By Barney Burnham
Wasps kept up their long winning run against Worcester, but they had to dig deep to secure the victory. After a dominant first half, they led 13-3 at the break. The visitors came back strongly, to take a 19-16 lead, before Wasps were reduced to fourteen men when Ben Morris was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle, with 22 minutes still left to play. They showed their fighting spirit and clinched the win with Tommy Taylor’s converted try, thirteen minutes from time.
Billy Searle put the visitors ahead in the third minute, with a penalty from just outside the Wasps 22. Four minutes later, Wasps responded with the game’s opening try, following a lineout on the Worcester 22. After a series of powerful runs from the forwards, skipper Brad Shields, on his 50th Premiership appearance for Wasps, forced his way over near the posts. Jacob Umaga added the conversion.
The hosts soon came close to a second try, after Dan Robson lifted a neat chip over the defence. It bounced awkwardly for Josh Bassett, who knocked on as he tried to gather in the left corner. They immediately had another chance, following a tapped penalty by Biyi Alo, five metres from the line. The forwards piled on the pressure, but Worcester’s solid defence was rewarded with a penalty.
Wasps remained camped in the Worcester 22 and Alo’s powerful charge took them close to the line once again. The tight-head then took another tapped penalty, but lost the ball just short of the line. From the scrum, Robson put Matt Kvesic under pressure, but Jamie Shilcock managed to clear to touch outside the 22.
Wasps were dominating territory and possession, with Robson’s excellent kicking keeping Worcester pinned down in their own 22. Despite all the pressure, they were unable to break down the Worcester defence. They were not helped by the heavy rain, which made handling difficult. Thirteen minutes before halftime, Jeff Toomaga-Allen replaced Alo. With Wasps building a promising attack on the left, Ethan Waller went down injured and the referee stopped play immediately. After a lengthy break for treatment, Waller was able to leave the field and was replaced by Marc Thomas.
Eight minutes before the break, Wasps won a penalty just outside the 22 and Umaga was on target, to stretch the lead to 10-3. The fly-half added another three-pointer, with two minutes of the half left to play. Seconds before the break, Wasps failed to gather a lofted kick and Perry Humphreys hacked towards the line, forcing the covering Robson to carry over for a Worcester scrum. The visitors failed to make the most of the opportunity and conceded a free-kick, which brought the half to an end with Wasps 13-3 ahead.
The second half began in bright sunshine. An early penalty gave Worcester a lineout a few metres inside the home 22 .They were driven back by the defence, but eventually won a penalty and Searle landed the kick. After Wasps won the restart, they put together their most fluent attack of the afternoon, with Toomaga-Allen making two telling runs. It led to a penalty, 35 metres out and Umaga’s fourth successful kick restored the ten-point advantage.
Worcester then came close to a try, with a strong run by Ollie Lawrence, from a lineout just outside the 22. A minute later, Francois Venter created an opening and Sam Lewis was in support to go over for a fine try, which Searle converted to close the gap to three points. He then landed a long-range penalty to level things at 16-all. Moments later, Searle’s boot put his side ahead with another penalty, this time from 35 metres.
Wasps were then dealt another blow, when Morris was shown a red card for a high tackle on Lawrence. Errors then began to mount, with a knock-on inside the Worcester 22 being followed by Umaga kicking to touch on the full.
Umaga made amends with a magnificent long penalty to the left corner and a well-controlled lineout drive took replacement hooker Taylor over for a try. Umaga landed the tricky conversion to make it 23-19, with thirteen minutes left.
Two minutes later, a scrum penalty took Wasps back towards the left corner. This time, the Worcester defence stopped the drive and play was worked infield through a series of phases. The pressure told and Wasps won another penalty. The maul was stopped illegally and Lewis was sent to the sin-bin.
Following yet another penalty, the driving lineout finally forced its way over the line, but Thomas Young lost possession as he went for the try and Wasps were penalised for obstruction.
Two Worcester penalties then took them deep into the Wasps 22, with 85 seconds left.
They won the lineout and worked their way infield, but an accidental offside gave Wasps a scrum, with just over half a minute to play. Superb scrummaging drove Worcester backwards and a penalty was won, with the clock at zero. The kick to touch sealed a narrow victory.