ran in their fifth and final try. The final whistle went and Wasps went down 35-7.
Credit must go to Richards, who had a good game despite the result and laid down his intentions to the coaches of whom should be wearing the No.9 jersey this season. Dawson showed his international class despite not having too much ‘game time’.
The result unfortunately was not what the team or the Wasps fans would have wanted and there is plenty to work on for Gatland and Shaun Edwards. However, looking back to the last two seasons’ pre-season games, in 2002-03, Wasps lost to Montferrand and Bedford and last season the side went down narrowly to Worcester.
But we all know what happened at the end of the season.