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Sackey returns with spirited performance for Wasps
The twenty point winning margin was not a true reflection of a highly competitive game with Worcester pressing hard for a bonus point before an interception by MOTM Dominic Waldouck, in his first appearance of the season set up Tom Varndell’s fifth try in three matches to seal the win.
Wasps had made one late change to their starting line up with Steve Kefu was ruled out with a groin strain making way for Waldouck and Mark Odejobi took the centres place on the bench ahead of the first home run out of the season. The match marked another milestone for Wasps’ long-serving lock Richard Birkett. Last season, he chalked up his 200th appearance for the Club and today was his 150th Premiership game. Adding to the list of achievements Danny Cipriani made his 50th Premiership appearance and Varndell’s try made it 50 in the league.
Wasps should have scored a try in the first minute, when snappy back play set Lachlan Mitchell clear but coming short of the line he threw a hopeful pass out towards the unmarked Tom Varndell but the winger had to stop to gather the ball, giving the defence the time to get back and snuff out the attack.
Wasps dominated the possession in the opening minutes with backs and forwards combining well. Ben Jacobs made one incisive break but a forward pass ended a promising position when the ball was recycled and moved out to the left. Another attack came to nothing when Worcester won a timely turnover just outside their 22.
Tom Varndell scores his fifth try for his new Club
Completely against the run of play, Worcester had a chance to take the lead, when Willie Walker tried a penalty kick at goal, from just inside his own half. He made the distance, but the ball struck the left-hand post before bouncing to safety.
Wasps hit back when Varndell gathered a bouncing ball just outside his 22 and used his pace to race clear down the left. He combined well with the forwards to move play out wide to the right and Worcester conceded a penalty just short of their line. Wasps opted to go to the corner and following another penalty possession was turned over. Varndell then made ground down the left, but his infield pass went forward.
Wasps’ pressure was finally rewarded in the twentieth minute when Waldouck split the defence with a searing run. He was ankle-tapped just inside the Worcester 22 but managed to find Serge Betsen in support, and the skipper went over for a well-earned try which Cipriani converted.
Worcester responded immediately, with their first meaningful attack, after Chris Latham rose high to gather a kick ahead, before powering his way into the 22. The ball was moved out to the left but the defence managed to get across and force play into touch.
A rare Worcester incursion into the Wasps 22 saw their forwards applying some pressure, but they were penalised for not releasing, just short of the posts, and Wasps were able to clear. Worcester kept up the momentum and a well-worked loop move in the backs led to a penalty, just outside the 22. Having turned down a previous chance to go for the posts, Walker decided to kick for goal, but sent his effort wide of the left-hand post.
After their impressive start, Wasps ended the half near the Worcester line when Marcel Garvey was forced to run the ball into touch at the corner, from Cipriani’s chip ahead – but the final attack of the half ended when the ball was spilled in midfield.
This had been a frustrating half for Wasps, who would have been further ahead at the break, had they made the most of their chances. On the positive side, they’d shown a willingness to run the ball from their own territory – something they’d been reluctant to do last season – and the forwards had released some quality possession to the backs.
Wasps had a half chance to stretch their lead when the returning Paul Sackey came into the line, after a lineout, but Rob Webber could not hold on to his pass.
Worcester went on the attack, after Varndell was deceived by a swirling high ball, near the left touchline. Worcester recycled and attacked down the middle setting up a drop goal chance for Walker, but he miss hit his kick from 30 metres. Worcester were using the high kick more often, giving the Wasps back three the opportunity to counterattack, but all too often, a crucial pass would go to ground.
Joe Simpson’s blindside dart then sent Sackey away down the right. He moved infield and fed Dan Ward-Smith, whose powerful charge took play up to the 22, but the attack ended when Simpson kicked to touch on the full. Lachlan Mitchell then launched a counterattack which saw Varndell join play on his opposite wing. He did well to gather an awkward pass, and made his way deep into the 22, when Worcester conceded a penalty. Cipriani, who’d just received lengthy treatment near halfway, made no mistake with the kick to make it 10-0 with 16 minutes of the half gone.
Wasps made their first substitution of the game, when Charlie Beech came on for Tim Payne, who’d also received treatment. Wasps immediately put in a strong shove to disrupt a Worcester scrum. Simpson stole the ball and almost found his way through a gap but lost possession in the tackle. Further Wasps substitutions saw Bob Baker and John Hart replace Ben Broster and Ward-Smith.
Man of the Match Dom Waldouck
With 16 minutes of normal time left, Cipriani stretched the lead to 13 points with a sweetly-struck drop goal from 30 metres, after Wasps had won a lineout on the left. The fly half then put his body on the line to make a crucial tackle when Alex Grove threatened near the Wasps line. Joe Worsley, whose typically wholehearted tackling had been a prominent feature of the game, was then replaced by Dan Leo after suffering a cut to the face.
With five minutes of normal time left. Walker was finally on target with a penalty from halfway, to make it 13-3. From the restart, Mitchell fielded another high ball and combined with Simpson and Cipriani, to send Sackey away down the right. Several phases later, Cipriani was in the right place to add his second drop goal, from just inside the 22, to restore the 13 points lead.
Worcester threatened from a lineout near the corner but Charlie Beech stole possession to end the danger. Another Wasps substitution saw Rob Webber make way for Academy hooker, Tom Lindsay, who was making his Premiership debut.
With time up, Worcester were going for the bonus point but Sackey’s powerful tackle on Chris Latham set up an interception by MOTM Waldouck, to set up the second Wasps try. The centre broke clear and kicked diagonally to the left, where Varndell was in the perfect position to gather the ball and race over unopposed. Cipriani’s conversion set the seal on a hard-fought win which leaves them at the top of the Premiership table.
Next weekend, Wasps travel to Reading, to take on London Irish, who are just a point behind them after two bonus point wins in two weeks and then the action returns to Adams Park for Wasps v Northampton on the 4th October, KO 3PM. Tickets are on sale now call 0844 225 2990.