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On a foul afternoon at Adams Park, Wasps made it eight wins out of nine, with a hard-fought win over a strong London Irish side.
Playing with the elements in their favour, Wasps ran in three first-half tries to lead 19-10 at the break. Irish fought back after the break, but an excellent defensive performance in the last few minutes ensured that Wasps secured their first win of this season’s LV=Cup campaign.
Wasps came close in the opening minute, when Joe Carlisle sent a well-judged kick into open space down the right touchline. Tom Howe got to the ball, to hack downfield, and Will Helu did well to gather from his toes, just inside the Irish 22. The Irish defence got back in numbers, to win possession and a scrum put-in.
From that scrum, Tommy Bell gathered a long clearance, to launch a counterattack. The ball was spun wide to the left, and Will Helu showed excellent strength and footwork to cut back infield. The forwards made a series of drives for the line, before the ball emerged to skipper Charlie Davies who twisted his way over for the opening score, after just four minutes. Joe Carlisle landed the conversion.
Irish opened their account, after a Wasps attack broke down, when Josh Bassett lost possession, inside the visitors’ 22. Tomas O’Leary gathered and cleared downfield, into the path of Topsy Ojo. He rode two tackles, before offloading and the ball was moved quickly out to the left, where Sailosi Tagicakibau produced a devastating burst of speed from halfway, before rounding Joe Carlisle, to go over near the corner. Shane Geraghty was unable to land the difficult conversion.
With heavy rain now falling, and a strong wind at their back, Wasps produced the next significant attack, after Carlisle put in a delicate chip, from a few metres inside his own fall. He couldn’t gather, but got a foot to the ball, to send it deep into the Irish 22. Tom Homer got back to gather, but the Irish defence was penalised at the breakdown. Wasps went for the corner, and a well-controlled catch and drive saw Ed Jackson get the touchdown, inches from the left corner. In the swirling wind, Carlisle’s conversion attempt hit the left upright.
A storming run by Rory Pitman set up another penalty for Wasps, which was again kicked to the corner. This time, the Irish forwards repelled the initial drive, and Wasps were shunted infield. The ball was released out to the right, where Tom Howe made a few metres, before being stopped. Quick possession was won, and Andrew Suniula threw a long pass out to Josh Bassett, who stepped inside Topsy Ojo, and the outside Tom Homer to go over for a third Wasps try. With the help of Tom Lindsay holding the ball in place, Joe Carlisle landed a fine conversion to take the score to 19-5, after 25 highly entertaining minutes.
Five minutes before halftime, Irish registered their second try. As with the second Wasps score, it resulted from a penalty to the corner, followed by a catch and drive, with Chris Hala’ufia applying the finishing touch. Geraghty again missed a tricky conversion, leaving the score at 19-10.
That was how it stayed until the break, leaving Wasps facing forty minutes with the elements heavily against them.
The start of the second half coincided with the heaviest rain of the day. Despite that, Wasps controlled the opening few minutes, keeping Irish pinned in their own territory. After 48 minutes, Wasps had a chance to extend their lead, when Carlisle had a penalty, inside the Irish 22, and a few metres in from the left touchline. Although the wind had eased, he was unable to find the target.
With 15 minutes of the half gone, and the rain once again teeming down, play was suspended, with the Irish centre Guy Armitage surrounded by medics, after what looked like a serious injury. After several minutes of treatment, he was carried off the field on a stretcher. On his departure, the players returned to the field and play resumed.
On the hour, the arrival of Andrea Masi, after a four-month injury lay-off, produced one of the loudest cheers of the afternoon. He took the place of Will Helu. Three minutes later, Irish replacement prop Jamie Hagan crossed for a try, after sustained pressure near the right corner. Myles Dorrian missed the conversion, but the gap was now down to just four points.
Wasps went straight back on the attack, and came close to a try, when Joe Carlisle lost possession, as he went for the line. Play was called back for a penalty in front of the posts, and Carlisle landed the simple kick, to put Wasps 22-15 ahead, with 13 minutes left to play.
Some deft handling amongst the Irish forwards brought them tantalisingly close to a try in the left corner, but a fortuitous deflection sent the ball into the hands of Tom Howe, inches from the line. Carlisle’s clearance struck an Irish hand before going out of play, but Wasps lost possession at the resultant lineout, giving the visitors an excellent attacking position. They controlled the ball through a series of phases, but sturdy defence sent them backwards and eventually forced a knock on, just inside the 22.
In the closing minutes, Irish were unable to control the ball to give themselves the chance to save the match, and the game ended with a reset scrum, just inside the Irish half. Wasps won possession and went through three phases, before the ball found Joe Carlisle, who thumped the ball out of play.
London Wasps host London Irish at Adams Park again in three weekend’s time following trips to Kingsholm and the Stoop. To get your tickets for the game go to www.wasps.co.uk/tickets.
London Wasps team to play London Irish
15. Tommy Bell
14. Tom Howe
13. Will Helu
12. Andrew Suniula
11. Josh Bassett
10. Joe Carlisle
9. Charlie Davies (c)
1. Taione Vea
2. Tom Lindsay
3. Will Taylor
4. Will Rowlands
5. James Cannon
6. Ed Jackson
7. Matt Everard
8. Rory Pitman
16. Kevin Davies
17. Ricky Reeves
18. Phil Swainston
19. Tom Palmer
20. Guy Thompson
21. Matt Heeks
22. Andrea Masi
23. Charlie Hayter