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In a performance of intensity and steel London Wasps overcame Perpignan to remain in the driving seat in Pool 1 of the Heineken Cup going into the final round of games next week.
Try honours were even at one a-piece, but it was the boot of Alex King that took Wasps ahead and kept them there. In contrast, Perpignan replacement fly half, Steve Meyer was off target 3 times after coming on for Nicolas Laharrague after an hour, squandering the 8 points that would have brought his team at least a losing bonus point and possibly a nail-biting end to the game.
As it was Ovidiu Tonita's try in the 72nd minute was where Perpignan's come back started and finished, after Wasps had gone 22-6 ahead following a try from Dominic Waldouck in the 62nd minute.
Waldouck celebrated his first of what will undoubtedly be many tries for his club by sliding in under the post in the 62nd minute. It was a simple finish after the teenaged centre charged down Laharrague's kick for touch and sprinted on to collect the ball cleanly and head for the line, Perpignan's wrong-footed defence able only to turn and watch.
Waldouck celebrated with his Academy team mate Danny Cipriani, who also caught the eye with some exciting attacks from deep, but if youth did their bit towards the win, so did experience. Alex King had another faultless afternoon with the boot, whilst in the back row Joe Worsley was huge in defence and powerful in attack, making several line breaks, and captain Lawrence Dallaglio led from the front, his tackle count the highest it has been all season as he drove the heart of a magnificent defensive effort from his team.
King had slotted four penalties to give Wasps 12-3 lead at half time after Perpignan's efforts to slow down the game had resulted in yellow cards for flanker Gregory Le Corvec after 30 minutes and then hooker Michel Konieck in first half injury time.
Both sides created opportunities that they could have made more of, Perpignan finding space on the counter attack on several occasions, but losing their advantage with poor decision making. Wasps too, could not maintain the pressure in attack that would have opened up the space. Lewsey and Waldouck combined well though. Early in the first half Lewsey's step inside and offload allowed Waldouck to grubber through for Voyce to chase, though the Wasps winger was beaten in the race for the touchdown by opposite number Samueli Dawai Naulu.
Again in the second half the two centres worked in concert to set up an attack that breached Perpignan's first line of defence and took them into the attacking 22, but poor passing meant Wasps lost their momentum and gave the Catalans the time to recover their defence and snuff out the attack.
Voyce also made one of his characteristic mazy runs upfield, after taking a quick tap from a mark in his own 22. Tom Palmer was in support but isolated and Perpignan were able to smother that chance too.
Worsley's work with the ball in hand was matched by his defence, notably a couple of try saving tackles made on Perpignan centre Grandclaude and winger Dawia Naulu, and this all round performance won him the Man of the Match Award from SKY commentator Stuart Barnes.
King was the lynchpin of the game though, releasing his centres on the attack and solid with the boot to ensure Wasps took all the points on offer. He too was also probing with the ball in hand, threatening to ghost through on a number of occasions, though his best scoring opportunity came at the end of the first half when he and scrum half Eoin Reddan made yardage together on the blind side. Though Perpignan turned the ball over yards from their own line, Laharrague's botched clearance kick fell straight into King's arms, where he was tackled miles offside by hooker Konieck as his path to the line looked clear. Following a yellow card for the Perpignan man, King coolly slotted the penalty from a wide position.
Wasps pack were physical and abrasive up front, Tim Payne in particular having a good game as they dominated Perpignan in the set piece. The front five came off the pitch carrying their badges off honour at full time, Simon Shaw sporting a huge shiner whist Phil Vickery gave everyone a fright after flying out of a ruck to collapse in a heap following an accidental elbow to his temple. Thankfully, after a lengthy stoppage, the England captain recovered to continue with no cause for further concern about his fitness.However, it was the Perpignan pack driving over that gave the French team their try, late in the game, but Meyer missed with the conversion and a subsequent penalty that would have given his team a bonus point and keep them in the chase for qualification.
As it is, Perpignan are now out of the running, and Wasps travel to Castres next Saturday knowing a losing bonus point would be enough to secure qualification.
Both coaches were understandably pleased with their team's performance and the result.
'If you kick your goals and have outstanding defence, you make it tough for your opponents,' said Director of Rugby, Ian McGeechan. 'Then you afford to be patient and wait for the opportunities for the other scores.'
Praising a solid team performance, McGeechan said, 'I think everyone took responsibility for their game today. It's been a great experienced for the younger players and the pack were magnificent. We were 100% in the line out this afternoon, and all our set piece work - all the work that wins you things, that you need to rely on - was there.
Head Coach Shaun Edwards was also conscious of the step up in his team's performance
'Three years ago we probably had the best defence in the competition, and that's why we won it. The reason we haven't got through in the last two years is because our defence hasn't been strong enough, we've let too many tries in.
'So far this time around, we've let in only three tries and it's no secret we're tackling better, and that why we are in pole potion
And on the performance of rising stars Cipriani and Waldouck, products of Wasps Academy system, he said, 'It's really nice to develop your own. The young players aren't looking out of place out there, and they were virtual match winners for us this afternoon.
'Every time Danny gets the ball you're on the edge of your seat, he looks electric at full back; and obviously Dom was rock solid in defence and he was the match winner by charging that kick down.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Man of the Match: Joe Worsley