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London Wasps began their season's preparations with at win at Newbury on Saturday. In an attractive spectacle Newbury led for the majority of the match, only surrendering the lead in injury time when Wasps fifth try of the day secured a 29-24 win at full time.
Though Wasps looked rusty, making some simple handling errors and showing suggestions of old problems in the line-out and high early penalty count, there were plenty of positives to counter that. 19 year old fly half Danny Cipriani mixed up his plays well, whilst Rob Hoadley, Fraser Waters and Academy winger Mark Odejobi were cutting good lines off the No10. There were tries for Neil Baxter (2), Rob Hoadley, David Doherty and Ali McKenzie as Wasps proved too fit for the Blues in the final quarter of the match.
Wasps ran out with a slightly changed starting line-up from that announced on Friday. Centre Ayoola Erinle withdrew in injury time with groin and hamstring niggles and Odejobi will be doubtful for the Sevens next weekend after coming off with a shoulder injury after an hour. The biggest disappointment however was the sight of Tom Rees on crutches again. The luckless flanker was unable to start the match after injuring his ankle in contact during the warm-up and will also miss the Sevens and possibly more of pre-season
With international referee Chris White the man in the middle, Newbury were up for the occasion. They showed well from the start, and had the best of the possession and territory for the first half hour, with fly half Tim Walsh threatening to open the scoring on a couple of occasions. Wasps had their own early chances, notably Fraser Waters breaking through to a one on one with Newbury full back Mal Roberts and Neil Baxter coming close before being driven into touch inches from the line.
New bury were on the scoreboard first, a well executed two on one allowed Roberts to touch down on the half hour, though Wasps hit back from the restart, Joe Ward feeding Baxter for the score.
Lying 7 points a-piece at half time, Newbury came out for the second half with all guns blazing. Only a try saving tackle from replacement fly half, Dave Walder prevented the Blues from stretching their lead after Tim Walsh had kicked a penalty in the 42nd minute.
Wasps went ahead for the first time thanks to a break from lively back rower Dan Leo. The Samoan, who was certainly the pick of the forwards on show, broke down the middle, with Simon Amor athletically gathering Leo's offload and quick recycling seeing Hoadley over the line for a 12-10 lead.
Newbury's reply from Walsh, following a quick penalty from scrum half Chow Mezger, regained the lead for Newbury. However, Wasps forwards were becoming ascendant, and the team were starting to build more coherent attacks. In the 67th minute James Honeyben, deputising on the wing, made the extra man as Wasps overstretched the hosts' defence for Walder to put Baxter in at the corner for his second of the day.
Newbury answered with a good score for lock Gregor Hayter, and at 24-17 with five minutes remaining the home crowd began to sniff an upset. It was not to be though, as two tries for Doherty and McKenzie in the closing minutes ensured Wasps ran out winners.
Head Coach Shaun Edwards expressed mixed feeling following the game. 'We were very rusty to say the least, particularly in defence. It showed that the players had had a week's break prior to the build up for this game.
'There were positives though. In training we've been working on ways to create turnovers, and we did create more turnovers today - which led to two of the tries.'
Speaking of the new recruits to the squad, Edwards said, 'It will take all of them a while to find their feet, but I thought Dave Walder was very composed, and David Doherty showed his pace for his try at the end. '
Referee: Chris White