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Despite a lively start, which saw them score two sparkling tries, to go 12-3 ahead, Wasps went down to an agonising defeat, made worse by a serious looking injury to Dom Waldouck who had played key roles in both tries. This was a spirited performance, but the result leaves the men in Black and Gold requiring a minor miracle to qualify for Heineken Cup rugby next season.
Wasps had an early opportunity to take the lead, when Irish were caught offside in the second minute, but Dave Walder’s kick from 40 metres went to the left of the posts. Almost immediately, Topsy Ojo came in from the right to race through a gap in the Wasps defence and take play deep into their 22. The pressure brought a penalty in front of the posts and Tom Homer landed the simple kick, to open the scoring.
Wasps responded superbly with a try from Riki Flutey after Andy Powell had set up quick ball out on the right, 15 met4es inside the Irish half. The ball was moved out to the backs, Dom Waldouck chipped ahead, David Lemi tapped inside and Flutey was on hand to go over for a fine score which Walder converted an equally fine kick, from near the left touchline.
Powell again showed his strength when he gathered a long kick to launch a counterattac which saw Christian Wade sent away down the right, but the defence caught him, and possession was turned over. A minute later, Joe Simpson’s short pass sent Wade racing through a gap and the winger’s sizzling burst through the middle took him deep into the 22. He was brought down just short of the line, but the ball was recycled quickly and Waldouck’s exquisite flick sent Rob Webber crashing over for a superb try which Walder could not convert. That made it 12-3, after 15 minutes.
Irish pulled back three points with another simple Homer penalty three minutes later. A lineout offence, 12 metres inside their half, then gave Homer another scoring chance and he made no mistake to narrow the gap to three points, after 26 minutes.
With the Wasps backs displaying a sharpness which had been missing for several weeks, and Waldouck showing his best form for some time, they were then dealt a cruel blow, when the centre went down away from contact clutching his leg. After several minutes of treatment he was helped from the pitch and his place was taken by Josh Lewsey.
Within a minute, Wasps were penalised for handling the ball on the ground and Homer levelled the scores from 35 metres, in front of the posts. Lewsey was then involved in a backs move, which created an overlap for Christian Wade, but Mark Van Gisbergen’s pass was agonisingly out of reach with clear space in front of the speedy winger.
A minute from halftime, the Wasps forwards put in a strong drive to take them towards halfway but they were penalised at the breakdown and Homer’s fifth successful kick – a superb effort from five metres in from touch - gave Irish a 15-12 lead which was more than a shade fortunate. Wasps had certainly looked the sharper of the two sides, with the forwards going well and the backs posing a constant threat until Waldouck’s unfortunate injury. Sadly, it was their discipline which allowed Irish to come back into the game.
Homer had an early chance to stretch the lead, when Wasps were penalised, seven metres inside the Irish half. Homer decided to go for the posts, and his monster effort had the distance but drifted wide. Five minutes later, he did make it 18-12 with another easy penalty when Wasps were caught offside almost in front of their posts.
With Irish now very much in the ascendancy, Wasps were being pinned down in their own territory for long periods. A further Irish score seemed inevitable, and it came after 55 minutes, when replacement hooker David Paice went over for a try following good work by the backs. Homer’s conversion gave his side a commanding 25-12 lead.
Wasps then rang the changes with Charlie Beech, Ben Broster and Joe Launchbury taking the places of Tim Payne, Zak Taulafo and Simon Shaw.
When Wasps finally did have a chance to take play to the other end of the field, Dave Walder’s diagonal kick was too strong and went dead taking play pack for a scrum ten metres inside their own half. It brought another penalty to the home side, but Homer’s kick was off target.
Tom Lindsay was the next Wasps replacement, coming on for Rob Webber, with 18 minutes left to play. He was followed on to the field by Nic Berry, who replaced Joe Simpson.
With the game almost out of reach, Wasps finally began to exert some pressure but failure to control possession at key moments meant they were unable to turn that pressure into points.With eight minutes left, Serge Betsen replaced John Hart.
The closing minutes saw Wasps throwing everything into a desperate attempt to salvage at least a bonus point, but despite retaining possession for long periods, they could not find their way through the defence. A weaving run by Christian Wade set up one final chance With Irish lock Gary Johnson sent to the bin, Wasps went for an attacking lineout, but a last surge for the line was stopped, and the whistle blew on a bitterly disappointing afternoon
Next Friday evening, Wasps are at The Stoop to face old rivals Harlequins in the quarterfinal of the Amlin Challenge Cup. Then, on Sunday the 17th of April, they play their final game at Adams Park this season, when they take on Leeds Carnegie, in the Aviva Premiership.