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Wasps secured their first win of the new season, thanks to a dominant second-half performance. They trailed 11-9 at the break, but four tries, three coming in the last 16 minutes, send the sun-kissed home crowd into ecstasy. Man of the Match Stephen Jones, had a 100% kicking record, with four conversions and five penalties, making it a debut to remember.
Wasps made a lively start, after Hugo Southwell leapt high, to gather Steven Shindler’s lofted kick. The ball was recycled quickly, and Ashley Johnson made good ground, before offloading to the left, where Tom Varndell had some space. He came infield, and Irish were penalised at the breakdown.
Stephen Jones’s penalty found touch on the Irish 22, but Wasps failed to gather the long throw. Despite that, they were soon pressuring the Irish defence, with Ashley Johnson again showing his running skills, before Irish conceded another penalty, a few metres inside their 22, and Jones had a simple kick, to give his side the lead, with five minutes played.
With 12 minutes gone, Irish enjoyed their first period of sustained pressure, until Shingler tried to chip over the defence, and Wasps had a fortunate bounce, enabling them to gather and feed Hugo Southwell, who cleared towards halfway. Irish then came close to a score, with an attack down the left, but the ball was lost, as they crossed the line.
From the scrum which followed, Wasps were penalised for collapsing, and Shingler levelled the scores with a penalty.
Wasps were finding it hard to play with the fluency they’d shown I their first two games, and they relied on another long penalty from Southwell, to give them a strong attacking position. They won good lineout ball, and moved the ball out to the left, but solid defence forced a knock on from Elliot Daly.
Minutes later, the centre almost found room to send Christian Wade away, but the defence again managed to stop the attack. When play came back infield, another Johnson run set up a good position, but Andrea Masi was unable to gather a sharp pass, when play switched back towards the right.
Twelve minutes before the break, it was the visitors who took the lead, when Marland Yarde gathered a loose ball, and used his pace and acceleration, to find his through the scattered defence and race over for a try near the corner. With Shingler in the blood bin, Tom Homer took over kicking duties, but his conversion was off target.
This stung Wasps into action, and they thought they’d scored a try, when Tom Varndell went over in the corner, after Hugo Southwell came into the line, following a lineout. Unfortunately for Wasps, the officials ruled that the scoring pass had gone forward.
Wasps had the consolation of a simple penalty from Jones, six minutes before the break. They then produced their best sustained attack of the afternoon, keeping the ball alive through countless phases, before Marco Wentzel was unable to gather a low pass. Wasps kept up the pressure, and were rewarded in the 39th minute, when Irish again offended at the breakdown, a few metres inside their own half. Jones’s long-range kick just had the legs to drop over the bar, to give Wasps a 9-8 lead, as the game went into injury time at the break.
In the final minute of added time, Wasps were penalised at a scrum, a metre inside their half. Shingler’s excellent penalty gave the visitors an 11-9 halftime lead.
Wasps made one change at the start of the second half, with Zak Taulafo taking the place of Fabio Staibano. Straight from the restart, Irish were penalised inside their 22, and Jones’s fourth penalty put the home side back in front, by 12 points to 11.
Wasps were then forced into their first injury replacement, as Rhys Thomas made way for Tom Lindsay.
The hooker was straight into the action, throwing the ball into a lineout, a few metres outside the Irish 22. They won quick ball, and Christian Wade came in from his wing, to explode through the middle of the Irish defence, and take play into the 22. He lobbed a pass out towards the left, and an Irish hand deflected it towards Tom Varndell, who had the strength to force his was over in the corner, for his third try in three games of the new season. Jones added the extra two points, with a magnificent kick from the touchline, to give Wasps a 19-11 lead, seven minutes into the second half.
Irish pulled back three points with another Shingler penalty on 57 minutes, after Wasps were again penalised at a scrum, 30 metres out, and directly in front of the posts.
Wasps came desperately close to a second try, when Wade sent a perfectly placed chip towards the corner. It bounced nicely for Varndell, but he was stopped just short. Wasps kept the ball alive, and both Daly and Poff went close, before the move was ended by a Wasps offence.
When play switched to the other end, it was Wasps’ turn to be grateful for a penalty, after a threatening Irish move, which took them deep into the 22.
Joe Launchbury was replaced by James Haskell, with just over 15 minutes left. Within a minute of his arrival, Elliot Daly tried a long-range penalty, but his kick went well wide.
Billy Vunipola took the place of Ashley Johnson, and Wasps immediately stretched their lead, after Joe Simpson gathered a loose ball and showed his pace, to burst around the edge of the breakdown and go over for a poacher’s try. Jones’s conversion made the score 26-14, with 13 minutes left.
Wasps then completed their front-row replacements, with Simon McIntyre taking the place of Tim Payne, ten minutes from time.
Irish stepped up a gear, and some powerful running from Sailosi Tagicakibau made inroads into the Wasps defence. Elliot Daly took a heavy knock to the shoulder, with one courageous tackle. Wasps then lifted the siege, at a five-metre scrum, when they disrupted the Irish ball, forcing the ball to squirt away from the hands of Tomas O’Leary. Joe Simpson gratefully gathered and broke away down the right, before sending a kick downfield.
Wasps made full use of the breakout, with Man of the Match Stephen Jones stretching their lead with another long-range penalty, in the 79th minute.
There was still time for Wasps to add a third try, as a powerful forward drive ended with Zak Taulafo going over in the corner, just five days after his A league hattrick. Jones added another conversion, to make it 36-14.
Wasps then produced the perfect finish with a glorious try, started near their own line. Joe Simpson again showed his blistering pace to reach halfway, before sending Tom Varndell in for his second try of the game, to secure a bonus point. Jones’s conversion was the last act of a glorious afternoon for the Men in Black and Gold.
Wasps now have two away games, in Gloucester and Northampton, before they return to Adams Park, on Sunday, the 7th of October. Worcester Warriors will be the visitors, in the Aviva Premiership.
Hugo Southwell (capt.), Christian Wade, Elliot Daly, Andrea Masi, Stephen Jones, Joe Simpson, Tim Payne, Thomas Rhys Thomas, Fabio Staibano, Tom Palmer, Marco Wentzel, Joe Launchbury, Jonathan Poff, Ashley Johnson
Tom Lindsay, Simon McIntyre, Zak Taulafo, James Haskell, Billy Vunipola, Charlie Davies, Nick Robinson, Tommy Bell
15. Tom Homer; 14. Topsy Ojo 13. Jonathan Joseph; 12. Sailosi Tagicakibau; 11. Marland Yarde 10. Steven Shingler; 9. Tomás O’Leary; 1. Max Lahiff; 2. Scott Lawson; 3. Leo Halavatau; 4. George Skivington; 5. Bryn Evans; 6. Declan Danaher (Captain); 7. Ofisa Treviranus; 8. Jon Fisher
16. Brian Blaney; 17. Halani Aulika; 18. John Ryan; 19. Kieran Low; 20. Alex Gray; 21. Anthony Watson; 22. Shane Geraghty; 23. Jack Moates