Wasps A produced a superb comeback to secure a bonus-point, 33-31 win over Leicester Tigers Development XV in Round 4 of the Premiership Rugby Shield at Leicester Lions RFC.
Wasps took an early lead through Tom Bacon before Tigers hit back through Jake Kerr’s maul try, and despite being down to 14 men with Theo Vukasinovic in the bin, the visitors regained their lead as Gabriel Oghre touched down.
Wasps continued to apply the pressure but tries for Joe Heyes and then Jack van Poortvliet saw the hosts take a 21-14 lead into the break.
Replacement Biyi Alo powered over from close range after the interval and Billy Searle’s extras levelled the scores, but just as the men in Black and Gold looked set for another score, Kyran Bungaroo intercepted on his own line to race the length of the field.
Johnny McPhillips’ conversion and then penalty gave the hosts a ten-point lead but the young Wasps battled back with two close-range scores from prop Zac Nearchou and skipper Oghre, to take a two-point lead.
And they held on for the final minutes to complete back-to-back bonus-point victories, which now sees them level on points with second-placed Gloucester United, whom they face next on Monday 20 January at Broadstreet RFC.
Wasps got off to a fine start in the cold as a huge hit by Ashley Johnson forced an error from the hosts and late addition to the squad Bacon, who replaced the ill Rob Miller, raced in by the posts. Searle converted as Wasps led 7-0 within the first three minutes.
Despite an electric start, a yellow card for Vukasinovic, for allegedly pulling down the maul, allowed Tigers to claw their way over with Kerr touching down and McPhillips nudged over the extras.
Wasps didn’t appear to have a numerical disadvantage and the 14 men soon drove their way over the line after kicking a penalty to the corner, with Oghre burrowing over.
Tigers then applied some pressure after Wasps were back to their full quota of 15, and some epic maul defence by their own line halted the visitors. Will Porter cleared before a thumping Will Simonds tackle, and Will Wilson was on hand to win the turnover penalty as the youngsters got their side on the front foot.
However, the men in Black and Gold were dispossessed near halfway and following a tidy kick down the middle of the pitch into space, Wasps were caught scrambling and Leicester came away with a scrum. From the resultant pressure the hosts burrowed over through Heyes and McPhillips’ kick levelled the scores again.
Wasps looked the more threatening and after battering their way forward using big carriers, a quick-tap penalty from Porter saw his side into the 22 and despite a menacing carry from Jeff Toomaga-Allen, the hosts soon intercepted and broke into the Wasps half and a neat kick in behind from Bungaroo saw Van Poortvliet chase down, to grab Leicester’s third try. McPhillips added the extras to give Tigers a 21-14 lead at half-time, despite heavy Wasps pressure as the big men were held up over the tryline just before the whistle.
Sam Wolstenholme and Biyi Alo replaced Porter and Toomaga-Allen at the interval and scrum-half Wolstenholme made an immediate impact running a good support line to get his side close to the Tigers 22. The young Wasps then knocked on but after it was kicked back to Owain James, the lightning-paced full-back sprinted back at the hosts to win his side a penalty for a high tackle. That allowed the visitors to kick to the corner, and after patient play, mauling for the line, going through phases, shifting it wide, and then back in field, Alo was the man to finally crash over and Searle’s extras levelled the scores once again at 21-21.
The Black and Golds were in the ascendancy and after battering their way towards the Tigers tryline once again, they looked set for the bonus-point score. However, Oghre’s pass to widemen was intercepted by Bungaroo who just about outpaced the Wasps backs to run the length of the field and cross in the corner for his side’s bonus-point try. McPhillips’ neat kick from the angle made it 28-21.
Wasps brought on England Under 19 prop Nearchou for Ben Onyeama-Christie who struggled with his first couple of scrums against Argentina international Gaston Cortes – one of which allowed the hosts to kick at goal and McPhillips’ penalty opened up a ten-point lead for Tigers with 20 minutes to go.
But massive credit should go to the young Wasps Academy prop, who picked himself up to win an all-important attacking scrum penalty, after the visitors had lost the ball forward in attack.
After Searle nudged the kick to the corner, the driving maul looked unstoppable and after a couple of penalties, Wasps’ patience prevailed and it was that man Nearchou who crashed his way over for Wasps’ bonus-point try to put them back in contention for the win. Searle’s conversion brought Wasps within three with just over ten minutes remaining.
Juan de Jongh and Ben Morris carried hard for the line as Wasps pressed for the 22 and when the dangerous James picked up the ball and looked to jink his way through, Tigers were penalised for another high tackle on the speedster and it was another big opportunity to test the hosts from five metres out.
Searle put a pinpoint kick to the corner and another stampeding maul bustled over the whitewash with Oghre dotting down for his fourth try in just three Shield matches.
Searle missed his first kick of the night from the angle before Tigers won themselves a lineout near the Wasps 22 which the away pack did tremendously to repel once again, and after winning a scrum, Searle’s neat kick from hand bounced out close to the Leicester 22.
Wasps pinched the ball off the throw and ran down the clock before fly-half Searle hoofed it to touch to ensure back-to-back victories for Wasps A in the Premiership Shield.
Next up Wasps A take on Gloucester United on Monday 20 January at Broadstreet RFC (kick-off 7.30pm) - with both sides level with Northampton Wanderers in the table on 12 points.
2m | Bacon try 0-5
3m | Searle con 0-7
9m | Kerr try 5-7
10m | McPhillips con 7-7
13m | Oghre try 7-12
14m | Searle con 7-14
26m | Heyes try 12-14
27m | McPhillips con 14-14
30m | Van Poortvliet try 19-14
31m | McPhillips con 21-14
47m | Alo try 21-19
48m | Searle con 21-21
52m | Bungaroo try 26-21
53m | McPhillips con 28-21
60m | McPhillips pen 31-21
67m | Nearchou try 31-26
68m | Searle con 31-28
72m | Oghre try 31-33
Wasps A | 15 Owain James, 14 Tom Bacon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Will Simonds, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Will Porter (Wolstenholme 40); 1 Ben Onyeama-Christie (Nearchou 54), 2 Gabriel Oghre (C), 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen (Alo 40), 4 Ben Morris, 5 Theo Vukasinovic, 6 Ashley Johnson (Ademuwagun 67), 7 Will Wilson, 8 Harry Wilson (Farnworth 67)
Replacements | 16 Jake Farnworth, 17 Zac Nearchou, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Anjo Ademuwagun, 20 James Tunney, 21 Sam Wolstenholme, 22 Jude Williams, 23 Nick Harris
(Pic by Nick Browning)
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