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London Wasps recorded a 42-23 defeat over local rivals Harlequins to go top of the table on Sunday, but through the score line hid a disappointing performance by both sides, as Wasps Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan is still waiting for the potential in his team to become a performance.
Wasps scored five tries, and thus picked up their first try bonus point of the season, but as McGeechan said after the match, the Wasps try tally could have been double that, as poor execution held the team back.
Harlequins scored three times, two of them via some generous defending from Wasps, but handling errors were prevalent on both sides, and Wasps fragility at reception from kick off and restart allowed Harlequins one score and also handed them strong attacking platforms on several other occasions.
The mistakes started early, when Wasps handed Harlequins early possession with a fluffed kick off reception, and Jarvis had two early pots at goal, though he hit the target with only one.
Wasps recovered to make a big impression with their first helping of possession though, as an enormous forwards drive took them into Quins half. Dave Walder attempted a jink through but was held up just short of the line and referee Dave Pearson brought play back for a penalty, but Walder surprisingly missed the simple kick.
Wasps continued to pile on the pressure, and Ayoola Erinle's pass out of contact put Paul Sackey in space down the right. Referee Pearson spotted Harlequins obstruction that prevented Jeremy Staunton taking Sackey's inside pass, and Walder underlined Wasps ambition by kicking for the line out. Wasps subsequent catch and drive gave Dan Leo Wasps' first try of the day after 15 minutes, Walder successfully adding the extras.
We let a side massively off the hook today
Another fumble from the restart handed possession back to Quins however, and from the consequent scrum, No9 Steve So'oialo moved the ball blind for Monye to score a relatively soft try in the corner and give his side a 7-8 lead.
Wasps next score came from another successful Walder penalty, and minutes after Andre Vos was ordered from the field for ten minutes by referee Pearson for killing the ball. With the man advantage, the home side's second try of the day soon followed. A clean as a whistle line out take from lock Tom Palmer allowed Wasps to move the ball quickly to Hoadley on the wing, (a late replacement for Josh Lewsey, who withdrew with a hamstring problem) and then build the phases as they came back across the pitch, Walder mixing up the play and the forwards finishing off the move with some battering runs. John Hart finally reached over the line for Wasps second touch down of the day, Walder's conversion extending Wasps lead to 17-8 on the half hour.
Wasps front five showed their ability with the ball in hand as the home side built well in the second quarter. Simon Shaw was showing signs of having a big game - his performance eventually winning him the man of the Match Award, while Palmer, Ibanez and Bracken all had good runs with the ball. But Wasps were not able to maintain pressure with any consistency, and a penalty from each fly half rounded things of at half time, though Quins had the try line begging in injury time and only a poor pass saved Wasps from conceding a second score.
The second half started with another Harlequins missed opportunity, Monye spilling the ball with the try line at his mercy, and both sides spurned attacking opportunities through poor handling in the midfield.
Paul Volley was Quins second man in the bin after 46 minutes, and after Walder slotted the subsequent penalty, Wasps worked the ball well from the restart for their third touchdown. With a play that started in their own 22 the forwards did well, sucking Quins defence into centre field with some good ball carrying, before Staunton sent the ball wide for Sackey to snap up and scoot down the wing, cutting back inside to score under the posts. Walder's conversion stretched Wasps lead to 30-11 at the 50 minute mark.
There were breaks from both sides for supporters to cheer in as the game neared the hour. First Walder got in behind the Quins midfield and offloaded to full back Tom Voyce, only for Voyce's opposite number Tom Williams to haul Voyce down with a try saving tackle.
As Quins quickly regained possession, Steve So'oialo took off from a quick tap penalty, and was inside Wasps 22 before Simon Shaw found the pace to catch the scrum half and prevent the score.
Back in Wasps attacking third, Walder's beautifully wieghted chip saw David Doherty in a chase to the line with Williams, but once again the busy Quins full back saved his side, getting a toe to the ball land sliding it into touch.
However, no sooner were Quins back up to full strength, with the return of Volley from the sin bin, than Hal Luscombe was sent to replace him. Furthermore, Volley was lucky not to get sent off after killing the ball at a Wasps attacking line out metres from the line, when the referee appeared to go for his pocket, and then settled for a stern warning for the former Wasps man.
The man advantage was soon to tell again though, as Sackey grabbed his second try of the day thanks to an Alex King grubber which kicked up nicely for Sackey on his wing to sprint through and finish off under the posts and put Wasps 37-11 ahead.
Jeremy Staunton gifted Quins a score soon after the restart, his long pass picked off by Quins replacement Nick Easter, who did well to hold off challenges from Erinle and Doherty before crossing the whitewash.
The biggest roar of the day however was reserved for Peter Bracken, who re-established the home side's 26 point lead with his first try for Wasps in the 72 minute, breaking out from the fringe of a maul to gallop over the line to the delight of the crowd. Alex King's conversion represented his 998th point in league rugby for the team, but despite a penalty opportunity in front of the posts, Wasps chose to take a scrum and Alex's chance to make the 1,000 did not materialise.
Wasps had their chances in the dying minutes, first replacement James Haskell's break threatening to add to Wasps points tally, and then David Doherty's grubber through to the line, which lacked a Wasps man to chase it.
Conversely, Quins snapped up the ball in their in 22 following Doherty's kick and, playing for pride and with nothing left on the clock, kept the ball alive for a good two minutes before Adrian Jarvis's cross kick found Monye on the wing. Faced with a one on one with Alex King, Monye chipped the ball through for Hal Luscombe to collect and score with the final action of the game.
After the game, and despite the result Director of Rugby McGeechan was not satisfied with this team's performance.
'I think that we felt at half time and after the game that we let a side massively off the hook today. We scored five tries comfortably and we could have probably doubled that. The only pleasing thing probably is that there is fifty percent more to come out of the team.
'Tactically I thought we played well, but our execution, the final pass or the killer run that you've done all the work for, was the problem. We got into those positions and then didn't execute.
'The shape of our game is pretty good. The forwards are going well giving us a real platform to be working off. We could have made more of that driving forward play, as what we can do off that platform is the exciting, but execution-wise we have got to be a lot better.
'I think we should be, and we are, targeting performance levels that are consistently should above what we produced today. The problem is nothing else other then execution, and the players are probably the hardest on themselves out of anyone about that. We will be working on it and doing it well because the players, even more so than me or the other coaches, will want to have things at the optimum level.'
Referee: Dave Pearson
Tries: Leo, Hart, Sackey (2), Bracken
Con: Walder 3, King
Pen: Walder 3
Tries: Monye, Easter, Luscombe
Pen: Jarvis 2