Wasps return with LBP from fantastic encounter in La Rochelle

Wasps’ chances of a fourth successive Champions Cup quarter-final hang in the balance, needing a win next Sunday in the return-leg at the Ricoh Arena, after the Top 14 leaders put on a stunning display of pace, power and skill, to claim their third bonus point win and go clear at the top of Pool 1.

49 - 29
Stade Rochelais Wasps

Sun 10th December 2017
2:00 pm

Stade Marcel Deflandre Stadium European Rugby Champions Cup As it happened

In the face of such quality opposition, Wasps showed considerable spirit and were rewarded with a try bonus point as Joe Simpson dived over, followed by a debut try for Will Stuart five minutes from time. Despite the 20-point victory margin, the final try count was only 6-5 in favour of the home side - a tally which hardly reflected the quality of their performance, but did show the valiance of Wasps' defensive effort.

Wasps were forced into a late change before kick-off, with Rob Miller replacing Willie Le Roux at full back after the Springbok had to pull out through sickness. Miller put in a fine performance and was the man to open Wasps' try-scoring account.

Despite forecasts of heavy rain and strong winds, the match began in dry conditions, with only a gentle breeze. However, earlier rain had left a very soft surface which was already cutting up during the warm-up.

After Wasps kicked off, the home side used their huge forwards to slowly work their way out of their 22. After several phases they finally made progress upfield, before a powerful charge by skipper Jason Eaton took them deep into the Wasps 22, but they were forced into touch near the left corner.

With six minutes gone and La Rochelle continuing to dominate possession, Wasps were penalised for what was deemed to be a tip tackle 12 metres inside their own half. After consulting the TMO the referee showed Thomas Young a yellow card. Brock James landed the kick to open the scoring.

From the restart La Rochelle tried to run the ball out of defence, but knocked on just inside their 22. Wasps won the scrum and moved the ball along the backs. Rob Miller joined the line and his diagonal run and strong finish took him over for a try near the right corner. Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion went narrowly wide from the far touchline.

The home side struck back immediately when Danny Cipriani’s clearance was charged down by Pierre Aguillon a few metres from the Wasps line. The centre gathered the ball to go over for a simple try, which James converted.

Cipriani’s restart then went out on the full, giving La Rochelle a scrum on halfway. They moved the ball out to the left, where Geoffrey Doumayrou found a gap to burst into the 22. It took a last-ditch tap tackle by Jimmy Gopperth to save the day and the ball was spilt. Wasps won a penalty at the resultant scrum and cleared to their 10-metre line.

La Rochelle were immediately back on the attack when hooker Pierre Bourgarit pounced on the stray lineout throw, to go charging back into the 22. He was stopped just short, but quick possession was won and it was Bougarit who went over near the posts. James’ conversion stretched the lead to 17-5 with only 18 minutes played.

With Thomas Young back from the bin, Christian Wade did well to win the restart and Wasps put together their first sustained period of pressure. Although they were eventually forced back out of the 22, they won a penalty to set up a lineout 15 metres out. Dan Robson fed Thomas Young on the blind side and the flanker evaded two tackles to go in at the corner. Jimmy Gopperth’s touchline conversion narrowed the gap to 17-12.

Within three minutes, La Rochelle added a third try after Aguillon had gone close in the right corner. When the ball came back infield the flanker was on hand to cross near the posts and another James conversion restored the 12-point advantage at 24-12, with 13 minutes of the half to play.

Six minutes before the break Juan de Jongh was penalised for a high tackle on Brock James, 13 metres inside the Wasps half. From directly in front of the posts the fly-half added three more points, to take his side three scores clear.

Three minutes later with a La Rochelle overlap on the left, Juan de Jongh became the second Wasps player sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on, just outside the 22. James turned down a kick at goal to set up a lineout near the left corner. Wasps did well to stop the drive in its tracks, but La Rochelle retained possession to set up an attacking scrum a few metres from the line. A penalty ensued and another successful James kick made the halftime score 30-12.

With the expected rain having finally arrived, Wasps found some continuity in the opening minutes of the second half, but failure to control the slippery ball eventually cost them a penalty just inside the La Rochelle half. James’ penalty found touch 15 metre from the line.

From the lineout the ball was moved out wide, but it went loose only for a Wasps clearance to be charged down and Vincent Rattez dived over in the right corner to secure the bonus point. James hit the post with his conversion, but La Rochelle were almost out of sight at 35-12 with over half an hour still to come.

After several minutes of La Rochelle pressure were ended by a penalty near the Wasps line, a counter-attack took play to the other end of the field and Elliot Daly went over in the right corner. Jimmy Gopperth missed the conversion, but Wasps now had the consolation of a try bonus in their sights.

This sparked an immediate response from the home side, with Geoffrey Doumayrou and Jeremy Sinzelle combining threateningly down the left. They were stopped near the corner, but replacement Ryan Lamb’s precise kick found Vincent Rattez out wide on the right and he crossed for his second try, which Lamb converted to stretch the lead to 42-17.

Eleven minutes from time, Wasps secured the bonus point after Elliot Dally superbly gathered Danny Cipriani’s delicate chip to break away down the left. He found Joe Simpson in support and the replacement scrum-half raced clear to dive over near the posts. Jimmy Gopperth converted to make the score 42-24.

With six minutes left, Wasps added a fifth try, when Will Stuart marked his senior debut by going over from a lineout four minutes after he had replaced Marty Moore. Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion came back off the left post, leaving Wasps thirteen points down at 42-29.

Any hopes of stealing an improbable second bonus point ended in the 79th minute when Levani Boita raced clear for his second try, which Lamb converted to make the final score 49-29.

Stade Rochelais Line ups

  1. Dany Priso
  2. Pierre Bourgarit
  3. Uini Atonio
  4. Jason Eaton
  5. Thomas Jolmes
  6. Zeno Kieft
  7. Levani Veivuke
  8. Victor Vito
  9. Alexi Bales
  10. Brock James
  11. Vincent Rattez
  12. Pierre Aguillon
  13. Geoffrey Doumayrou
  14. Jérémy Sinzelle
  15. Kini Murimurivalu
  16. Jeremie Maurouard
  17. Hikairo Forbes
  18. Mohamed Boughanmi
  19. Romain Sazy
  20. Kevin Gourdon
  21. Jean-Victor Goillot
  22. Ryan Lamb
  23. Rene Ranger

Wasps Line ups

  1. Simon McIntyre
  2. Ashley Johnson
  3. Martin Moore
  4. Joe Launchbury
  5. James Gaskell
  6. James Haskell
  7. Thomas Young
  8. Nizaam Carr
  9. Dan Robson
  10. Danny Cipriani
  11. Elliot Daly
  12. Jimmy Gopperth
  13. Juan de Jongh
  14. Christian Wade
  15. Rob Miller
  16. Tom Cruse
  17. Ben Harris
  18. Will Stuart
  19. Kearnan Myall
  20. Jack Willis
  21. Joe Simpson
  22. Marcus Watson
  23. Gabiriele Lovobalavu