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Wasps ended the first batch of Amlin Challenge Cup matches at the top of their pool, with a bonus point win against European debutants Rugby Mogliano. They scored nine tries, in recording their highest ever score in the Challenge Cup.
The haze that had covered the Venice region for much of the weekend had lifted by kickoff time, and the match began in warm sunshine.
After Fabio Staibano had produced a deft offload to Christian Wade, in the first minute, Wasps had a great chance to open the scoring a minute later, when they fielded a long kick and launched an attack from just outside their 22. James Haskell came into the line on the right, and powered through a hole in the defence. He made 20 metres, and had the unmarked Christian Wade in space outside him, but a poor pass landed behind the winger, who was unable to gather, 30 metres from the line.
Wasps eventually took the lead in the eighth minute, following a lineout on the right, ten metres from the Mogliano 22. A forward drive made 15 metres, before Charlie Davies opened up the defence, with a sniping run. He was stopped a few metres short, but the ball was recycled and moved out to the left. When it emerged from another breakdown, Davies broke again, and sent Rhys Thomas in for a try, which Tommy Bell converted.
Three minutes later, a fine run by Elliot Daly set up a chance on the right. He made 20 metres, before feeding Hugo Southwell, ten metres out. He had Christian Wade outside him, but the defence forced a rushed pass, which the winger was unable to gather, a metre from the corner.
Wasps were looking dangerous every time they had the ball, and could have but a lack of precision in the final pass meant they were failing to turn their pressure into points. On 17 minutes, they chose to kick to the corner, from a penalty near the 22. The forwards controlled the ball well, taking the ball right up to the line. When it was released to Ashley Johnson, the number 8 went to ground and tried to stretch over the line, but lost control.
That missed opportunity was soon forgotten, as an excellent shove at the resulting scrum sent the home pack back over the line. After consulting his assistants, the referee awarded a try, but it was impossible to see who had applied the finishing touch, beneath a pile of bodies – the score was later credited to Jonathan Poff. Bell’s conversion made it 14-0, after 20 minutes.
Six minutes later, Wasps added their third try, following some fine work by Christian Wade down the right. He produced some twinkling footwork to spin inside and feed Tommy Bell. The flyhalf twisted and turned through several tackles to make 30 metres, before being stopped, a few metres short of the line. He fed a return pass to Wade, who moved the ball infield, where Hugo Southwell was waiting to step through a gap and force his way over near the posts. Bell added the conversion, to give Wasps a 21-0 lead, but the home side responded immediately, with their first try, when lock Federico Maso went over in the right corner. Edoardo Padovani missed the conversion.
Wasps produced the perfect reply, after Ashley Johnson put in a characteristic charge downfield. He found Tom Palmer in support, and the lock found Christian Wade with a fine pass out to the right. He cut inside one defender and accelerated away for the try which brought up the bonus point. Bell added the conversion, and 28-5 became 35-5 a minute later, after Elliot Daly raced away down the left, before passing inside to Andrea Masi, who had a clear run-in to the posts for Wasps’ fifth try.
Another attack down the left should have produced try number 6, but Jack Wallace’s inside pass failed to find a supporting player and went well forward. Halftime came, with the score still at 35-5 – a dominant position for Wasps, but a lack of precision had cost them several more tries, and they could easily have been 50 points clear.
Wasps made one substitution at the start of the second half, with Joe Launchbury replacing Tom Palmer. The home side started strongly, and controlled possession for the first five minutes after the break, before they eventually conceded a penalty, a few metres outside the Wasps 22. Fabio Staibano made way for Phil Swainston, and Wasps produced their first threat of the second half, when Charlie Davies powered his way into the home 22, after first failing to gather cleanly from a breakdown, 30 metres out. His run resulted in a penalty, and Wasps chose to kick to the corner. Another well-executed catch and drive from the lineout ended with Ashley Johnson going over for the sixth try, which Bell converted, to make the score 42-5, after 49 minutes.
Mogliano then produced another period of controlled possession which ended with a well-deserved second try from winger EzioGalon, after replacement hooker Agustin Costa Repetto broke away from a maul and forced his way through some sloppy defending. Padovani landed the conversion, to take the score to 42-12, after 55 minutes.
Sam Jones was the next Wasps replacement, taking the place of Ashley Johnson. He was soon followed by Lee Thomas and Jonah Holmes, who replaced Andrea Masi and Charlie Davies.
After a sloppy third quarter, Wasps sprang back into life after 63 minutes, when Jack Wallace fielded a clearance kick, inches from the left touchline, 35 metres out. He passed infield to Hugo Southwell, who could see Christian Wade unmarked in acres of space, on the right. Quick passing found the winger, who treated the crowd to a blistering burst of speed, to race clear for his second try of the afternoon. Bell landed another fine conversion, to keep up his 100% record.
It was Southwell’s final action of the afternoon, as he was then replaced By Chris Bell.
With just over ten minutes left, Wasps reached the half-century after another excellent catch and drive from a lineout near the right corner. This time it was Tim Payne who emerged from the drive to go over. Bell’s purple patch ended, as his conversion attempt went just wide.
With Tom Lindsay on for Rhys Thomas, Wasps came close to a ninth try, after Wallace chased Elliot Daly’s kick to the left corner. He did well to flick the ball infield, as he ran into touch. Lindsay was in support, but was unable to gather, from his toes.
With just over a minute left, Lindsay then produced a powerful run, which took him deep into the home 22. He linked with Wallace, who passed back inside to Daly, but a Mogliano hand sent the ball into touch. With the clock at zero, the tried-and-tested catch and drive produced the final try of the afternoon, with Joe Launchbury the man to apply the finishing touch. Bell’s conversion was unsuccessful and the final score was 59-12.
Mention must be made of the warm welcome laid on by the hosts, who were taking great pride in the fact that this was their first ever European home game. The several hundred Wasps fans who made the trip will have fond memories of the food and drink area in the corner of the ground, where the very affordable prosecco flowed freely, and the friendly home supporters contributed to a very happy afternoon.
Next weekend, it’s back to domestic action. On Sunday, the 28th, Wasps are at home to London Welsh, in the Aviva Premiership – the first ever league meeting between the two clubs.
Hugo Southwell (capt.), Christian Wade, Elliot Daly, Andrea Masi, Jack Wallace, Tommy Bell, Charlie Davies, Tim Payne, T Rhys Thomas, Fabio Staibano, Tom Palmer, James Cannon, James Haskell, Jonathan Poff, Ashley Johnson
Replacements: Tom Lindsay, Phil Swainston, Zak Taulafo, Joe Launchbury, Sam Jones, Jonah Holmes, Chris Bell, Lee Thomas
Vittorio Candiago, Alessandro Onori, Enrico Ceccato, CristianCerioni, EzioGalon, EdoardoPadovani, Alberto Lucchese, Andrea Ceccato, Ivan Gianesini, Augusto Allori, Federico Maso, Enrico Pavanello, EdoardoCandiago, Meyer Swanepoel, Matthew Gilbert
Replacements: Agustin Costa Repetto, DavideMeggetto, Laert Naka, Nicola Corbanese, Antonio Giabardo, FilippoGuarducci, Giovanni Benvenuti, Marco Gazzola