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Wasps will go into the final two rounds of the Amlin Challenge Cup with a three-point lead at the top of the pool, after a hard-fought win over a Grenoble side who offered much tougher opposition than a week earlier, on their home ground.
Wasps led 16-0 at the break, but Grenoble fought back to 19-12, with twenty minutes left. At that point, an upset looked on the cards, but Wasps kept their nerve, and produced 13 unanswered points, to end up comfortable winners.
Grenoble had an early chance to take the lead, when Tom Palmer was penalised for taking down Henry Vanderglas in the air at a lineout just inside the Wasps 22. Nicolas Bezy went for the posts, but his kick went wide.
The visitors remained camped in Wasps territory, and turned down a kickable penalty inside the Wasps 22, choosing to kick for the corner. It did not pay off, as the lineout throw was not straight.
It wasn't until the tenth minute that Wasps found their way into the Grenoble half, from a Joe Carlisle penalty, but their lineout throw was also crooked.
From the scrum, Grenoble spilled possession, and Will Helu hacked downfield. He won the race to the ball, but lost control as he crossed the line.
A couple of minutes later, Wasps again came close after Tom Varndell came off his wing to send a deft flick to Ben Jacobs. He fed Elliot Daly, who dived for the line, but was adjudged to have gone into touch before crossing it.
The referee had been playing advantage and took play back for a penalty in the Grenoble 22, and Joe Carlisle landed the three points, to give Wasps the lead, with 14 minutes gone.
Varndell then showed his athleticism as he leapt up to flick a long kick back infield, just outside his 22. He fed Joe Carlisle and the flyhalf found an excellent touch near the left corner. Wasps immediately won another penalty at the breakdown, a few metres from the line, and Carlisle had a simple kick to stretch the lead to 6-0.
Straight from the restart, Elliot Daly sent Tom Varndell away down the left. He made 30 metres, before play was moved back out to the right. Carlisle sent a kick out wide, Will Helu fed Ben Jacobs, who took play deep into the Grenoble 22. He found Matt Mullan in support, and the prop passed to James Haskell who juggled with the ball, but managed to hang on to it before crossing for a fine try. Carlisle added the extra points, to put Wasps 13-0 up, after 22 minutes.
Jacobs required treatment to his left ankle after the try and limped off two minutes later. Tommy Bell came on at fullback, with Elliot Daly moving up into the centre.
Eleven minutes before the break, Carlisle landed a 40-metre penalty, to stretch the lead to 16-0. Wasps were then dealt a major blow, when Jack Motes, who had already received extensive treatment, went down again. Injuries meant Wasps had no scrum-half on the bench, and Andrew Sunuila came on, to make his debut, with Daly making another positional change, to take over at scrum-half.
He was immediately required to put the ball into a scrum on halfway, and it produced a penalty for Wasps. Joe Carlisle’s fine effort dropped just short.
Daly was then fed horrible ball from a lineout, ten metres outside the Wasps 22. He was swallowed up by the Grenoble pack and penalised for not releasing. Bezy’s kick hit the left post and almost bounced into a Grenoble hand, and Suniula did well to gather and feed Carlisle, who cleared upfield.
The closing minutes of the half saw the visitors putting severe pressure on the Wasps defence, but the Black and Gold line held firm until the break.
Wasps began the half well, with Suniula picking a good line to power his way into the Grenoble 22, but Carlisle’s chip to the corner went into touch in goal.
Five minutes into the second half, Wasps tried to run the ball from their own 22, but poor passing and handling let them down, giving Grenoble a scrum in an excellent attacking position. A powerful scrum but suspiciously early shove, set up the chance for Ratu Ratini to come off his wing and race through for a try between the posts, giving Bezy the simplest of conversions.
Five minutes later, Bezy attempted a penalty from halfway, but his kick went to the left of the posts.
Grenoble were now coming more and more into the game, but Wasps responded with a monster penalty from Elliot Daly, from five metres inside his own half, and ten metres in from the left touchline.
As the game entered the final quarter, Grenoble stole possession from a Wasps scrum. Replacement scrumhalf Matthieu Loree chipped towards the corner. Tom Varndell slipped as he turned for the ball, and it bounced into the arms of Ratu Ratini, who had a simple run-in for his second try. Bezy missed the conversion, but Wasps nerves were now beginning to jangle.
On 63 minutes, a scrum penalty inside the Grenoble 22 gave Carlisle a normally straightforward kick, made tricky by the constant rain. Four minutes later, the flyhalf stretched the lead to 25-12, with a fine kick from halfway.
Wasps were then gifted a try, when Florian Ninard dropped the ball as he tried to kick to touch, from his 22. He made contact, but only succeeded in sending the ball straight into the arms of Tom Varndell, who had a 30-metre run-in for a simple try to mark his return to action. A fine conversion by MOTM Carlisle took the lead to 32-12, and Wasps ended up comfortable winners.
Wasps are back at Adams Park next Saturday, for the resumption of the Aviva Premiership, when Northampton Saints are the visitors.
Wasps Team: 15. Elliot Daly; 14. Will Helu, 13. Ben Jacobs, 12. Charlie Hayter, 11. Tom Varndell, 10. Joe Carlisle, 9. Jack Moates, 1. Matt Mullan, 2. Tom Lindsay, 3. Jake Cooper-Woolley, 4. James Cannon, 5. Tom Palmer, 6. James Haskell (c), 7. Sam Jones, 8. Ed Jackson
Replacements:16. Carlo Festuccia, 17. Taione Vea, 18. William Taylor, 19. Esteban Lozada, 20. Rory Pitman, 21. Tommy Bell, 22. Andrew Suniula 23. Josh Bassett
Grenoble: 15. Matthieu Nicolas, 14. Ratu Ratini, 13. Shane O'Leary, 12. Geoffroy Messina, 11. Florian Ninard; 10. Ollie Barkley, 9. Nicolas Bézy; 1. Gregory Fabro, 2. Anthony Hegarty, 3. Richard Choirat , 4. Alten Hulme, 5. Hendrik Roodt, 6. Cedric Beal, 7. Henri Vanderglas, 8. Florian Faure (c)
Replacements: 16. Vincent Campo, 17. Romain David, 18. Dayna Edwards, 19. Thibaud Rey, 20. Mathieu Loree, 21. Daniel Kilioni, 22. Fabien Alexandre 23. Roland Bernard