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London Wasps suffered only their second defeat in two seasons at Adams Park on Sunday, out muscled by 19-13 by a well drilled Leicester Tigers side.
There was little to choose between the sides at half time, the sides going in a 10-10, but in the second half Wasps lacked penetration and the boot of Ian Humphreys was enough to ensure Leicester the win.
The opening 20 minutes was pretty end to end stuff, as first Wasps and then Leicester enjoyed some good attacking moments. Alex King missed a sitter of a drop goal in the third minute after Wasps started brightly, and therefore it was Leicester first on the scoreboard, courtesy of Humphreys penalty after 11 minutes.
His kick was delayed however, as Wasps centre Ayoola Erinle was stretchered from the pitch with a suspected broken leg. He was replace by Jeremy Staunton, who brought Wasps level with his own three pointer 5 minutes later, and Alex King added Wasps only try shortly after. The score came after James Haskell, Wasps Man of the Match, bashed up the middle, and as the ball squirted over his shoulder in the contact, Staunton plucked it from the air and offloaded to King who, half tackled just short of the line, was not held and managed to scramble over for the score.
Leicester were making chances of their own however. Humphreys was looking bright at ten and was finding gaps for himself and centre Daryl Gibson and Dan Hipkiss in the Wasps midfield that kept Edd Thower busy in defence.
In the 25th minute Humphrey changed the direction of play with a switch behind the scrum that opened up a big hole for Shane Jennings. Tackled by Thrower he offloaded to Gibson, who was scragged by Dallaglio just metres out.. Jennings followed up to scoop the lose ball over the line for a try, though Dallaglio was in no doubt that the ball had gone forward out of the tackle. The try stood however, and Humphreys conversion took the score to 10-10.
Both teams had further chances before half time, Buckland spilling the ball with the try line in front of him, and Thrower swallowed up as the defence were unphased by his dummy and hauled him down short of the line. Tigers were beginning to assert themselves up front however, and a huge driving maul made them at least 20 metres before Ellis broke away blind, only Alex King's tap tackle stopping him from a score.
After half time Thrower did cross the line in the left corner, only for referee David Rose to disallow the try for a forward pass. The score had come after Thrower had tried for a drop goal. His kick bounced off a Leicester player and into the grateful arms of Haskell, who set off into the Tigers 22 before giving the erroneous pass to Thrower for the score.
Haskell's back row partner, Tom Rees was also getting into the action with some barnstorming runs up the middle, but Wasps could not build any momentum as they were being driven off the ball fairly consistently by a stronger looking Leicester pack. Jeremy Staunton had a chance to put Wasps ahead in the 45minute, but was of target. Humphreys however made not mistake ten minutes later to give the visitors the lead.
Wasps were lucky not to go further behind, as Humphreys capitalised on a Wasps handling error, putting boot to ball to set up a race for the line between Alex King and Tom Varndell. There was no doubt that Varndell had the gas to overhaul the Wasps man, but his circuitous route around the post as the ball bounced into the dead ball area allowed the more wily King to nip in and steal the touchdown.
Peter Bracken was shown a yellow card on the hour for a high tackle on centre Hipkiss and, with the subsequent penalty, Humphreys stretched the Leicester lead. His side were now establishing some dominance, and another penalty in the 71st minute put Leicester nine points ahead. This seemed to spur Wasps into action and they spent the last ten minutes pretty much camped in Leicester's 22. Buckland was sent to the sin bin for killing the ball after Thrower and Sackey had combined to take Wasps to within arms length of the try line, but Staunton was wide the with penalty that followed.
In another wave of attack, substitute Cipriani's great offload threatened to open up the gap for a score, but time was not on the hosts' side and therefore King chose to drop into the pocket and take the three points whilst they were available, his drop goal ensuring Wasps took a bonus point from an otherwise disappointing display.
Ian McGeechan's appraisal of the game afterwards was suitably pragmatic.
'It the poorest we've been since I've been here, and I am disappointed. In the contact area we were poor, and we very rarely got on the front foot. When we did, in the last five minutes, it looked very different, but for most of the game that wasn't the case. If we were doing that every week, I'd be worried. I don't want to repeat it.'
Referee: David Rose
Man of the Match: James Haskell