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Match Report
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24 Nov 2002: London Wasps v Sale Sharks

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Match Report
London Wasps's Badge London Wasps 25
Sharks's Badge Sale Sharks 32
Fixture Type: Zurich Premiership Venue: Adams Park
Match Date: Sun 24 Nov 2002, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Roy Maybank

First home loss for London Wasps

There is a saying that says 'Records are there to be broken' and last Sunday, London Wasps unbeaten home record came to an abrupt and bitter end, with the Men in Black losing to the Sharks 32-25.

The match will go down as very scrappy and full of handling errors from both sides, but the lack of depth in the London Wasps side was evident.

Warren Gatland said, 'Unfortunately the harsh reality of this loss is that if you take four or five key players out of the side, our depth is not good enough'.

Key players such as Lawrence Dallaglio, Simon Shaw, Joe Worsley, Phil Greening and Peter Scrivener have proven to be the cornerstone on which the side revolves, unfortunately with the corner stone missing, London Wasps paid the price with the first home loss in more than a year.

The game started at a quick pace and with both sides looking to establish themselves early on, it didn't take long before Alex King was given the ball and asked to slot an easy penalty. He made no mistake and the home side led 3-0.

The Sharks game plan was revolved around scrumhalf Nick Walshe and flyhalf Jos Baxendell, and it was obvious early on that the two kickers would control the pattern of play. A neat cross-field kick from Baxendell nearly ended up in the hands of Mark Cueto in the in goal area. Fortunately, Cueto knocked on. It wasn't long after that, that the Men in Black got penalised for diving over the maul and Walshe made no mistake to level the scores at 3-3.

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Two minutes later, the Sharks were penalised for coming into ruck from wrong side, King missed the long-range attempt, but made up for it when a few moments later the Sharks conceded another penalty. King sailed the ball between the uprights and London Wasps lead 6-3

The first try of the game came in the 18th minute, courtesy of winger Shane Roiser. A scrum awarded to London Wasps near the Sharks tryline, saw a quick ball feed to Roiser, who has proven deadly from that short range and finding the tryline. King converted and the home supporters cheered on as London Wasps opened a 13-3 lead.

Halfway through the first half, the rain came down and the match became riddled with handling errors and players sliding all over the place.

Walshe narrowed the gap, with another penalty, to 13-6, and with halftime approaching, it didn't take long before pressure from the Sharks forwards resulted in quick turnover ball. Sharks captain, Stuart Pinkerton charged towards the London Wasps tryline and a neat layoff to Dean Schofield, saw the big lock crash over. Walshe missed the easy conversion and Rob Howley lead his team off leading 13-11.

The second half saw Mark Van Gisbergen replacing King after an awkward fall saw him sustain whiplash.

It didn't take long before poor tackling in the 45th minute saw Sharks lock, Chris Jones, waltz through the London Wasps defence and score the Sharks second try. Walshe converted and the Manchester based side found themselves in front 13-18.

With the home crowd still stunned at the ease of the try, Van Gisbergen was adding another penalty in the 48th minute and closed the gap to 16-18.
The rain was still ever present and with the ball like a cake of soap, catching any high ball was proving to be a difficult task. Sharks fullback, Vaughan Going, must have set a Zurich Premiership record for the most dropped balls and knock-on's, as pressure from the boot of Van Gisbergen and Josh Lewsey saw him struggle with the conditions.

Nevertheless as Going was struggling, his team mate, Steve Hanley, found another hole in the London Wasps to score a soft try. Walshe converted and The Men in Black trailed 16-25.

A nine-point gap was needed to get level and it started with a 58th minute penalty by Van Gisbergen who closed the gap to 19-25. The New Zealander has proven an outstanding replacement for King this season and made no mistake with the boot. Ten minutes later he had added another two difficult penalties and London Wasps clawed themselves back 25-all

With less than eight minutes left, the game was there for the taking. An error riddled game saw abundance of missed chances and mistakes, but with time ticking away it was left to Sharks winger Mark Cueto to silence the crowds. A poor clearance from London Wasps saw the resulting line-out produce a rolling maul from the Sharks and Cueto scored. Walshe converted and the game ended 25-32 to the Sharks.


It was the first home loss the new support base at Adams Park witnessed, and the first for over a year. Gatland said, 'We had no excuse; a team that scores four tries against you deserves to win'. He later said, - There was certain aspects of the game that I was happy with, we concentrated on our penalties and only gave away a few silly ones. The penalty count was about 8-10 to us, however we got ourselves back into the game and on the day we weren't good enough. To me one or two certain individuals let themselves down'.

London Wasps next game will be against the Leeds Tykes on 1st December, with not a win in over a month, The Leeds game proves a daunting prospect. The only conciliation will be that a bonus point was scored and the Headingley match will see the return of the London Wasps big guns.