Wasps’ run of five Premiership wins came to an end, as a determined London Irish side denied them even a losing bonus point – only the second time this season that Wasps have come away from a game without anything.
Wasps got off to the worst possible start, conceding a penalty right from the kickoff. Sam Jones gathered the long kick, and an excellent chase forced him back into the 22, where the support wasn’t quick enough, forcing him to not release, which he was duly penalised for. Luckily, Tom Homer’s kick hit the left-hand post, and bounced to safety.
The Wasps clearance failed to find touch, and Irish kept the ball alive through a series of phases, before Wasps were again penalised at the breakdown. This time, the kick was in front of the posts, on the 22, and Homer made no mistake to put the home side infront.
Wasps responded positively, after Hugo Southwell gathered a high clearance to set up a counterattack. Irish were penalised and with the referee playing advantage, Wasps continued the attack and took play deep into the 22. Sadly, a knockon came after the advantage was called over.
Irish then had a stroke of good fortune, when TomVarndell followed Ian Humphreys’ diagonal kick into touch near the corner. He appeared to have judged it perfectly, but the assistant referee ruled that he had played it before it crossed the line. From the resultant lineout, the Irish pack drove over the line, but Wasps managed to get bodies under the ball, and no try was awarded.
Irish then came close in the left corner, as Marland Yarde dived over, but the TMO ruled that Christian Wade’s tackle had forced him into touch in goal.
Ashley Johnson then produced an outrageous piece of skill, when under pressure on his 22. Joe Simpson’s long pass reached him at the same time as two attackers. He fended them off, before flicking a reverse pass back to Tom Varndell, who cleared to touch.
Irish kept up the pressure, and another close-range penalty by Homer stretched the lead to 6-0 after a period in which Wasps had barely left their half.
Johnson then again showed his skill, as he broke off a maul, just inside the Irish half, and chipped ahead. Unluckily, the bounce went against Wasps, and Irish were able to gather and clear.
After 20 minutes, Stephen Jones was narrowly off target with a penalty from wide out on the right, a few metres inside the Irish half. Two minutes later, he had a much simpler kick, after Irish were penalised at the breakdown, just outside their 22, and just to the left of the posts.This time, he made no mistake, to make the score 6-3.
Within two minutes, Irish has stretched the lead, with a well-taken Shane Geraghty try, near the right corner. From the restart, Tom Varndell was forced into touch, on the 22. From the lineout, the Irish forwards put in another powerful drive, which produced a penalty in front of the posts. Hugo Southwell was warned by the referee, and while he was relaying the message to his team, Irish took a quick tap and moved the ball quickly out to the right, where Geraghty was in acres of space. Despite a valiant last-ditch tackle, he managed to twist his body and ground the ball. Homer missed the conversion, making the score 11-3.
A second Jones penalty brought Wasps to within five points, after Varndell came in off his wing to make a powerful midfield burst, which took play up to the Irish 22. That kick was quickly followed by another three points from the flyhalf’s boot, after another Irish breakdown transgression, straight in front of the posts, and a few metres outside the 22.
Wasps were now beginning to shake off their sluggish start, and they went ahead, five minutes before halftime. Their best sustained attack of the game, in which Sam Jones twice made telling bursts, ended with a supreme piece of finishing by Christian Wade. He was given the ball outside the 22, just in from touch. He accelerated away, and timed his dive perfectly, to go through a tackle, and touch down for his 9th Premiership try of the season, within a whisker of touch in goal. Jones’s superb touchline conversion just had enough to drop over the bar and put Wasps 16-11 ahead.
Homer landed another simple penalty, two minutes before the break, to narrow the gap to two points, which was how it stood at halftime – the second time in a week that Wasps had led at the break, despite being second best for most of the half.
Within seconds of the restart, Wasps were 19-14 ahead, with another Jones penalty. Chris Hala’ufia gathered the kickoff and smashed into Rhys Thomas, who went down and stayed down. After treatment, he eventually returned to his feet, during which the TMO studied the clash, and ruled that Hala’ufia had led with his forearm. As well as conceding the three points, Irish lost their number 8 to the sinbin.
Six minutes later, Homer landed his fourth penalty, to bring the deficit back to two points, after Wasps were caught offside in midfield, following a powerful Irish attack down the right.
Wasps threatened a second try, after another flowing move, but a handling error brought the attack to an end, a few metres short of the line. A minute later, a mazy run by Elliot Daly opened up the Irish defence, but a handling error again brought the move to a close, inside the 22.
It was a costly error, as Irish came back with a storming run by Ofisa Treviranus, who powered his way into the 22, where he found Marland Yarde in support, and the winger went over for a fine try, which Homer converted, to put his side 24-19 ahead.
The lead was soon stretched to eight points, with a 45-metre Homer penalty. With time beginning to run out, Wasps attacked at every opportunity, without finding a way through the determined Irish defence. When Irish finally broke out of their half, they stole a Wasps lineout, Jon Fisher made a powerful burst into midfield, and Wasps conceded a penalty, on their 10-metre line. Homer was again on target, to give Irish a nine-point cushion, with under 8 minutes to go.
Replacement Charlie Hayter then put in a powerful burst through the middle, which took him almost up to the line, but he was penalised for not releasing. Irish were able to clear, and came close to a breakaway try, before the final whistle went.
The result means Wasps drop to fifth place, level on points with fourth placed Gloucester, and a point ahead of Northampton, in sixth.
London Wasps team
15. Hugo Southwell (c) 14. Christian Wade 13. Elliot Daly 12. Chris Bell 11. Tom Varndell 10. Stephen Jones 9. Joe Simpson 1. Zak Taulafo 2. T Rhys Thomas 3. Will Taylor 4. James Cannon 5. Marco Wentzel 6. Ashley Johnson 7. Jonathan Poff 8. Sam Jones
16. Tom Lindsay 17. Simon McIntyre 18. Lorenzo Romano 19. Alex Rae 20. Matt Everard 21. Charlie Davies 22. Nick Robinson 23. Charlie Hayter
London Irish team
15. Tom Homer; 14. Topsy Ojo; 13. Guy Armitage; 12. Shane Geraghty; 11. Marland Yarde; 10. Ian Humphreys; 9. Pat Phibbs; 1. Max Lahiff; 2. Scott Lawson; 3. Halani Aulika; 4. George Skivington; 5. Bryn Evans (c); 6. Matt Garvey; 7. Ofisa Treviranus; 8. Chris Hala’ufia
16. Davy McGregor; 17. Jerry Yanuyanutawa; 18.Leo Halavatau; 19. Kieran Low; 20. Jamie Gibson; 21. Jon Fisher; 22. Sailosi Tagicakibau; 23. Jack Moates