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Wasps shook off the disappointment of their defeat in Glasgow, to defeat the European champions, with a dramatic last-minute try by David Lemi. Wasps appeared on course for victory, when Toulouse centre Florian Fritz was given a red card, early in the second half, and they went nine points clear. But the visitors came back to level things, before Lemi’s decisive strike, to put the seal on a battling performance, in front of the largest Adams Park crowd of the season.
After Leicester and Perpignan both won their final Pool 5 games, Wasps went on to the field, knowing that their slim chances of making the Heineken Cup qualifications had ended, and they had to focus on securing a result which would give them the best possible seeding for the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Toulouse made their intentions clear from the start, with an early charge by Census Johnston making good ground. He was stopped by a twin tackle, and the ball was spilt. Toulouse made a mess of the Wasps scrum, and further pressure brought them a penalty, but David Skrela missed a relatively straightforward kick.
Toulouse continued to dominate territory and possession , but the Wasps defence looked solid, and a series of big tackles kept them at bay, and forced a number of knockons. It wasn’t until the tenth minute that Wasps crossed the halfway line, when they managed to get a boot to a stray pass, but a good clearance took play back into Wasps territory. A minute later, Toulouse took the lead with a try created by Clement Poitrenaud. The fullback soared into the air, to take a high kick. He fed Maxime Medard, who broke down the left, before linking with Yannick Jauzion, who forced his way through two attempted tackles, to go over near the left corner. Skrela was on target with conversion, to make it 7-0.
A high tackle on Mark Van Gisbergen gave Wasps a penalty, just inside their own half, and Dave Walder found touch, deep inside the 22. The lineout was won, and Andy Powell had his first charge of the day, but the Toulouse defence forced a penalty, which took them back over halfway. Wasps then put together their first sustained attack, featuring strong runs by Joe Worsley, Dom Waldouck, Richard Birkett and Zak Taulafo, but it came to an end with a penalty being awarded to Toulouse, for hands in the ruck.
In the 19th minute, Skrela was just off target with a penalty, from just inside the Wasps half. A jinking run by David Lemi excited the crowd, but possession was lost, when a stray pass failed to go into Wasps hands, with a possible opportunity developing, on the right.
In the 23rd minute, Wasps were forced into a replacement when Richard Haughton came on for mark Van Gisbergen, who’d taken a knock when he went up to take an up and under, a few metres from his line. Wasps opened their account four minutes later, when Dave Walder landed a fine penalty from near halfway.
Ten minutes before halftime, Wasps produced their best backs move of the day, when crisp, quick passing gave Ben Jacobs the chance to go racing through a gap. He was stopped in the 22, and, frustratingly, Toulouse won a vital turnover. Two minutes later, Toulouse were reduced to 14 men, when Louis Picamoles was shown the yellow card, for a challenge on Ton Varndell which sparked a brief confrontation between the sides, near halfway.
Wasps took immediate advantage of their numerical superiority. They won the lineout, following Walder’s penalty. They took play through several phases, before Dave Walder moved out to the left, then slipped a perfect inside pass to Haughton, who went over near the posts. Walder’s conversion made it 10-7. A minute later, Walder stretched the lead to six points, with a 30 metre penalty from in front of the posts, after Joe Simpson was caught by a high tackle.
Haughton then had the crowd roaring with a weaving run, after gathering a kick ahead. He lined up a kick to the unmarked left wing, where Tom Varndell was threateningly positioned, but just lost possession in the tackle. Toulouse managed to play down the clock, to go into the half 13-7 down, with Picamoles due back two minutes after the restart. Wasps could be pleased with the first 40 minutes, in which Toulouse had controlled much of the possession, but only threatened rarely, relying on one moment of individual brilliance and opportunism to take advantage of a rare lapse, for their only score.
Another sparkling counterattack by Richard Haughton, who gathered a ball near his line, before racing through a gap and offloading to David Lemi, put Wasps back on the front foot. Dave Walder kicked out to the left, where Tom Varndell gathered at pace, before he was tackled by Florian Fritz, who appeared to lift and dump him, and was duly shown the red card. Walder landed the penalty to stretch the lead to nine points, seven minutes into the second half. Skrela narrowed the gap with a straightforward penalty, three minutes later.
Wasps were now beginning to produce some flowing rugby, as they sensed the chance of a morale-boosting win, and one powerful run by Andy Powell took play deep into the Toulouse 22. He was forced into touch, and Wasps made a mess of the Toulouse lineout, to force a five-metre scrum, near the right corner, but the Toulouse pack managed to disrupt the Wasps ball. This appeared to spark them into action, and they began to produce some more controlled rugby, forcing Wasps back into their 22, and ending with a penalty, in front of the posts. Skrela duly cut the gap to just three points, with 19 minutes left.
Two minutes later, Wasps lost Serge Betsen to the bin, for going off his feet at the breakdown, and Skrela levelled the score, from 45 metres, with his kick going in off the left post.
Wasps created a good chance when the backs combined well down the right, to send David Lemi darting through the middle. He had one man to beat, but lost his footing at the crucial moment. The ball was kept alive, and moved out to the left, but the defence managed to smother Varndell, before he could get into his stride.
Wasps then made two changes, with Joe Ward and Ben Broster replacing Tom Lindsay and Zak Taulafo. Wasps returned to Toulouse territory, when Poitrenaud’s optimistic drop at goal fell well short, to be gathered by Walder, who sent a rolling kick into touch, deep inside the visitors’ half.
With time ticking away, Skrela was off target with a 30 metre drop at goal, before Betsen returned, for the last five minutes and Charlie Beech came on for Tim Payne.
Inside the final two minutes, Joe Worsley rose to gather a lineout, just inside the Toulouse half. Joe Simpson broke around the blind side and sent a kick downfield. David Lemi beat the defence to the ball and touched down just short of the dead ball line – the try being awarded by the TMO. Walder’s kick went wide, but the whistle blew, to give Wasps a magnificent and memorable victory, which stretched their run of European pool victories at Adams Park to 17.
The next two weekends will be taken over the LV= Cup, with Wasps travelling to Abu Dhabi to play Harlequins next Sunday, followed by a trip to Ospreys, a week later. They return to Adams Park for the resumption of the Aviva Premiership on Sunday, February the 13th, when Gloucester are the visitors.
15 Mark Van Gisbergen
14 Tom Varndell
13 Ben Jacobs (c)
12 Dom Waldouck
11 David Lemi
10 Dave Walder
1 Tim Payne
2 Tom Lindsay
3 Zak Taulafo
4 Simon Shaw
5 Richard Birkett
6 Joe Worsley
7 Serge Betsen
8 Andy Powell
16 Joe Ward
17 Charlie Beech
18 Ben Broster
19 Marty Veale
20 James Cannon
21 Nic Berry
22 Riki Flutey
23 Richard Haughton
15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Yannick Jauzion, 11 Maxime Medard, 10 David Skrela, 9 Jean-Marc Doussain, 1 Daan Human, 2 William Servat, 3 Census Johnston, 4 Yoann Maestri, 5 Patricio Albacete, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 7 Thierry Dusautoir (C), 8 Louis Picamoles,
Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17Jean-Baptiste Poux, 18 Yohan Montes, 19 Gregory Lamboley, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 Cedric Heymans, 22 Frederic Michalak/Jean Bouilhou, 23 Shaun Sowerby