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A brave defensive effort from Wasps wasn’t enough against table toppers Leicester in a tough battle at Welford Road.
Wasps were chasing a score late in the game which would have given them a much deserved losing bonus point but time ran out on the visitors who threw everything at the league leaders for 80 minutes in a much improved performance from last week.
Sixteen points from ex-Wasp Jeremy Staunton helped the Tigers to stretch their lead at the top of the table with his haul including three penalties, a try and a conversion.
Positives for Wasps ahead of two crucial home games against Saracens and Sale was the standout defensive effort shown by the team and strong performances from players like Rikki Flutey, Serge Betsen and young Joe Launchbury.
The home side took an early lead with Staunton kicking a penalty but with possession exchanging hands the lead was cancelled out by a Dave Walder effort just a few minutes later.
Walder then successfully struck another but the Tigers pounced for a try when Staunton intercepted a pass to touch down under the posts. His conversion and another penalty helped take the home side to 13-6 lead after 15 minutes.
Walder made it 13-9 with a well hit penalty minutes later but the Tigers were making all the early running.
Wasps were forced to defend for large periods of the first half with Betsen making some trademark thundering tackles and Flutely leading the backline charge but the pressure eventually told when lock Steve Mafi crashed over out wide after a string of missed tackles. Staunton missed the conversion but the home team now led 18-9,
When Wasps did get the ball in their hands, Flutey and Dom Waldouck showed well in the centre but it was Leicester who controlled possession.
As the half drew to a close, Wasps were under serious pressure with a Tigers’ scrum just metres from their line, but excellent defensive work again forced a turnover allowing Walder to clear.
Walder missed a shot at the posts just before the half time whistle as the teams turned around with the score at 18-9.
The second half started much like the first with Staunton and Walder exchanging early penalties.
Once again the home team put Wasps under immense pressure in defence with a Betsen again to the fore in an outstanding rearguard effort involving almost every player in the black and gold shirts.
The Tigers pressed hard with wave after wave of attack but Wasps held firm. When possession did come the visitors made too many errors that halted their go-forward with a tough day at the line-out depriving them of much needed possession.
Leicester continued to control the play but they were frustrated by the black wall of defence. With the clock ticking, the best Wasps could hope for was a bonus point and in the last ten minutes they worked their way into the Leicester 22. Joe Simpson provided some spark when he came off the bench but Walder’s attempted drop goal was blocked down by Scott Hamilton as the clock wound down.
In the end Wasps left disappointed but the proud effort means they returned to London with plenty of positives to take out of the game.
Scorers Leicester: Jeremy Staunton (3 pens, 1 con, 1 try), Steve Mafi (1 try)
Scorers Wasps: Dave Walder (4 pens)
Scott Hamilton, Horacio Agulla, Manu Tuilagi, Anthony Allen, Alesana Tuilagi, Jeremy Staunton, James Grindal, Boris Stankovich, George Chuter, Martin Castrogiovanni, Steve Mafi, George Skivington, Craig Newby (c), Ben Woods, Thomas Waldrom
Mark Van Gisbergen, Richard Haughton, Dominic Waldouck, Riki Flutey, Ben Jacob, Dave Walder, Nic Berry, Tim Payne, Tom Lindsay, Ben Broster, Marty Veale, Richard Birkett (c), Joe Launchbury, Serge Betsen, Joe Worsley