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A pulsating encounter, in which the lead changed hands several times, ended with Wasps claiming their fourth successive home win against Leicester and making it two out of two at the start of the new Premiership season.
A hattrick of tries by Man of the Match Christian Wade followed Nic Berry’s score gave Wasps a precious bonus point.
Wasps made a last-minute change to their team, with scrum-half Nic Berry replacing Charlie Davies, and Jonah Holmes coming on to the bench.
Leicester set up the first attacking position, after George Ford’s long diagonal kick put Hugo Southwell under pressure, and forced a knock-on, inside the Wasps 22. Leicester won the scrum, and moved the ball out to the backs, before Wasps were penalised at the breakdown, and Billy Twelvetrees landed a simple penalty, to give his side the lead, after four minutes of play.
Almost from the restart, Nick Robinson hoisted a kick into the Tigers half. They failed to gather, Wasps pounced on the loose ball, and Christian Wade showed his speed, beating two defenders on the outside, before being forced into touch. A minute later, after Leicester had won the lineout, Tom Varndell did well to gather a high kick, just inside the Leicester half. Tigers were penalised, and Nick Robinson had a long kick at goal, which went just wide.
Wasps then thought they’d gone ahead, when they won a turnover. Varndell was sent racing away down the left, and fed Nic Berry, who went over, only to be called back for a forward pass. Robinson had another chance to open Wasps’ account, when Tigers were penalised on their ten-metre line. This time, he made no mistake, to level the scores after 11 minutes.
It took just two minutes for Leicester to restore the lead, when Wasps were penalised at a lineout, and Twelvetrees landed a 45-metre kick. Three minutes later, a Robinson clearance failed to find touch. Scott Hamilton counterattacked, and Leicester created an immediate overlap on the right, and Niall Morris sent Twelvetrees over near the right corner. Twelvetree added the extra points, with a magnificent conversion, to make it 13-3 to Leicester, after 18 minutes of play.
Robinson missed another long-range penalty, a minute later. Wasps then came close to scoring, when Varndell hacked the ball down the left, and then, assisted by Rob Webber, put Hamilton under pressure near his line, forcing a penalty. Wasps opted to kick for the corner, but lost the lineout, allowing Leicester to clear to the 22.
Wasps finally crossed the Tigers line, after Southwell had gathered a poor kick-ahead, to launch a counterattack. Wade raced through a gap and found Berry in support. The scrum-half had a clear run-in for the try, and Robinson’s conversion made the score 13-10, with 14 minutes of the half left.
Six minutes later, a flowing move by Wasps saw them take the lead. Riki Flutey beat two defenders out on the right, the ball went out to the left, and Varndell made 30 metres before being stopped just short. Quick ball was moved back out to the right, Flutey’s fingertip pass found Wade in space on the right. He accelerated round the final defender, to cross for his second try in two games. Robinson’s conversion gave Wasps a deserved 17-13 lead.
Four minutes before halftime, the visitors were back in front. With the referee playing advantage for a Wasps offence at a maul near the right touchline, Leicester moved the ball back infield, and George Ford darted through a gap in the defence, to send Twelvetrees over for his second try of the afternoon, which he converted with ease, to make the score 20-17.
Seconds before the break, Leicester were penalised at the breakdown, midway between their 22 and the ten-metre line, fifteen metres in from touch. Robinson’s kick appeared to be going over, before it drifted to the right, and clipped the top of the post, then bounced to safety, leaving Leicester three points clear at the break.
Wasps had showed more adventure n the opening forty minutes, frequently launching attacks from deep in their own territory, with their speedy wingers seeing plenty of the ball, and looking dangerous. Leicester had relied more on a kicking game, but had taken their scoring opportunities with clinical precision. After last week’s dominant lineout performance, Wasps had lost a couple of their own throws, inside the Leicester 22. In a half of few scrums, the Wasps pack had looked more solid than they had against Saracens.
Wasps began the second half strongly, with a flowing move featuring backs and forwards, and powerful runs from Marco Wentzel and Tim Payne. They powered their way into the 22, and the ball was reworked quickly to the backs, but Riki Flutey knocked on, with a promising position developing outside him.
Leicester stretched their lead, five minutes after the break, when Twelvetrees landed another penalty, from just outside the 22. Wasps responded in style, when Southwell again gathered a Leicester kick, and fed Wade, 20 metres inside his own half. The young winger accelerated away, and tore through the defence, to go over for a sensational try.
Robinson’s kick again struck the right-hand post, leaving Wasps trailing by a single point. Robinson was then replaced by Ryan Davis, making his Wasps debut. At the same time, Jeremy Castex came on for Tim Payne.
Chris Bell then broke clear down the right, only to lose control of the ball, as he entered the 22. Davis then had a chance to put Wasps back in front, when Jonathan Poff forced Leicester to concede a penalty, a few metres inside their half, and he landed a fine kick, to take the score to 25-23, after 52 minutes.
Richard Birkett made way for Ross Filipo, making his Wasps debut. With the bright sunshine now making way for heavy rain, the Wasps pack produced a powerful scrum, to send the Tigers eight back on its heels, but Davis’s diagonal kick went straight in to touch. A minute later, Leicester were back in front, after Twelvetrees was on target with yet another straightforward penalty, on 62 minutes.
The rain became heavier, and Davis had a penalty chance, 35 metres out, in front of the posts. With the strong wind swaying the posts, he kept his nerve, to put Wasps back in front, with 13 minutes left to play.
An extraordinary series of flick passes then appeared to have sent Wade away on the right, but the referee judged that the final pass had gone forward. Ben Broster replaced Ben Broster, as the minutes ticked away.
A scrummage penalty gave Leicester the chance to establish a good attacking position, but Wasps stole two lineouts, and a long clearance was then knocked on by Thomas Waldrom. From the scrum, Wasps chipped the ball down the line, and Christian Wade beat the final defender to the ball, to complete a sensational hat-trick, and secure a try bonus, with less than five minutes to go. Davis’s magnificent conversion put Wasps nine points clear.
Another Twelvetrees penalty, less than two minutes from time, gave Leicester the bonus point, and the final whistle blew, with Adams Park again bathed in glorious sunshine, and the crowd rising to their feet to acclaim a magnificent victory.
Wasps are back at Adams Park next Saturday, when they take on Sale Sharks in the Aviva Premiership.
15. Hugo Southwell 14. Tom Varndell 13. Chris Bell 12. Riki Flutey 11. Christian Wade 10. Nicky Robinson 9. Nic Berry 1. Tim Payne 2. Rob Webber 3. Ben Broster 4. Richard Birkett 5. Marco Wentzel 6. Joe Launchbury 7. Jonathan Poff 8. John Hart ( c )
16. Nathan Morris 17. Jeremy Castex 18. Bob Baker 19. Ross Filipo 20. Joe Burton 21. Jonah Holmes 22. Ryan Davis 23. Richard Haughton
15 Scott Hamilton 14 Matt Smith 13 Billy Twelvetrees 12 Anthony Allen 11 Nial Morris 10 George Ford 9 James Grindal 1 Boris Stankovich 2 George Chuter (c) 3 Kieran Brookes 4 Ed Slater 5 George Skivington 6 Steve Mafi 7 Ben Woods 8 Julian Salvi
16 Rob Hawkins 17 Jonny Harris 18 Peter Bucknall 19 Graham Kitchener 20 Thomas Waldrom 21 Mickey Young 22 Jeremy Staunton 23 Andy Forsyth