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After racing into an early lead, and completely dominating the first quarter, Wasps lost control of a game that appeared to be theirs for the taking. They were 10-0 up at halftime, but six points from the boot of Andy Goode set up a nail-biting finish and it required a herculean defensive effort to keep out a frantic and prolonged Worcester attack, which lasted several minutes, with the clock at zero.
They held firm, and the second win of the season lifts them to 8th in the Premiership table.
Wasps got off to a great start, with fourth minute try by Simon McIntyre, to finish off a move which began with superb run by Joe Launchbury, followed up by powerful bursts from Billy Vunipola and James Haskell. Stephen Jones added the conversion, to keep up his 100% kicking record.
Three minutes later, Andy Goode had a relatively simple penalty chance, but his kick hit the post, and bounced back into the chasing Worcester forwards, who almost forced their way over, in the left corner.
Wasps were soon back on the attack, and another sustained attack saw them retain possession for several minutes, hammering away at the Worcester defence, before the referee finally awarded a penalty, deep inside the 22. Jones made no mistake, to stretch the lead to 10-0, after 16 minutes.
Further Wasps pressure ended in frustration, when they were penalised, close to the Worcester line, and the visitors finally escaped from the stranglehold, with a long kick downfield. They threatened briefly, until an excellent Wasps scrum produced a penalty, a few metres from the line.
The rest of the half belonged to Worcester, as errors began to creep into the Wasps game. Despite the visitors losing a couple of their own lineouts, they put the Wasps throw under pressure, and camped in the Wasps 22, without ever producing a serious threat.
In the closing minute of the half, Wasps rediscovered their earlier fluency, after Christian Wade soared high to gather Joe Simpson’s clearance, and take play over halfway. When the first move broke down, Andy Goode cleared downfield, only for Tom Varndell to gather and launch another counter-attack. The Adams Park faithful were treated to the unlikely sight of a kick-ahead by Zak Taulafo, before former Wasps winger David Lemi just beat Christian Wade to the ball, to run it into touch-in-goal, and end the half.
After such a lively start, it was disappointing for the home support that Wasps had not managed to build up a more convincing lead. The pack, with the scrum looking reassuringly solid, had provided a solid platform, and the ball-carriers had punched a series of holes in the Worcester defence – but the backs had been unable to find the killer blow, and errors and turnovers had allowed the visitors back into the game.
Wasps had an early opportunity, in the first minute of the second half, after Chris Pennell lost control of Stephen Jones' kick-ahead. Joe Launchbury scooped up the loose ball, and fed Jones. Hugo Southwell joined the line, with Christian Wade outside him. He kicked towards the corner, but sent the ball into touch on the full.
Wasps were made to pay for the error, as Worcester almost immediately won a penalty at a scrum following a Wasps knockon, 12 metres inside their own half. Andy Goode landed the kick, to open his side’s account, with four minutes of the half played.
Within a minute, Stephen Jones had a chance to restore the seven-point lead, from just inside the Worcester half, but he was just off target, and his run of 16 successful kicks came to an end. He then produced a wonderful piece of skill, to chip over the Worcester midfield and then dribble towards the 22, before gathering the ball on the ground. A promising position was developed, but Simon McIntyre knocked on, as the ball emerged from the breakdown, just outside the Worcester 22, right in the middle of the field.
Ten minutes after the break, Worcester were only four points down, after Goode dropped a mammoth goal, from inside his own half.
On 53 minutes, Wasps made their first replacement, when Jonathan Poff came on for Tom Palmer, with Joe Launchbury moving up into the second row.
Launchbury was immediately involved in a move from a lineout, which almost produced a try. He charged downfield, Billy Vunipola arrived in support, and was stopped just short of the line. The ball squirted out, and Joe Simpson did well to gather, before sending a beautifully directed chip towards the unguarded corner. Agonisingly, Christian Wade was unable to gather, after winning the race to the ball, as it bounced over the line.
The next Wasps substitution brought Elliot Daly on, for Andrea Masi. He was straight into the action, as Wasps created a glimpse of an overlap on the left, but Tom Varndell was unable to gather Daly’s low pass.
With 16 minutes left, Ashley Johnson replaced James Haskell. He was involved in a powerful move downfield, which took play to within inches of a try in the right corner. It yielded a penalty, but Stephen Jones was unable to hit the target.
With Worcester still threatening to snatch a win, an overthrown lineout non the Wasps 22 proved costly, as Johnson snatched the ball, and charged downfield, showing impressive pace, as he chased his own well-placed kick.
Four minutes from later, Joe Simpson again came close to creating a match-winning score, as he darted away from a breakdown. He made 30 metres, before feeding Chris Bell, who was stopped just short of the line. The ball was turned over, and Worcester broke downfield, setting up a position for Goode to send a kick to the right corner, but it bounced just beyond Jon Clarke.
Worcester kept up the pressure, and a ferocious assault in the left corner was stopped on the line. With a few seconds left, Worcester kicked a penalty to the corner. They won the lineout, and kept the ball alive for what seemed like an eternity, before the committed Wasps defence finally forced a knock-on, and Wasps had secured a hard-earned victory.
Wasps are back at Adams Park next Saturday night, when they begin their Amlin Challenge Cup campaign, against Newport-Gwent Dragons.
Hugo Southwell (c): Christian Wade, Andrea Masi, Chris Bell, Tom Varndell; Stephen Jones, Joe Simpson; Simon McIntyre, Tom Lindsay, Zak Taulafo, Tom Palmer, Marco Wentzel, Joe Launchbury, James Haskell, Billy Vunipola
T Rhys Thomas, Phil Swainston, Fabio Staibano, Jonathan Poff, Ashley Johnson, Charlie Davies, Nick Robinson, Elliot Daly
15 Chris Pennell 14 Jon Clarke13 Alex Grove 12 Josh Matavesi 11 David Lemi
10 Andy Goode 9 Jonny Arr 1 Matt Mullan 2 Aleki Lutui 3 John Andress 4 James Percival
5 Dean Schofield (c) 6 Chris Jones 7 Sam Betty 8 Matt Kvesic
16 Ollie Hayes 17 Ceri Jones 18 James Currie 19 Craig Gillies 20 Blair Cowan
21 Paul Hodgson 22 Joe Carlisle 23 Ravai Fatiaki