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The visitors deserved their victory, after a committed display, and 15 points from the boot of fly half Ceiron Thomas. For Wasps, it was a game to forget and a huge disappointment after the elation of the previous weekend’s bonus point victory at Kingsholm. On a soggy day, handling errors abounded, and neither side looked like scoring a try, apart from a David Lemi effort ruled out by the TMO, in the first minute of the second half.
Wasps made one forced change to the team named on Friday, after Dan Ward-Smith suffered neck pain in training. He was replaced by Dan Leo, whose place on the bench was taken by Hugo Ellis. There was an even later change for the visitors, when Seru Rabeni was injured in the warm-up. Jonny Hepworth took his place in the centre, with Henry Fa’afili coming on to the bench.
Leeds went right on to the attack, when a strong chase secured the ball from their hanging kick off. The forwards followed up and drove to within five metres of the line, before Wasps were penalised, and fly half Ceiron Thomas landed an excellent kick to put his side ahead.
Wasps appeared to be on the wrong end of a decision, when a long Leeds kick seemed to roll dead, but the referee ruled that it had stayed in play. Instead of winning a scrum in the Leeds half, they were forced to touch down for a 22, which Dave Walder sent straight into touch. Leeds were then penalised at the scrum and Wasps cleared, deep into the visitors’ territory, but lost possession at their own lineout a few metres from the corner.
The heavy rain which had fallen earlier in the day had made conditions difficult and there were a series of handling errors from both sides, as the game struggled to get going. After several scrappy minutes, Dave Walder sent a long diagonal kick skidding into touch near the corner. Paul Sackey started the best attack of the game, when he gathered a high clearance, before setting off on a run which beat three defenders. The ball was recycled quickly and moved out to the left, where Leeds were penalised, near the corner. Wasps opted for a scrum, which was reset twice, before Dan Leo lost control of the ball, as he picked up from the base and Leeds were able to clear the danger. From the lineout, they were penalised for not rolling away, and Dave Walder landed a 40-metre kick, to level the scores, with 18 minutes played.
Three minutes later, a powerful shove by the Leeds pack earned them a penalty, from a scrum on the Wasps 10-metre line, and Thomas put his side back in front. Within two minutes of the restart, a similar shove resulted in a penalty from Wasps, 15 metres in from touch, and five metres outside the Leeds 22. Walder made no mistake, with a well-struck kick to level things again. Leeds were soon back in front, when Thomas landed an easy penalty, after Wasps were penalised on the ground in front of the posts. Wasps responded well, with Van Gisbergen gathering a high kick, before hoisting a kick of his own which he did well to deflect into the hands of Joe Ward who was up in support. He made a few metres towards the Leeds 22 before the ball was lost. A few minutes later, the fullback was caught in possession, near his ten-metre line, and penalised for failing to release. Thomas made it four out four, to put his side 12-6 ahead with eight minutes of the half to play.
Adams Park finally had something cheer about after 36 minutes, when Joe Simpson took a quick penalty on the Wasps 22 and raced over the halfway line, before sending David Lemi away down the left. The movement ended with a penalty to Wasps, quick they kicked to the corner. They couldn’t secure their lineout, but a scrum resulted, at which they were pushed backwards, surrendering the put-in to Leeds, who were then penalised. Wasps took another quick tap, moving play across the field, but the ball was again spilt and forty frustrating minutes ended with the visitors holding a deserved six-point lead.
Apart from the occasional attack, Wasps had struggled to get out of first gear, while Leeds had been competitive at the breakdown, their forwards had done well in the set pieces, and they had kicked and chased effectively. With forty minutes to play, they looked to be in with a great chance of pulling off a major upset, and recording their first win of the season.
Wasps started the half strongly, with Serge Betsen immediately charging down a clearance kick on the 22, and powering his way towards the line. The ball was then moved out to the left and Lemi showed some delightful skill to chip ahead and beat the defence to the ball, just before it rolled dead, but the TMO ruled that he had knocked on as he tried to touch it down.
<4>The sight of Simon Shaw warming up on the touchline brought the crowd to life, and the giant Lions lock entered the fray to a huge cheer, after 10 minutes, replacing Dan Leo.
By now the rain had returned and handling was becoming increasingly difficult. A might drive by the Wasps forwards took play the best part of 20 metres towards the Leeds 22, where the visitors were penalised and Walder landed his third penalty, to make it 12-9, with 23 minutes left to play. Thomas then had a chance to restore the six-point advantage, with a 30-metre kick but he sent it wide. Two minutes later, he made no mistake with a simpler chance, to make it 15-9, with just over 12 minutes left.
Wasps made a series of changes, with Tom Varndell, Charlie Beech and Eoghan Hickey replacing Steve Kefu, Gabriel Bocca and Mark Van Gisbergen. With time running out, a Simpson break took play close to the Leeds line, but another knock on, as the supporting Hickey was tackled, surrendered the position. Wasps threw everything into a desperate last assault, but the final minute saw them concede a penalty, just short of the Leeds line and they slumped to only their second defeat of the season in all competitions.
The Premiership now takes a break for two weeks, for the opening games in the Anglo-Welsh Cup. Wasps visit London Irish next weekend, before returning to Adams Park to take on Gloucester, on Sunday, November the 15th.