Wasps win 2017 Singha Premiership Rugby 7s
For the second year running, Wasps lifted the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s title, after a series of commanding performances.
They began the day with a comfortable quarterfinal win over Sale Sharks. In a tight semi-final they were pushed all the way by Exeter Chiefs, before Christian Wade’s late try snatched a narrow win. In the final, they again came from behind, before eventually cruising to a 31-12 win. Josh Bassett, who scored seven tries over the two days, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
Wasps began the second day of action with a quarterfinal against Sale Sharks. After Guy Armitage leapt high to claim Dan Robson’s kick-off, Wasps had the opportunity to move the ball out wide, but Marcus Watson knocked on, just inside his own half. Sale won the scrum and broke down the left, creating space for Arron Reed to go over near the corner.
Wasps then threatened down the left, following some neat footwork by Owain James. He lost control of the ball, as he crossed halfway and Sale moved the ball quickly out wide, where Reed had the space to race clear for his second try.
Wasps struck back after a scintillating burst by Watson, who covered 60 metres before being overhauled just short of the line. Wasps won a penalty and a quick tap saw Guy Thompson go over in the left corner.
Owain James produced an outstanding piece of defence when he covered back to narrowly beat Matthew Sturgess to the touchdown, after the Sale man had chipped through the defence.
A storming run by Guy Thompson took Wasps into the Sale half, and Gabi Lovobalavu fed Dan Robson, who went over between the posts. His conversion made the score 12-10 at halftime.
Just as they had done in the two pool games, Wasps added a further try in the first minute of the second half. It was again Guy Thompson who began the attack with a powerful charge down the right, taking play deep into the 22. The ball was moved out to the left, where Josh Bassett went over for his fourth try of the competition. Robson was unable to convert.
Wasps then created another superb try, after Craig Hampson’s blind-side break from a scrum just inside their own half. Some quick passing created a huge overlap on the left, where Dan Robson waited before delivering a perfectly timed pass to send Marcus Watson over.
Robson missed the conversion, but then showed outstanding pace after gathering the ball in midfield, just inside the Wasps half. He moved out to the left, before accelerating around and away from the defence to go over for a spectacular solo effort. Owain James missed the conversion, but Wasps were comfortably through to the semi-finals, after an impressive 27-10 win.
The semi-final brought the latest chapter in the Wasps-Exeter saga, after the Chiefs saw off Saracens in the last of the quarter-finals. Wasps had a great chance to take the lead in the first minute, after Alex Rieder’s storming run from his own 22. He crossed halfway, before some slick passing sent Dan Robson on a run towards the right corner. He seemed certain to score, but a despairing tackle dislodged the ball, a few metres from the line.
Exeter struck the first blow, when Tom O’Flaherty powered his way over for the opening try, in the right corner. Wasps responded immediately, when Josh Bassett gathered a bouncing ball to race away from his 22, and score between the posts. Dan Robson’s conversion put Wasps ahead, but Exeter regained the lead with a try from Max Bodilly, converted by a magnificent kick from Sam Morley, to take the score to 17-12.
In the final play of the half, Wasps took a penalty on their own 22, and Guy Thompson was sent away, only to spill the ball in a tackle, as he crossed halfway. True to form, Wasps started the second half with an early try, when Josh Bassett crossed for his second try of the game, which Robson converted.
Exeter were soon back in front, when Tom O’Flaherty shook off several tackles, to force his way over in the left corner for a remarkable solo try.
A promising Wasps attack down the left was cut short by a forward pass, but they went back ahead as the game entered the final minute, after a scrum on halfway, near the left touchline. Quick ball was moved out to the right, and Marcus Watson drew the final defender to send Christian Wade in from halfway.
Dan Robson’s conversion put his side 21-17 ahead, before Exeter mounted a final attack, keeping the ball alive through a series of phases, with the clock at zero. They seemed to have created a chance, when the ball found Sal M'Boge, out on the left touchline. He slipped through a couple of attempted tackles, but Dan Robson managed to knock him into touch, a few metres from the line, and Wasps were through to their third successive final, after their toughest challenge of the weekend.
Newcastle’s extra-time win over Harlequins set up a repeat of the opening clash of the tournament. By the time the final began, rain had arrived. An early handling error by Newcastle gave Wasps a scrum just outside the Falcons’ 22, and they took full advantage. Craig Hampson broke wide to the right before passing inside to Dan Robson, who went over between the posts and added the conversion.
The Wasps defence was stretched, when Josh Bassett did well to gather a kick to the corner, but could only slide into touch. Newcastle won the lineout and spun the ball wide for Adam Radwan, scorer of two tries in the pool meeting, to go over near the left corner. The conversion was missed, but Newcastle were back in front soon after the restart, when Cameron Cowell’s kick-ahead bounced back off the post and he gathered to touch down at the base of the post. His conversion put his side 12-7 ahead.
Wasps soon drew level when a well-worked attack, following a penalty on the Newcastle 22, ended with Brendan Macken’s long pass giving Christian Wade a simple try, which Dan Robson converted, to give Wasps a 14-12 lead at the interval.
Wasps made another strong start to the second half, after Marcus Watson gathered the restart and moved the ball out to the left. He linked with Dan Robson, who sent Josh Bassett in for his seventh try of the tournament. Robson then added the conversion, to put Wasps nine points clear, at 21-12. Craig Hampson extended the lead, when he dummied his way over for a try from a scrum near the posts. The conversion was missed, but Wasps were now 14 points clear, with only two minutes left to play.
With the slippery ball making handling difficult, Newcastle were making a series of errors and Wasps made the game safe, following a scrum just outside the Newcastle 22. After an angled run by Gabi Lovobalavu took play towards the right corner, Wasps recycled possession and Craig Hampson sent the Fijian international over for a try. The conversion was off target, but the final whistle blew soon after, with Wasps 31-12 winners.