Mark Van Gisbergen
Wasps had led until the last minute of the first half, by which time Tim Payne had been sent to the sin bin and the Leicester forwards had taken control. Tries on the stroke of half time and in the first two minutes after the break, sent them on their way to their first win over Wasps since the Powergen Cup Semi Final in 2008.
Wasps made a superb start with a magnificent try, after almost two minutes of uninterrupted rugby following kick off. It was created by Danny Cipriani, whose first touch had seen him fire a long pass to Ben Jacobs, who had Paul Sackey outside him. Jacobs chose to kick downfield, but seconds later the fly half showed a strong hand-off before using his pace to dart through the Tigers defence, to link with Dom Waldouck. The centre came inside, then threw an outside pass to David Lemi, who fed the supporting Mark Van Gisbergen and the full back had a clear run-in to the corner. He was unable to land the difficult conversion.
Five minutes later, Van Gisbergen had another chance of points, after Mark Robinson’s break set up a position at which Lewis Moody was penalised for handling at the breakdown. However his kick went to the right of the posts.
The home side responded with their first sustained passage of play, but the defence forced them into touch after a series of phases. Almost immediately, Paul Sackey did well to gather a high kick but he was isolated and Leicester were awarded a penalty, near their ten-metre line. Toby Flood’s kick went to the left of the posts.
Leicester attacked strongly after gathering the 22 dropout, and a powerful run by Jordan Crane set up another penalty, when Wasps failed to roll away. This time, Flood made no mistake with a straightforward kick.
Wasps were given a great attacking position from the restart, after Scott Hamilton’s clearance was charged down by Will Matthews, a few metres from his line, but they were unable to take advantage despite a series of short-range drives.
Remarkably, it took just over 20 minutes for the first scrum of the game to go down. It had to be reset several times, before referee Romain Poite penalised the home pack, on the halfway line. Cipriani decided to go for the posts and landed a magnificent kick to put his side 8-3 ahead.
The next scrum, four minutes later, went differently as the home pack drove Wasps backwards, to earn a penalty just inside the visitors’ half. However Flood was unable to take the points, sending his long kick to the right of the posts.
A fine run by Dan Ward-Smith took play up to the Leicester 22, where the home side were penalised. It would have been a straightforward kick to the posts, but Cipriani went for a quick penalty. Despite the positive intent, it was a decision that did not pay off, as a turnover, near the left corner, gave Leicester the chance to counterattack. Ben Jacobs did well to go back into his 22 to gather a kick ahead and clear the danger.
From the ensuing lineout, Will Matthews was penalised inside his own 22. Leicester followed Wasps example by turning down a kick at the posts and going to the corner. They won the lineout and forced their way over the line, with Jordan Crane in possession. The referee consulted the TMO, and, after the pictures proved inconclusive, he decided that no try had been scored.
A scrum followed,and another powerful Leicester effort almost forced a try near the corner. Two further scrums brought penalties, before the referee lost patience, and sent Tim Payne to the sin bin. Not surprisingly, the home side decided to take another scrum, as Sakaria Taulafo took the place of Will Matthews.
With Ben Jacobs packing down at blindside, Wasps managed to hold firm at the next scrum, but Leicester then brought the backs into play and took full advantage of their superior numbers. Lote Tuqiri came into the line from the left wing, and his long pass found Hamilton, who sent Johne Murphy in unopposed at the corner. With his most difficult kick of the day, Flood ensured that his side went into the break, leading by 10 points to 8.
It had been an excellent forty minutes of rugby with two fine tries. Wasps had started well, but Leicester had looked ominously stronger as the game developed - and the home side took a firm grip on the game, two minutes into the second half. Another dominant scrum sent Wasps 15 metres backwards, leading to a penalty, which Flood kicked to the corner. Wasps defended the lineout well, but patient play by Leicester saw them move the ball infield, and Tuqiri made another decisive entry to the line, to go through a gap and score. Flood’s conversion made it 17-8.
Wasps were immediately dealt another blow, when Simon Shaw played the ball in an offside position, and Flood landed a penalty to stretch the lead to 12 points. Ben Broster then left the field, as Tim Payne returned from the sin bin, and the England prop was immediately penalised at the scrum. Jeremy Staunton’s long kick set up another lineout near the corner. Sensing that their opponents were now reeling, Leicester stepped up the pressure, and hammered away at the line for several minutes before forcing their way over the line, but another TMO decision ruled out a score.
It was the briefest of respites for Wasps, as the next scrum led to the inevitable penalty try, and Flood’s conversion took his side into a 27-8 lead.
With the home side now almost out of sight, Wasps made a tactical substitution, bringing Dan Leo on for Will Matthews. Simon Shaw then limped off, to be replaced by Marty Veale.
Wasps came back in spirited fashion and good work by Cipriani saw Ward-Smith send Payne clear on the right. A try seemed inevitable, but MOTM Dan Cole put in a crunching tackle, and Payne lost possession as he crossed the line. Cipriani then sent Lemi away down the left, but he was forced to kick ahead and the ball rolled dead.
After yet another scrummage penalty took Leicester back into Wasps territory, Ben Youngs created the bonus point try which took his side to the top of the Premiership table. A superb run set up Tuqiri’s second try of the afternoon and a magnificent touchline conversion by Flood made it 34-8.
Further Wasps substitutions brought Joe Ward, Tom Varndell, James Honeyben and Dave Walder on for Rob Webber, David Lemi, Mark Robinson and Mark Van Gisbergen.
With only pride to play for, Wasps threw caution to the wind but the dominant Leicester forwards and rugged defence made it hard for them to set up any real chances. With eight minutes left, the referee gave Wasps skipper John Hart another firm lecture about his side’s scrimmaging and Tim Payne immediately made way for Gabriel Bocca. Dave Walder followed Payne from the field, being forced off with blood streaming from his mouth, after the briefest of appearances from the bench, and Van Gisbergen came back on as a blood replacement.
The game ended 34-8, Wasps suffering their biggest defeat of the season. The Guinness Premiership now takes a break until mid-February, as the Amlin Challenge Cup and LV=Cup take centre stage.
This Thursday evening, at Adams Park, Wasps return to Amlin Challenge Cup action, when they take on Rugby Roma (KO 8pm). Tickets are just £5 for adults in all areas of eth stadium and £1 for kids. Season Ticket Holders can also bring all their friends and family for just £1.
Details on tickets and a £5 a head hospitality offer can be found here, alternatively call the ticket office on 0844 225 2990.