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Securing a narrow lead at the break with a 6-8 scoreline, a clever use of Wasps’ strong bench saw five second-half tries and an impressive start to their pre-season programme.
Wasps were ahead within two minutes after a Leinster movement broke down a few metres inside the visitors’ half. A strong tackle forced a knock-on and the ball was moved swiftly out to the left. Ben Jacobs went through a gap and fed Tom Varndell, just outside the Leinster 22. The winger brushed off a tackle and crossed for a well-worked try, which Dave Walder was unable to convert.
A strong burst by Jack Wallace could have led to a second try, but he took the ball into contact and was met with a strong Leinster defence. Securing possession, flanker Eoin Sherriff was given the ball deep inside the Wasps 22 and seemed set for a score, however he dropped it with the line just a few metres away.
After 13 minutes, Wasps came close to a second try with a sweeping move involving backs and forwards, but they were penalised for not releasing a few metres out. They were then forced into a blood replacement, when Rob Webber came on for Tom Lindsay, who’d suffered a cut to the head.
The home side then made an enforced change, when centre Eamonn Sheridan took a heavy knock in a tackle. He was helped from the field, still groggy, after several minutes of treatment and his place was taken by Fergus McFadden. The replacement was soon involved, joining a move which started when Isa Nacewa broke out of his 22, and showed considerable footballing skills – getting a boot to his own chip ahead to volley it infield and into the hands of a supporting player.
Wasps made another substitution, when Sam Jones replaced Will Matthews, with a quarter of an hour of the half to go. Leinster then pulled back the score deficit as fly half Ian Madigan was on target with a penalty from in front of the posts to make the score 5-3.
Tom Lindsay returned to the field at the restart, with a large bandage around his cut head. Wasps continued to move the ball and it took an excellent tackle by centre Eoin O’Malley to stop Varndell, when he was set loose just outside the 22.
In the dying minutes of the half, Wasps were penalised, a few metres inside their own half, and Madigan’s superbly struck kick gave his side a 6-5 advantage. Wasps responded well, and went back in front on the stroke of halftime with a simple Walder penalty to make the halftime score 8-6, following a fine move which featured a rampaging charge by John Hart, after the ball was moved swiftly back infield, when Varndell was brought down, just inside the Leinster half.
With the forwards providing plenty of set-piece ball, Wasps had shown plenty of enterprise with Wallace always looking for the chance to attack from deep and both wingers seeing plenty of the ball. But a combination of resolute defence and the inevitable early season rustiness had limited their scoring opportunities. Their own defence had forced a series of handling errors from the home side, who had posed only the occasional threat.
Wasps made a number of changes at the start of the second half, with Christian Wade, Riki Flutey, Joe Simpson, Ben Broster, James Cannon and Tom Rees all coming on, in place of Tom Varndell, Dom Waldouck, Nic Berry, Phil Vickery, Marty Veale and John Hart. The substitutions had an immediate effect, with Simpson and skipper Rees featuring prominently in a sustained move which ended with Flutey sending Ben Jacobs over for a fine try, which Walder converted to stretch the lead to 15-6.
Leinster then mounted their most sustained spell of pressure of the game, with the ball being kept alive through numerous phases. They were unable to find their way through the Wasps defence, until a swivelling run by David Kearney almost found a gap, but possession was turned over, a few metres out, and Walder was able to put in a long clearance kick. It failed to find touch and Leinster ran the ball back at them. Possession was turned over and another well–constructed counterattack was rounded off when Jacobs was strong enough to ride a series of tackles and feed Richard Haughton, who had a 30-metre run-in for a try. With Walder leaving the field (Waldouck came back on to replace him, and Flutey came in to fly half), Joe Simpson made no mistake with the simple conversion to make it 22-6.
Four further Wasps changes saw Simon Shaw, Tim Payne, Rob Webber and Mark Van Gisbergen entering the action, in place of Richard Birkett, Zak Taulafo, Tom Lindsay and Jack Wallace, and John Hart returning for Serge Betsen. It was Van Gisbergen who scored the next try after Simpson had split the defence with a characteristic burst of pace. Simpson was again on target with the conversion to give Wasps a comfortable 29-6 lead.
The arrival of Junior Academy player Elliot Daly, in place of Ben Jacobs, meant Wasps had used all 12 replacements, and they continued to apply all the pressure with some exhilarating running rugby. Another multi-phased move ended with Haughton crossing for his second score of the evening, after Waldouck combined well with Van Gisbergen, following another powerful burst by Tom Rees. Simpson was unable to land the conversion, and Simon Shaw was then shown a yellow card, with just over five minutes to go.
Wasps made light of their numerical disadvantage, when Daly broke away down the right and his chip ahead bounced into the arms of Wade who raced over for another try. Simpson’s conversion made the final score 41-6
Mark Van Gisbergen
Wasps return to Adams Park for their second pre-season friendly, when they take on their Heineken Cup opponents Glasgow next Saturday. Don’t miss this game - welcome the side to home turf ahead of the 2010/11 season. Tickets are discounted across all area of the stadium by 30% - to book call 0844 225 2990.