Wasps make it two from two in pre-season

Wasps 28 - 18 Connacht Rugby. Wasps completed their pre-season fixtures with a comfortable but patchy win over Connacht. 

After a quiet first half, they only led by a single point at the break but then pulled away with a much more efficient second half-performance which saw them add three tries, before a late consolation score from the visitors.

Wasps dominated the opening exchanges with Rob Miller going close after excellent harrying by Joe Simpson at a scrum on halfway set up an attack down the left.

They remained camped in Connacht territory until they conceded a penalty, which enabled the visitors to escape from their own half for the first time with nearly eight minutes played. Almost immediately they won a penalty 35 metres out, just to the left of the posts. Scrum-half Ian Porter was unable to find the target, but he made no mistake three minutes later with a kick from in front of the posts, following a dangerous run by fullback Tiernan O’Halloran.

Wasps were forced to make an injury replacement, as Sam Jones left the field. His place was taken by Nathan Hughes.

It took Wasps just four minutes to reply, taking the lead through an Ashley Johnson try following a catch and drive from a penalty to the left corner. Ruaridh Jackson added the conversion.

Both Wasps wingers were seeing plenty of the ball, with Sailosi Tagicakibau showing some deft passing on the right and left-winger Tom Varndell producing one blistering burst from inside his own 22. 

Tagicakibau then showed his defensive ability with a vital effort on the line, to prevent Willie Faloon grounding the ball after he’d crossed the line, ten minutes from the break.

Wasps then had to make another change, with Andy Goode coming on for Ruaridh Jackson.

With five minutes of the first half left, Connacht narrowed the gap to a single point through an excellent long-range penalty from Porter.

A minute later, Nathan Hughes spilt a long kick just inside the Wasps 22. Connacht applied the pressure at the scrum winning a penalty just in from the right touchline, but Porter’s kick went wide.

In the final minute of the half, fine covering by Tom Varndell saved the day, after a well-placed kick by left-winger Danie Poolman bounced dangerously, deep inside the Wasps 22. Varndell gathered near his line and rode three tackles, before setting up recycled ball for Joe Simpson to find touch. It had been a half in which Wasps had produced some exciting moments, but had been let down by some handling errors.

Five minutes after halftime, Wasps wasted a glorious chance to score their second try. After replacing their entire front row, giving Italian tight head Lorenzo Cittadini his club debut, they won a scrum in midfield. Elliot Daly broke to the left and fed Tom Varndell. He evaded one tackle and made ground before passing inside to Charlie Davies. The replacement scrum-half had a clear run-in from 30 metres but could not hang on to the ball.

Four minutes later, Wasps did find their way over the Connacht try line, and it was almost a carbon copy of the first - the only difference being that Ashley Johnson went over from a catch and drive in the right corner. Andy Goode landed a superb conversion to put Wasps 14-6.

A third try soon followed, when James Gaskell went over near the posts following another powerful scrum. Goode made no mistake with the simple kick, to stretch the lead to 21-6.

There was an immediate response from Connacht, as flanker Eoin McKeon forced his way over following a lineout near the right corner. Porter’s conversion attempt drifted wide.

With 15 minutes left, Wasps scored their fourth try after James Haskell won a turnover in midfield. He fed Will Rowlands and the lock showed impressive pace to go through a gap, before sending a one-handed pass to Tom Varndell who went in for a fine score, which was converted by Goode.

Six minutes from time, Danie Poolman showed impressive pace to race away for a fine try between the posts, converted by Darragh Leader. 28-18 was how it ended.

With the pre-season matches now over, all will turn to preparations for the opening game of the new Aviva Premiership season, when Wasps face Saracens at Twickenham in the London Double Header, on September the 6th.

The following week, Wasps play their first home game of the new season, when Premiership champions Northampton are the visitors to Adams Park.