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Match Report

27 Dec 2002: Wasps v Leicester Tigers

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Match Report
Tigers's Badge Wasps 26
Wasps's Badge Wasps 13
Fixture Type: Zurich Premiership Venue: Adams Park
Match Date: Fri 27 Dec 2002, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Dave Pearson

Another ‘Big’ scalp by London Wasps

London Wasps added the Leicester Tigers to their names of ‘big scalps’ on Friday by beating Dean Richards’ men 26-13.

The Men in Black have made it a habit this season of beating the in-form sides, and wins over league-leaders Gloucester, high-flying Leeds Tykes and now the mighty Tigers, have proven that Warren Gatland’s team are worthy of a top-half place in the Zurich Premiership.

After last week’s poor performance against Bath, London Wasps out-played their opponents for most parts of the game, especially the second half, and thoroughly deserved the four points.


Warren Gatland said, “The key for this week was that our season was on the line today and a loss would have left us destined for that mid-table position for the remainder of the season, and the win keeps us in touch with the leaders”.

The first half could be described as a stop-start affair as both sides battled to stamp their authority. Wasps had all possession but failed to convert them into points.

Alex King opened the scoring with a penalty in the 7th minute after Martin Johnson’s men were caught offside in front of the posts. King neatly slotted the kick and the home side led 3-0.

The Tigers had a chance to level the scores after 11 minutes, but fullback, Tim Stimpson, missed a rather easy penalty.

Two minutes later the first replacement was on the field as Andy Kershaw came on for Craig Dowd, who was sent to the blood bin with a nasty cut on his cheek. Dowd went to have the damage repaired and was soon back on. During that time, Wasps could have extended the lead to six points, however King missed from about 35m out.

The first try of the game, which came from the Tigers, ironically, came from a good piece of positional kicking from Wasps. Scrumhalf Rob Howley neatly kicked the ball down the line and into the Tigers’ corner from his own half. The resulting lineout saw a long throw go to Martin Johnson. Johnson laid the ball off to Josh Kronfeld, who somehow broke free of the tackles and sped down the middle of the pitch. Eventually he was brought down on the halfway line, but the New Zealander had time to pass to scrumhalf Harry Ellis who showed a clean pair of heels and scored in the corner. Stimpson converted and the visitors led 3-7 after 25 minutes.

King missed another penalty in the 34th minute but when theTigers No.8 Adam Balding was yellow carded for diving on and killing the ball, King made up for his earlier misses and took the score to 6-7.

Just before half-time Wasps were penalised for being offside again and with Stimpson slotting the penalty, Lawrence Dallaglio led his side into the changing room trailing 6-10.

Alex King was definitely the London Wasps highlight of the first half. His running with the ball and finding space amongst the strong Tigers defence was outstanding.

Within two minutes of the second half, King added a drop goal to his two earlier penalties. A rolling maul saw the ball recycled to King who casually slotted the drop and took Wasps within one point of Tigers to 9-10.

Things went from bad to worse for Craig Dowd, who came off with a calf strain. The New Zealander limped off the field and was replaced again by Andy Kershaw, and when Warren thought his front-row worries could not get any worse, Wasps lost Trevor Leota. The big Samoan was yellow carded for diving on and killing the ball, the same offence as Balding in the 59th minute and Stimpson slotted the penalty and the gap opened to 9-13.

A man down, and four points behind, the game could have become worse for Warren Gatland’s team, but somehow it didn’t. No sooner had the game been restarted from the Stimpson penalty, than Josh Lewsey scored. To be fair the try was made by Stuart Abbott. Abbott carved a way around the Tigers clutches to take himself within 10m of the line, Lewsey was on hand to collect and did well to wrangle his body across the line. The home fans went crazy as Wasps took the lead for the first time. King made no mistake with the conversion to take the score to 16-13.

For Leicester things went a little wayward after that try, as referee Dave Pearson penalised them for another offense within the ruck. King was on song and stretched the lead to 19-13.

Wasps have made it a bit of a habit of giving games away when leading. The draws against Bath and Leeds earlier in the season proved this and the home fans must have being wondering if the team would slip up again.

That answer came from Rob Howley in the 71st minute. A small bit of individual brilliance laid to rest any fears of a Tigers comeback. The Welshman picked the ball up from a ruck, dummied his opposite number and the Tigers flankers and darted across to score in what can only be described as a typical Rob Howley try. A truly superb individual try.

The final nail in the coffin came when King converted and took the score to 26-13.

A final 20-minute onslaught proved just what a side Wasps could be. The centre paring of Fraser Waters and Stuart Abbott was outstanding as well as the Howley &ndash King combination. Simon Shaw did himself proud next to Martin Johnson and in front of Clive Woodward who was sitting in the stands.

Gatland added, “We know if we can perform on the day, we are as good as anybody in this competition and today proved that”.

Next week the side will face Nigel Melville and his Cherry and Whites.