The final game of the weekend in the Aviva Premiership gave us a real game of two halves. There were no instances of cards being shown in line with the new tackle directives. In fact, there was not a high tackle to speak of throughout the contest. What we did get was a game full of attacking flair followed by old fashioned guts and determination.
Wasps were out of the box immediately and they were irresistible to watch. They made break after break before Christian Wade made the most of a Leicester defensive mix up to cross for the game’s first score after three minutes.
The incisive angles being run were also flattered by some pretty lacklustre defending. This was evidenced for the first try when Owen Williams appeared to ‘pull out’ of a 50/50 ball that could have prevented the Tigers from going behind so early on.
The home side continued to keep their foot on the gas and two more tries from Tommy Taylor and Dan Robson gave them what looked like an unassailable lead. Even at that stage of the match, with half an hour gone, it looked ominous for Leicester.
Merely a Formality
Wasps went in 19-3 at half time having completely dominated the first forty minutes and with the vast majority of the twenty seven thousand spectators thinking the second half would be merely a formality.
Aaron Mauger’s first game in full charge of his troops was not going to plan. However, there would be more than a hint of Richard Cockerill – Mauger’s predecessor – about the way the East-Midlanders responded after the break.
The former Tigers’ Director of Rugby has already taken up a consultancy role with French giants Toulon but you can bet he had more than one eye on what was happening to his previous charges over in Coventry.
After a sub-standard first period that saw senior players such as Ben Youngs missing several key tackles, It was Cockerill’s ‘ABC-Club’, no nonsense attitude that was needed.
They began the second half in completely different style to the first. Suddenly, they were running with more intent and breaking the gain line consistently so that their injury-depleted back line could start to make some telling yardage.
Ellis Genge along with Ed Slater made huge contributions both in the set piece and the loose and Peter Betham shone amongst the backs.
Disappointment for Haskell
There was huge disappointment for the returning James Haskell. The Wasps fans were keenly awaiting the arrival of ‘The Hulk’ after a seven-month absence. Yet he lasted only 30 seconds after coming on with 18 minutes left to play.
Wasps had been under the cosh for some time and needed some impact and to wrestle the momentum back. Haskell’s attempt to exert himself on proceedings led to him being left unconscious after tackling Freddie Burns and his participation was over almost as soon as it had begun.
There was still time for Dan Cole to infringe at the ruck and receive a ten minute visit to the bin which allowed Wasps to hold on until the final whistle running out 22-16 winners. Maguer would have dearly loved a win to help heal the wounds from this week but under the circumstances and after the first half display maybe the losing bonus point was a fair haul.
Wasps: Beale; Wade, Daly, Eastmond, Bassett; Gopperth, Robson; Mullan (capt.), Taylor, Moore, Symons, Myall, Young, Thompson, Hughes.
Replacements: Johnson, McIntyre, Swainston, Gaskell, Haskell, Simpson, Cipriani, Miller.
Leicester: Burns; Thompstone, Betham, Roberts, Brady; O Williams, B Youngs; Genge, T Youngs (capt.), Cole, Slater, Fitzgerald, M Williams, Evans, O’Connor.
Replacements: McGuigan, Bateman, Cilliers, Kitchener, McCaffrey, Harrison, Worth, Smith.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (RFU)
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