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22 Oct 2006: Wasps v Castres Olympique

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Match Report
Wasps's Badge Wasps 19
castres's Badge Castres Olympique 13
Fixture Type: Heineken Cup Venue: Adams Park
Match Date: Sun 22 Oct 2006, Kick Off: 13:00
Referee: Alain Rolland Touch Judge: Alistair McKay
Touch Judge: Eanna O'Dowd

Wasps sneak through Round 1

London Wasps scrapped for a 19-13 win over Castres under pouring rain in their opening Round 1 match of the Heineken Cup this afternoon

Man of the Match Phil Vickery turned in a powerfeul physical performance

In a scrappy game, marred by errors and heavy rain throughout almost the entire 80 minutes, Wasps scratched out a valuable win in the first round of the 2006-7 Heineken Cup against Castres Olympique.

Whilst many Wasps players struggled with handling in the wet conditions, and one on one tackling was perhaps not what it should have been, Tom Rees turned in another stand out performance for the home team, but it was Phil Vickery, playing his first 80 minutes since January 2005, who won the Man of the Match Award from SKY commentator Dewi Morris

The Frenchmen played with grit, if not much ambition, but Wasps rode their luck - at least two knock-ons with the line beckoning and two missed drop goals from the visitors allowed Wasps to stay ahead in a second half that the French dominated in possession and territory.

The first half was a more evenly balanced affair. Castres cleaned up at the line out for the entire match, but Wasps first six points both game from scrum infringements as the French scrum buckled under the pressure of the Payne-Ibanez-Vickery combination in the front row. On both occasions the French conceded a penalty on their own put in, and both times Staunton slotted the three-pointer.

However, Castres fly half Gordon Ross was able to keep his team in contention with two penalties of his own to level the scores at 6-6 after 24 minutes.

Ross kept the Wasps defence turning with a series of chip kicks through the midfield, but as the weather conditions worsened, Wasps altered their tactics and the first of several rumbling mauls upfield lead to Staunton's third penalty of the day giving his team a 9-6 lead in the 33rd minute.Wasps built on this with their best period of play in the game. Raphael Ibanez got things going forward with a gallop up to the half way, and the forwards followed up with a series of pick and go drives into the Castres 22. Tom Rees knocked on as the space opened up on the right flank. Though Castres cleared their lines, Wasps regrouped and a huge driving maul up the centre of the field gave the platform for Eoin Reddan to run a switch with Paul Sackey, who came from left to right on a beautiful line to slice through and score under the posts in first half injury time. Staunton's penalty gave Wasps a 16-6 lead at half time.

However, Castres came out firing for the start of the second half and pressurised Wasps on their own line. A stolen line out led to a five metre scrum, from where Georgian prop Akvensti Giorgadze ploughed over from short range following No8 Faure's pick up and drive.

Castres dominated in terms of territory and possession for the next 20 minutes, spending much of that time in Wasps own 22. Handling errors and a lack of imagination from the midfield saved Wasps, and both Ross and full back Romain Teulet missing with drop goal attempts.

Alex King, replacing Staunton at fly half after 55 minutes, fired off some good diagonal kicks to relieve the pressure at crucial times, and as the game entered the last ten minutes Wasps enjoyed a rare period of pressure as Tom Voyce chased a well placed King punt to catch Teulet in possession behind his own try line. Castres inevitably conceded a penalty under the ensuing pressure and Dallaglio had no hesitation in indicating for posts. Mark Van Gisbergen secured the points and though Castres came back with a spirited attack, Wasps held on for a dour but vital victory.

Paul Sackey scored Wasps only try on the stroke of half time

Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan said, 'We know there's things we want to do better, but we'd have lost a game like that last year. It was ugly, and we lost control in the second half, but despite the weather further deteriorating we stuck at it and held our discipline really well.

Captain Lawrence Dallaglio acknowledged the importance of the win. 'We won and we are the first English side to accomplish that this weekend. Castres put in a proud display and although I know we could have played better, we got off to the right start.'

Click the audio icon at the top of this story for more post match thoughts from Ian McGeechan

Man of the Match: Phil Vickery
HT: 16-6

Referee: Alain Rolland